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All you need to know about the proposed new O-level curriculum

Following concerns that Uganda’s 1965 adopted O-level curriculum was outdated, the National Curriculum Development Centre (NCDC) began overhauling it in 2008. By 2016, the revised curriculum was ready for piloting in 2017 in 20 schools and later be rolled out in 2018.

Instead, NCDC hit a snag in a December 21, 2016 ‘historical’ meeting where the president halted its implementation. He ordered for a fresh review which has seen a new curriculum, writes YUDAYA NANGONZI.

President Museveni has finally accepted to fund the newly proposed lower secondary (O-level) curriculum after extensive back and forth meetings with officials from NCDC, university vice chancellors and representatives of teachers across the country.

Museveni was specifically keen on having less subjects on the curriculum but beneficial to learners. In 2006, the O-level curriculum comprised 43 subjects but 10 were suspended leaving 32 examinable subjects to date. NCDC director Grace Baguma told The Observer last week that the new curriculum will comprise only 20 subjects as agreed by various education stakeholders.

“When the president told us to go back to the drawing board, it was a big setback but it has yielded some fruits. True, we had not involved him and the political leadership in the previous review but we now have a green light,” Baguma said.

She added that the new proposals will lay foundation for improved pedagogy and assessment procedures that allow learners to more efficiently realise their full potential. She said the current 50-year-old curriculum is elitist in nature and too wide while the new one would eliminate repetition of subjects and overlap in content.

NEW DESIGN

In an April 2018 report presented to the president recently on the progress of the review process, NCDC indicated that the draft syllabus documents for the approved 20 subjects are also in place.

According to the report, the new curriculum emphasizes learners’ acquisition of knowledge, understanding, skills, values and attitudes which will be useful to them throughout their lives. It acknowledges, among others, that all learners need to access basic education and learn efficiently at a pace appropriate to their abilities vis-à-vis the current examination-driven curriculum.

“The syllabi will provide guidance to teachers on how to handle the topics so as to ensure that all learners learn. We want learners to also become facilitators so that we get away from the notion that the teacher knows it all,” Baguma said.

Subjects which have been approved are; English, Literature in English, Local and foreign languages, Kiswahili, Mathematics, Biology, Physics, Chemistry, History, Geography, Entrepreneurship, Performing Arts, Fine Art, Nutrition and Food Technology, Religious Education, Technology and Design, Computer Studies, Agriculture and Physical Education.

At S1 and S2, learners will offer 13 compulsory subjects and choose two optional subjects to make a total of 15. When they advance to S3 and S4, they will offer seven compulsory subjects and choose from a range of one to three optional subjects.

While sitting for O-level Uneb examinations, a learner can have a total of eight subjects minimum and a maximum of ten depending on their level of intelligence. However, at certification, Uneb will consider only the eight best done subjects. While stakeholders upheld the proposal of a 20-subject curriculum, some adjustments were made on subject names.

Political Education has been a stand-alone subject but it has been scrapped and some of its content has been integrated into History. The two subjects combined will now be referred to as one; History and Political Education. Commerce and Accounts have also been merged to create Entrepreneurship.

A new subject name Technology and Design was also approved and it will comprise aspects of woodwork, metalwork and technical drawing that have been distinct. According to the progress report, learners with special educational needs and are unable to do traditional science subjects like Physics, Chemistry and Biology especially when it comes to practicals will study one new subject referred to as General Science.

This, NCDC, believes will help them gain basic skills, knowledge and life skills to interact with science and technology in their communities.

Also, content on internationally recognised contemporary issues such as climate change and peace education which could not stand alone as subjects have also found a place in the various proposed 20 subjects. In a bid to ensure harmony, the report notes that the new proposed curriculum does not deviate much from the East African Community framework.

It’s worth noting that most of the dropped subjects are vocational in nature and are already being taught in technical and vocational institutions as part of the Skilling Uganda intiative.

SCHOOL TIME

Under the new arrangement, the school day will start at 7:30am and end at 4:30pm although class time will run from 8am to 2:50pm. From there, the remaining time will be allocated to self-study including one and half hours for co-curricular, research and general cleaning before going home at 4:30pm.

John Muyingo, the state minister for Higher Education, engages a student. The new curriculum will allow students to pursue fewer subjects

The timetable has been drafted for only five days; Monday to Friday. With reduced content in subjects, Baguma says there is no need for schools to teach on Saturdays as is the case since the timetable will be very flexible.

“I want to inform teachers that there will be nothing to teach beyond what we have agreed. The ministry has assured us that it will ensure that schools adhere to the study time as agreed upon in our consultative meetings,” she said.

CURRICULUM IMPLEMENTATION

One of the issues that led to halting of the implementation of the curriculum in 2017 was resources. Initially, NCDC required about Shs 110bn but the curriculum remained an unfunded priority.

This time, the NCDC requires an estimated Shs 163bn, higher for the planned activities to aid smooth implementation for the first five years. The rollout date for the new curriculum has been set for February 2020 starting with senior one learners. The first end-of-cycle examinations will later take place in 2023.

Baguma says the centre has managed to draft better syllabi that are let down by the poor implementation.

