Uganda’s Ministry of Education is reviewing Uganda’s National Curriculum – the curriculum taught in all of Uganda’s primary and secondary schools. Maggie Sheahan, an Educate! intern, reports on Uganda’s current education system and highlights why reform is essential to the development of Uganda’s future.
In an age of globalization, the education system in Uganda has passed its expiration date. For half a century Ugandans have been using the same curriculum. The national curriculum last underwent reform in 1962, the year Uganda received independence. This year, the Ministry of Education has decided to finally assess the education system and overhaul a program that has been stagnant for decades. In Uganda, with 50% of its population under the age of 18, primary and secondary school education is of paramount importance. Many complain that education here is unpractical and students are poor equip to address the issues Uganda faces.
Educate! designed its program in light of Uganda’s education system. We teach our scholars a deeper understanding of community issues and then empower them with the tools to confront these challenges head on. We seek to fill in the gaps of what formal education leaves out. We know that the quality education needed in Uganda will not come solely from us. Though Educate! can serve as a model towards a more relevant and practical education for youth, it is essential for the government to recognize the potential that students hold for the future of the country and to tap this potential by incorporating more progressive teaching methodologies into their curriculum. For this reason, the national curriculum review is tremendously significant to Educate!’s vision of socially responsible leadership in Africa.
Education is highly valued in Uganda, demonstrated by the lengths many people undergo to obtain school fees for themselves and their children. School is not free here and most cannot easily afford the cost. This leaves the responsibility on parents, aunts, uncles and friends in sending a child to school.
Currently, the education curriculum focuses extensively on national exams. “To say exam results are important is an understatement,” James Katumba, an Educate! mentor explains. “Exam results determine if you are awarded a secondary school certificate to graduate. You can attend 6 years of secondary school, but with poor marks, you risk ending up with nothing to show for it. Employers hire based on exam results, and it is the only factor universities consider when accepting applicants.” Bottom line: Exam results determine a person’s future. Because of this focus, the most relevant question must be,” What do exams test?”
I’ve been told that students are expected to know the ins and outs of the Tennessee Valley Authority, a 1933 US federal corporation that managed water development during the Great Depression, instead of the current issues Uganda faces in terms of poverty and development. Students learn about out dated issues from countries half way across the world, and are seldom taught to think about major challenges in their own backyard. Most agree that students learn theoretical knowledge over practical skills. And many complain that innovation and creativity are stifled and student potential untapped, leaving national problems neglected and solutions rarely discussed.
The Daily Monitor, one of Uganda’s leading newspapers, printed an editorial piece that sheds light on this debate:
“Education experts have for decades been contending that our education system, which is characterized by cramming, has greatly undermined the country’s need for practical, free-thinking, resourceful, functional and self-sustaining individuals. Most of the products our education system is churning out are desperate job seekers who have certificates but without the practical skills demanded by the labor market”
The essay goes on to discuss the need to teach students relevant information about Uganda and Africa as a whole. Education must go beyond the national exam, and teach how to generate new ideas that lead to development. As the editorial notes, many students are not able to go to University, so it is imperative to equip secondary school students with the tools and knowledge to be independent, innovative, and successful in their futures.
Many hope to see dramatic changes in Uganda’s Education system. With high unemployment and the need for development, the National Curriculum review might be one of the government’s most important undertakings as it moves forward in 2010.
Want To Know More?
Read Will An Overhaul Of The System Make Education More Relevant, a recent article printed in the New Vision, one of Uganda’s leading News Papers.