The New School Curriculum, a strategic step in the right direction.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

I have followed the debate surrounding the Ministry of Education and Sports’s decision to implement the review of the new lower secondary curriculum with keen interest. Some sections of our society including parliament preferred a halt of the program. Whereas i do appreciate some of their concerns, i opine that this shift from a knowledge-based curriculum to a competency and skills based curriculum is long overdue and that its delay continues to deny our country its strategic gains.


When Uganda got her independence on October 9th 1962, it came with many challenges that Government expected to solve through the education system then.


There were few qualified people. Even though the recommendations of the de Bunsen Education Committee of 1952 had doubled, the number of students in schools were few and Makerere University College had by 1962 producing very few qualified personnel. Government departments and companies lacked enough qualified people. Numerous jobs were created around 1961 and 1962 partly by the departure of European and Asian civil servants and teachers who did not want to be under the leadership of Africans. The other kind of jobs were created by the establishment of many Ministries in the government which had not been there before.


Even if there were remarkable education developments as a result of the De Bunsen Education Committee, colonial education deliberately produced few qualified Ugandans and some skills were deliberately not produced because many of colonialists had many qualified people back home.


In 1963 there was formulation of the ‘1963 Education Act’ here Government was to take over all schools and in the same year there was the establishment of the Castle Education Commission to review the education system along Bunsen Education Committee of 1952.


There was need to develop economic activities, the government hoped that by producing many School Certificate holders and many Degree holders, this would help to create economic developments in the country.


After regaining independence, the education system in Uganda had to stop fear, inferiority complex from Ugandans of school going age.


In the past few decades, almost all sub Saharan African countries have been involved in education reforms particularly in development of new curricula. Often the curricula are well designed and have laudable aims to achieve. This has helped in improving education quality by increasing achievement levels of student in literacy, numeracy and life skills.

Some of the concerns raised in favor of halting the implementation of the review are that the Ministry ought to have carried out a nation-wide consultation. As a keen follower of this sector, i know that consultations started in 2012 to 2019 with various stakeholders including Deans of Education Faculties/Schools in Universities, UNATU and trained national facilitators and Master Trainers among others.


The other issue raised was why the subject of Agriculture was not made a compulsory subject, i hold the same view given the significance of Agriculture to our economy, however, i am alive to the fact that this subject requires land which is a resource that all approved schools may not have in abundance to ensure practical study.


The other concern was lack of sufficient books, first; the major change is in methodology and not content, secondly, the Ministry has assured the country that books have reached schools and more are being produced.


Some of our MPs are skeptical about the mode of assessment and reduced hours of study. I must say that this is one of the best components of this review because it reduces reliance on grades and instead provides for competence based learning exposing learners to key attributes of creativity, innovation, and value based learning. Further more, reducing classroom study hours creates a relaxed learning environment  which is one of the hallmarks of Finland’s education system that has been ranked by many organizations and institutions as the best in the world.


Just like some of our proposed changes, in Finland, they carry out tracking of overall progress, they put responsibility of teachers ahead of accountability and they put much emphasis on vocational skills. Additionally, their study time starts from 9am to 2pm with a maximum of 30 mins of homework.


The philosophy of the new curriculum states: “A Holistic Education for Personal and National Development.” and it is aimed at ensuring that the human resource we produce is largely in sync with the labour market demands.


In the new curriculum, there will be provision for the pre-vocational component of education in line with the Skilling Uganda Strategy. The vocational component within basic education curricula aims at preparing learners at an early age with the opportunity to understand and appreciate vocational work, recognize its importance and later join the world of work in this area. The vocational component will enable them to gain avocational qualification under Department of Industrial Training. The subjects are Performing Arts, Agriculture, ICT, Nutrition and Food Technology, Fine Art, Technology and Design, Physical Education and Entrepreneurship.


The key learning outcomes are: Self-assured individuals, responsible citizens, passion for lifelong learning and make a positive contribution to the nation.


Accordingly, classroom hours will start from 8:30 am to 2:30 pm. From 2:30 pm to 4:30 pm, students will be allocated to teacher guided research, discussions, co-curricular activities and self-study and project work.


Iam therefore calling upon all of us to support the ministry of Education and Sports in the implementation of this noble initiative. Otherwise, we cannot continue using a Nineteen Century education model to produce a human resource that is handling the twenty first century challenges in a fast paced environment that will never slow down.