“We get so many people from abroad who appreciate our curriculum. [But] some teachers are doing totally wrong things, others are using their college or university notes to teach children and you wonder how we are going to progress,” she said, adding that teachers will need continuous professional development programmes to deliver the curriculum effectively.

For the new curriculum to succeed, she added that government has to provide enough textbooks to all schools. The Observer understands that the World Bank has agreed to fund the implementation process but under a cost-sharing arrangement. This implies that NCDC has to heavily rely on government to ensure that by 2020, it has the required funds.

CONTENTIOUS ISSUES

While NCDC has agreed through consultations with various stakeholders to shelve subjects at lower secondary, there are still conflicting views from some stakeholders.

Christopher Muganga, an assistant coordinator for the curriculum reform, told The Observer there are so far three main contentious issues that stakeholders think need to be ironed out.

These are; the number of compulsory subjects, religious subjects and foreign and local languages offered at this level. Now that the compulsory subjects at senior three and four have been fixed at seven, some stakeholders reasoned that subjects be reduced, increased or even made optional.

“For instance, given the high failure rate in sciences at S4, government should allow those who do not feel comfortable doing pure science to offer general sciences,” noted stakeholders at the second curriculum consultative meeting held at Imperial Royale hotel on January 30, 2018.

The meeting comprised deans of Education and Science from various universities, regional executive members of the Association of Secondary School Head Teachers and members from the History and Geography associations of Uganda.

Muganga said it was, however, agreed that the compulsory science policy has its aims, one of which is to increase the critical mass of citizens with science literacy hence the need for upholding the policy. “With our creeping economy, we cannot afford having few learners with specialised teachers.

“We have identified the core subjects that suit our economy and I think it is too early for learners at senior four to specialise,” Muganga said. On religious education, stakeholders from the Baha’i temple, traditionalists and self-styled cult leader Owobushobozi Bisaka argued that it is unfair to examine only Christian Religious Education (CRE) and Islamic Religious Education (IRE) given the various beliefs across the country.

“Bisaka came here [at NCDC offices in Kyambogo] with his own bible from which learners can relate with when examined in his faith. We realised that such issues of religious education are so contentious and we have to go very slow on them. Let us concentrate on CRE and IRE for now as we listen to people’s concerns,” he said.

With languages, there were submissions to add more foreign languages rather than restrict learners to Chinese, German, Latin, French, and Swahili. Locally, only 10 languages are examined by UNEB. When asked if the new curriculum would be a breather to learners, Muganga had this to say. “It will be somehow but not as much as we wanted it to be.

“All the same, it is a good beginning to start with because a curriculum can be reviewed over time to address emerging needs.”

COMPULSORY SUBJECTS (S1 & S2)

1. English/Sign Language
2. Mathematics
3. Biology
4. Chemistry
5. Physics
6. ICT
7. Geography
8. History and Political Education
9. Religious Education
10. Physical Education
11. Kiswahili
12. Agriculture
13. Entrepreneurship
• General Science [For only learners with special needs)

OPTIONAL SUBJECTS (S1 & S2)

1. Technology and design (now combines Woodwork, Metalwork, Technical Drawing and Design)
2. Performing Arts (formerly Music)
3. Nutrition and Food Technology (formerly Food and Nutrition)
4. Fine Art
5. Literature in English
6. Local languages
7. Foreign languages

COMPULSORY SUBJECTS (S3 & S4)

1. English
2. Mathematics
3. Physics
4. Biology
5. Chemistry
6. Geography
7. History & Political Education
• General Science [For only learners with special needs)

OPTIONAL SUBJECTS (S3 & S4)

1. Foreign languages (5)
2. Local languages (10)
3. Kiswahili
4. Fine Art
5. Literature in English
6. Performing Arts (formerly Music)
7. Religious Education (CRE and IRE)
8. Agriculture
9. Nutrition and Food Technology (formerly Food & Nutrition)
10. Entrepreneurship (Commerce and Accounts have been merged)
11. Physical Education
12. ICT
13. Technology and Design (now combines Wood work, Metalwork, Technical Drawing and Design) 

OVERALL O-LEVEL DROPPED SUBJECTS

1. Office Practice
2. Typewriting
3. Shorthand
4. Principles of Accounts
5. Power and Energy
6. Electricity and Electronics
7. Wood work
8. Metal work
9. Building and Construction
10. Home Management
11. Clothing and Textiles
12. Health Education
13. Additional Mathematics
14. Fasihi ya Kiswahili
15. Political Education

REVISED CURRICULUM AT A GLANCE

***Total examinable subjects: Revised from 32 to 20 subjects

Classroom hours
• 8am to 2:50pm
• 2:50pm to 4:30pm (co-curricular and self-study)

Key learning outcomes

• Self-assured individual
• Responsible and patriotic citizen
• Passion for life-long learning
• Makes a positive contribution to the nation

Expected generic skills

• Communication
• Social and interpersonal skills
• Creativity and Innovation
• Critical thinking and problem solving
• Learning to learn
• Workplace behavior
• Numeracy
• ICT

Competence-based learning

• Knowledge
• Skills
• Values and Attitudes

Core Values
• Peace and harmony
• Self-control
• Intergrity and honesty
• Patriotism
• Positive attitude towards work

nangonzi@observer.ug

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