Ministry of Education and Sports recently announced that all S4 leavers pursuing certificate programmes must be taught for two years, instead of one. Institutions this newspaper surveyed back the move, writes YUDAYA NANGONZI.
Speaking to The Observer last week, academic registrars from various training institutions said although they were not consulted they will implement the new policy.
Multitech Business School (MBS) academic registrar David Ssenabulya Mwanje said he will heed the directive by developing a new two-year certificate curriculum for the August 2017/2018 intake in business administration.
“This is a government policy and you cannot defy it. It is even better to have two years for certificates because sometimes we receive international students who cannot get the basics very well in just nine months,” Mwanje says.
The two-year certificate will be equivalent to the Uganda advanced certificate of education (A-level). For Zakaria Turyaba, the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) academic registrar, the new policy is long overdue.
“The one-year certificates were too short for someone to get real skills of the profession. The law is very clear on two years but being private entities, the competition is too high and people want quick things,” says Turyaba.
YMCA offers five degree programmes, 17 diploma and 17 certificates at its Kampala and Buwambo campuses. Since inception in 1963, YMCA was offering two-year post-ordinary certificates as required by law but later changed to one and a half years after losing students to institutions with shorter durations in 2015.
Following the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) directive, YMCA also reverted to two years in May 2017. Unlike at YMCA, Makerere Business Institute (MBI) has offered only one-year certificates since 1993.
David Ntahanawe, the MBI academic registrar, argues that national certificates from the onset under Uneb have been running for two years but NCHE accredited institutions to offer a minimum of one year.
“Now that government has realised its confusion, we are law-abiding and shall proceed with the new guidelines,” Ntahanawe says, adding that the institution is currently trying to realign its programmes.
While most registrars agree with government, Mwanje says a lot of questions remain unanswered.
“If the two-year certificate is now equivalent to A-level, does this mean this student can go straight to university and pursue a bachelor's without doing a diploma?” he asks. “By the look of things, more students will not opt for diplomas and they might cease.”
Meanwhile, effective January 2018, government expects all training institutions offering post-ordinary-level certificates to submit their students for national assessment by the Uganda Business and Technical Examinations Board (Ubteb).
Some institutions have been subjecting students to internal examinations while others to Ubteb assessments. The directives follow a series of meetings held on the role of National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) and Ubteb regarding accreditation and assessment of ordinary certificate programs and institutions.
Mwanje says students will be forced to read to pass Ubteb exams instead of concentrating on attaining skills. Turyaba raises similar concerns but adds that Ubteb does not have enough capacity to assess all programmes in institutions countrywide.
“It is so funny that we must observe the law but there are programmes that Ubteb will not be able to assess candidates in, most especially for hands-on certificates like tailoring,” he says, adding that national exams will kill the creativity in private institutions as government entities don’t adjust fast to courses that are market-driven.
At YMCA, about 30 percent of the students agree to sit Ubteb exams.
“Some of these policies are hurried because those who draft them do not know what is on the ground. We should not do things because government wants them done in a certain way,” says Turyaba.
According to Onesmus Oyesigye, the Ubteb executive secretary, there was no need to consult institutions as they ‘smuggled’ the one-year course duration into the education system.
“In fact, we have even moved slowly on them because we are saying that those who attained one-year certificates and those offering them this year remain valid. But come next year, we shall not allow them because we are correcting a mistake made by NCHE,” Oyesigye told The Observer.
“Institutions that are not comfortable with the policy are trying to hide away from the fact that they have been cheating the public.”
On whether the new guidelines will see diplomas phased out, Oyesigye says institutions should focus on training students instead of rushing them through the system.
He explains that most students joining post-ordinary certificates have not performed well at senior four – save for technical programmes where they have started receiving students with fairly-good S4 results.
Patrick Opoka, the academic registrar at Makerere Institute for Social Development (MISD), said the institution will continue with business as usual until government communicates formally.
“There is nothing on paper informing us to prepare or implement what you call a new directive,” says Opoka. “I hear institutions have already admitted for two years but for us; we shall continue with one-year certificates.”
In response, Oyesigye said the communication made by the education minister, Janet Museveni, during the release of Ubteb exams recently was enough.
“What else do they need? How do we communicate something that was illegal? When they started one-year certificates, did they communicate to us? When you are a thief, do you need to be told to stop stealing?” Oyesigye retorted.
MISD has been offering one-year certificates since 2012. Despite the fact that the institution registered with Ubteb in 2016, only one candidate has since been assessed by Ubteb while others sit internal examinations.
Under the new arrangement, all institutions offering post-ordinary-level certificates are mandated to seek accreditation of their programmes from the ministry’s Business, Technical and Vocational Education and Training (Btvet) department at Legacy towers in Nakasero.
Accreditation and licensing of certificate programmes by the NCHE closed this year. Section 2 of the BTVET Act, 2008 refers to a Btvet institution as a school, technical institute, college or centre that offers approved courses leading to the award of certificates or diplomas.
Hajjat Safinah Kisu Museene, the commissioner, Btvet, says illegal institutions will be closed by the directorate of Education Standards next year.
“All Btvet institutions are supposed to come to us for accreditation because that has been the normal practice but abused by some institutions,” Museene says. “We have not been having a uniform way of training after O-level but it is now time to streamline everything.”
Currently, there are 146 public Btvet institutions and about 300 accredited non-formal private training institutions.
However, Museene says the reality on the ground is that there are over 800 formal private institutions that lack the required human resource and equipment to train students.
Moving forward, registrars now want government to come up with a revised curriculum for post-ordinary certificate programmes as most institutions are implementing an old one adopted from Uneb in 2002.
They commend government on the recent enhanced curricula for diploma programmes in management, accountancy and marketing that have proved to be more relevant to the students in terms of skills development and job creation.