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Education sector plans to add quality

The last 20 years have seen an expansionist strategy by the sector, mainly to increase access to learners at all levels of education. However, as MOSES TALEMWA reports, the education sector recently launched its new strategic plan, which will look at more focused interventions in the run up to 2020.

Since 1997, the education sector has been on an expansionist strategy, that saw the launch of Universal Primary Education (UPE), which led to an explosion in enrolment numbers. This was followed by Universal Secondary Education (USE), to cater for the increased numbers completing P7.

Years later, the expansive drive saw the implementation of Universal Post O-level Education and Training (UPOLET) to cater for those completing their Uganda Certificate of Education or Senior four.

However, with the gains from these interventions, the ministry recently announced a raft of new initiatives. Dressed as the Education and Sports Sector Strategic Plan 2019-2020, the moves will see the sector going for ‘more focused strategic interventions’.

Introducing the plan at the recent education sector review workshop, the ministry’s permanent secretary, Alex Kakooza, labeled the move an effort to meet national aspirations.

“Key among them will include improving the quality and relevance of education and training by re-aligning the curriculum and strengthening the inspection and regulation functions,” Kakooza said.

“[We will also aim at] improving the management capacity at all levels, supporting teacher development; promoting community engagement, increasing and improving infrastructure and, importantly, ensuring better resource utilization.”

The plan, Kakooza insists, has been developed through wide consultations with several parties, including the National Planning Authority, donor community and local government leadership.

“I sincerely hope that the plan has benefitted from international best practices … and will go a long way in creating a critical mass adequately skilled labour force to actualize the demographic dividend,” Kakooza added.

For her part, education minister Janet Museveni was pleased that the plan would help the country meet the UN sustainable development goal number 4; ‘to ensure equitable and inclusive quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all’.

“The one part that we now must strive to address is the quality aspect … [this is] a compass that will help us navigate the winds of 2017-2020, so to speak,” she said.

STRATEGIC VISION

The three-part plan is set out in four phases; achieving equitable access, enhanced quality, efficient and effective delivery and the development of physical education.

Under achieving equitable access, the sector will continue its long-held strategy of expanding the number of learning institutions across the country, at each parish (primary school), sub county (secondary school) and in each constituency (vocational school).

This phase will also see Soroti University completed, while a constituent college of Gulu University will be set up in Karamoja. More classrooms are anticipated to be built and equipped with necessary learning implements under a 21-point initiative.

Under enhanced quality, the sector plans a 24-point schedule that will include strengthening the current school inspection system to embrace more institutions, while improving its leadership.

A semi-autonomous body in charge of inspections is planned. It will have power to compel district officials to take action on its reports. The sector will also improve assessment systems to capture the development of skills and other competencies (theory).

There is also a planned recruitment and retraining schedule for teachers and teacher instructors, as well as a planned curriculum review for BTVET (vocational) institutions, to bring them into the realm of current industry needs.

Under effective delivery, the sector plans to empower the National Council for Higher Education to, among other tasks, improve inspection of universities and other institutions of higher learning. A job evaluation exercise at all universities is also planned to create harmony in salary structures.

The sector will also restructure the Directorate of Industrial Training to make it more effective in reducing employment through certification of on-job training by the youth. The sector also plans to set aside funds to put up a headquarters for the ministry in Kyambogo, in a phased manner.

The sector will strengthen the education and management information system (EMIS) to improve collection and processing of accurate and timely data on the sector.

Under development of physical education, the sector plans to set up a rewards and recognition scheme for excelling athletes. The sector is also looking to ensure physical education is on the timetables of all primary and secondary schools across the country, as a mandatory measure of identifying talent and promoting health practices.

In the same vein, district councils will also be empowered to carry out regional sports activities. The sector also plans to continue work on the high-altitude training centre in Teryet, Kapchorwa, currently under construction.   
 
INSUFFICIENT PROGRESS

Several experts have been looking at the strategic plan and have commended the ministry for sticking within attainable objectives. Among them, Dr Godfrey Asiimwe of Makerere University. Dr Asiimwe, an associate professor in Development Studies, is also retained by the World Bank as an expert, studying the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

He says the strategic plan allows the ministry to continue on its expansionist line while seeking to add value to learning outcomes.

“It is more of the same, although there is now some hope that learning outcomes will improve over time … the main issue is to enhance the quality of teachers, while also improving the learning environment,” he says. “Without these two, little can be achieved over time.”

Fred Mwesigye, the executive director of the Forum for Education of NGOs in Uganda (Fenu) has also studied the sector’s strategic plan and wants more action from the ministry. Mwesigye says the ministry should have been more ambitious in its targets, even if they were for only three years.

“They should have expanded their emphasis on improving learning outcomes. Right now, the quality of learning has deteriorated at all levels,” he says. “Teachers are now teaching one how to pass exams, instead of enabling learners how excel in life, and that is unacceptable.”

Angella Nabwowe of the Initiative for Social and Economic Rights adds that there is a need to include governance issues in the sector plan.

“If they are planning to improve access, then they need to also address the injustice in the private schools, where parents are over-charged for an education service by looking at governance issues in these institutions,” she says.  

For their part, the education sector is looking to the future with optimism. On the sidelines of the education sector review workshop, Kakooza told journalists that he was optimistic about the sector’s performance. The time to assess how the sector plan impacts on learning outcomes has come.

mtalemwa@observer.ug

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