The UN’s Sustainable development goal number 4 is about “inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning” and Uganda has a mountain to climb to realize success measured against indicators of this goal. By 2015, Uganda failed to achieve some of the key UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) targets for MDG 2 on basic education for all due to different reasons. Uganda spends billions of shillings on education annually. However, we know from a range of sources, such as Uwezo and National Assessment of Progress in Education (NAPE), that many children are not learning, evidenced by failure to master even the basic competences.
Recently, the minister of Education and Sports and the first lady, Mrs. Janet Museveni, revealed that Primary Leaving Examinations should be scrapped off. In her speech, she said that this will reduce repetition in primary 7 classes and an increase in transition rates to lower secondary education. Adding to this, the education state minister, Dr. John Muyingo talked about replacing PLE examinations with progressive examinations in schools. He revealed that he is contemplating proposing the entire scrapping off of Primary Leaving examinations. “We have lost good brains in this country, not because they are not intelligent, but because they failed to cram towards the final examinations and are now struggling in life. This has to end,” says Dr. John Muyingo.
In his view, nowadays, children are coached to pass national final examinations; which he says is wrong. He notes that there is no development of skills since pupils’ concentration is merely on passing the final examinations, other than comprehending what is taught. This, therefore, implies that modern methods in teaching like Place Based Learning, Project Based Learning which emphasize self-discovery have limited usage. Dr. Muyingo’s comments are in line with the previous recommendations by Education Policy Review Commission (EPRC). In 1987, the government of Uganda appointed EPRC to conduct a review of the education system. Among the findings by the EPRC was that the education system was examination driven and practical and soft skills were not examined. It therefore recommended that the education system needs to be improved. The EPRC recommended continuous assessment for learners.
The Government, in its White Paper on Education, approved these recommendations in 1992. Continuous assessment was to begin with second term of 2004 and official date for launching was to be May 2004 beginning with P5 and P6 in the four subjects. However, it never went as planned.
Observations were to be done daily, written formal tests were to be done once a month and a record kept, for submitting on the data forms to UNEB at the end of term one in Primary Seven. The monitoring of implementation was to be done by the education and sports ministry agencies such as District Inspectorate, Teacher Education through coordinating centre tutors and the Directorate of Education Standards. The national examinations board was to do technical audit checks for quality control and assurance.
Continuous assessment as a replacement of PLE assesses the learner cumulatively and has advantage over one-time examination because it reduces stress, anxiety and fear associated with end of level examinations. Learners earn points on daily basis and accumulate these over the period which are taken into account in the final grading. More so, it is in line with one of the recent 21st century learner assessment methodology of “Learner Development Progression” which has proved effective in assessing learners holistically. If we scrap off PLE, then it’s important to expand the scope of competences to be assessed.
Different reports continue to emerge that the skills required by employers diverge from skills and knowledge possessed by graduates from colleges in Uganda. The discrepancy between academic qualifications and employability can be blamed on a “mismatch” between what is taught and the demands of the job market. In a situation like this, there is need to map out on what skills should be assessed and how to effectively conduct the assessment. Primary Leaving Examinations concentrates more on accessing cognitive skills. In a good system of education and assessment, the three domains of education i.e Cognitive domain (education for the head-knowledge), psychomotor domain (education for the hands-skills) and affective domain (education for the heart- attitudes, emotions, ethics and good will) must be taught and assessed.
According to Program for International Assessment (PISA), the 21st century skills (Communication, Creativity, Collaboration and Critical thinking-the 4Cs and digital literacies) should be integrated in education systems as they emerge to be the most wanted skills by employers in a 21st century working environment. There is need to retool the teachers to suit the demands of modern job market
There are new ways of working, new tools of working and new ways of living because we are both local and global citizens: global interconnectedness. Today’s work place requires new set of skills and new structures. The pedagogical approach in Uganda is still centered on using traditional method of brick and mortar of standing on the chalk board and lecture to children. This may not be sufficient to motivate learners to be creative. There are new ways of assessing cognitive and non cognitive skills. Teachers need to assess students to support their learning. For example in Collaborative Problem Solving (CPS) which almost combines a number of 21st century skills; persistence, respect for other people’s views and interaction are key skills. But the question at hand is how such skills which are pertinent in this information economy can be assessed in schools.
Education experts say that assessment should put in consideration Knowledge, Skills, Attitude, Values and Ethics (KSAVE). The result based assessment should focus more on outcomes of education other than outputs if impact is to be realized in the long run. In today’s economy, soft and practical skills are crucial for workforce success. But, what was considered sufficient to prepare learners in the past is no longer enough. To address this gap, soft and practical skills must be taught and assessed in schools in a more innovative way.
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