Ugan­da’s new cur­ricu­lum for Lower Sec­ondary: Will it meet learn­ers’ skill needs?

By Allen Mutesi

The gov­ern­ment rolled out the new lower sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion cur­ricu­lum in Feb­ru­ary 2020 with the aim of cre­at­ing meet­ing the learn­ers’ needs es­pe­cially in re­gard to skills train­ing and en­hance­ment. The Min­is­ter for Ed­u­ca­tion, Hon. Janet Mu­sev­eni, in her state­ment to Par­lia­ment, said that the need to re­view the cur­ricu­lum was over­due since it had not been re­vis­ited since the colo­nial ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem was in­tro­duced. The Min­is­ter re­vealed that the old cur­ricu­lum was chan­nelling out grad­u­ates with no prac­ti­cal skills to meet the de­mands in the labour mar­ket.

The Na­tional Cur­ricu­lum De­vel­op­ment Cen­tre has made ad­just­ments in the teach­ing sub­jects for the lower sec­ondary, for ex­am­ple, teach­ing sub­jects have been re­duced from 43 to 21. In the new ap­proved cur­ricu­lum, schools will teach 12 sub­jects at Se­nior One and Two, out of which 11 will be com­pul­sory while one will be from an elec­tive menu (op­tional). Stu­dents at lev­els Three and Four will exit with a min­i­mum of eight or a max­i­mum of nine sub­jects with seven of them com­pul­sory.

Con­se­quently, some sub­jects have taken dif­fer­ent forms: Mu­sic has now in­cluded dance and drama to be­come Per­form­ing Arts; Fine Art has been re­designed to in­clude el­e­ments of de­sign and it is now called Art and De­sign; Tech­ni­cal Draw­ing has been in­te­grated with el­e­ments of wood­work and met­al­work and tech­nol­ogy and it is now called Tech­nol­ogy and De­sign; His­tory has been in­te­grated with Po­lit­i­cal Ed­u­ca­tion; Ac­counts and Com­merce have been in­te­grated in En­tre­pre­neur­ship ed­u­ca­tion, and His­tory has been in­te­grated with Po­lit­i­cal Ed­u­ca­tion.

Un­der the new cur­ricu­lum, teach­ers will com­pile the learn­ers’ achieve­ments un­der the For­ma­tive As­sess­ment in the four-year cy­cle, find an av­er­age score and sub­mit it to the Uganda Na­tional Ex­am­i­na­tions Board to con­tribute at least 20 per cent in the fi­nal na­tional ex­am­i­na­tions grad­ing. The Chi­nese lan­guage has been added to the menu of for­eign lan­guages while Kiswahili, Phys­i­cal Ed­u­ca­tion and en­tre­pre­neur­ship will be com­pul­sory for all stu­dents in Se­nior One and Two.

The aim of chang­ing the cur­ricu­lum 

The new ped­a­gogy aims at pro­vid­ing to the learn­ers 21st Cen­tury skills which in­clude; crit­i­cal think­ing, cre­ativ­ity, col­lab­o­ra­tion or team­work, com­mu­ni­ca­tion, in­for­ma­tion lit­er­acy, ICT, and flex­i­bil­ity. This is ob­vi­ously good news to the na­tion, how­ever, the per­turb­ing ques­tion is whether this will be im­ple­mented amidst the fa­cil­ity in­ad­e­qua­cies in most of the Ugan­dan schools. For the learn­ers to be­come cre­ative es­pe­cially in ICT and the nat­ural sci­ences, there must be nec­es­sary equip­ment such as well-fur­nished lab­o­ra­to­ries, ef­fec­tive in­ter­net and ob­vi­ously knowl­edge­able train­ers. These are not pre­sent in most of the rural schools in Uganda which are pre­dom­i­nantly knowl­edge hubs for most of the young peo­ple.

Will the new cur­ricu­lum cure the de­fi­cien­cies in the old cur­ricu­lum?

The State of Youth Re­port 2019 by Cen­tre for Pol­icy Analy­sis in­di­cated that the ma­jor­ity of the youth de­manded more prac­ti­cal sub­jects and over 50% of them re­vealed that the ed­u­ca­tion they had re­ceived had not pre­pared them for the avail­able op­por­tu­ni­ties in the labour mar­ket. The old cur­ricu­lum could not equip the learn­ers with thor­ough skills and knowl­edge to be­come in­no­v­a­tive in or­der to cre­ate jobs but rather teaches them more of the­o­ret­i­cal work than prac­ti­cal skills and that ex­plains the high lev­els of un­em­ploy­ment in Uganda.

I ob­serve that the dif­fer­ence be­tween the old cur­ricu­lum and the new Cur­ricu­lum is that the sub­jects have re­duced in num­ber and some have taken dif­fer­ent forms. Chang­ing names of the sub­jects may not yield much but rather em­pha­sis should be put on the con­tent taught in class. There is no way of at­tain­ing dif­fer­ent re­sults when things are con­tin­ued to be done as usual. The dilemma is when the pre­sumed prac­ti­cal sub­jects such as ICT, wood­work and met­al­work re­main be­ing taught in the­ory. If the learn­ers are not ex­posed to the ac­tual prac­tice in these sub­jects, it de­feats the pur­pose for which the cur­ricu­lum was re­viewed.

In my opin­ion, the only way the new cur­ricu­lum can equip learn­ers with prac­ti­cal skills is when the train­ers in schools teach prac­ti­cal sub­jects ‘prac­ti­cally.’ Teach­ing com­puter skills to the stu­dents with­out demon­strat­ing on a com­puter makes com­put­ing a hoax to the learn­ers. Sim­i­larly, the wood­work class does not make more sense if there are no wood and equip­ment for prac­tice. An­other im­por­tant thing which I think the cur­ricu­lum is not clear about is the abil­ity of learn­ers to make de­ci­sions on what they want to be taught. Many times, the mode of teach­ing has been teacher-cen­tered which makes the teach­ers have all the lever­age of de­ter­min­ing what is to be taught. Deny­ing the learn­ers an op­por­tu­nity to par­tic­i­pate in de­ter­min­ing what skills they should be taught, pre­sents them in a sit­u­a­tion of study­ing the con­tent which they may not be in­ter­ested in. It is, there­fore, no­ble that the leaner is put at the cen­tre of learn­ing.

Be­ing aware of the gen­der stereo­types on sci­ence and prac­ti­cal sub­jects, I pro­pose that fe­male stu­dents be pri­ori­tised by the train­ers while teach­ing these prac­ti­cal sub­jects and be given all the nec­es­sary sup­port they de­serve. In fact, there should be de­lib­er­ate ef­forts by the stake­hold­ers in ed­u­ca­tion to equip the ‘girl-child’ with prac­ti­cal and soft skills which will en­able her to quickly join the labour mar­ket so as to re­duce her so­cioe­co­nomic vul­ner­a­bil­ity.

 

About the writer:

Allen Mutesi Butera is a fi­nal year stu­dent of So­cial work and Ad­min­is­tra­tion at Nde­jje Uni­ver­sity. She works with the Cen­tre for Pol­icy Analy­sis as a Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Of­fi­cer. She is a fem­i­nist who is pas­sion­ate about the rights of women and girls.

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