More controversy as ministry distances self from compulsory S.3 DIT assessment
- Written by URN
The recently rolled out new lower secondary curriculum has been hit by another controversy after ministry of Education and Sports took a stand to ditch the scheduled mandatory Directorate of Industrial Training (DIT) assessment for senior three students.
S.3 students were meant to opt for any of the 78 vocational subjects condensed into Agriculture, Art and Design, Entrepreneurship, Information and Communication Technology (ICT), Technology and Design, Nutrition and Technology and Physical Education.
Now in a fresh twist, the Education ministry has halted the assessment and ordered a refund of the Shs 80,000 fee that had been paid by students in private schools.
“There will be no requirement for candidates to pay Shs 80,000...for assessment of the lower secondary curriculum. This is halted...the ministry will establish modalities of refunding those learners who have already made the payment,” a circular from the ministry of Education addressed to all head teachers reads in part.
The decision to suspend this assessment comes at a time when numerous schools have expressed concerns about their lack of preparedness. Just last month, an investigation by URN revealed that schools in both rural and urban areas remained perplexed by the vocational aspect of the curriculum.
Many schools had never taught these vocational occupations due to insufficient equipment and a shortage of instructors. Additionally, teachers had not received proper training or orientation on the matter.
These concerns were raised at a critical time when the registration deadline for this component was approaching. Such late complaints prompted meetings at the ministry of Education, and in the last meeting held last week at State House, a final decision was reached.
The spokesperson of ministry of Education Dr Denis Mugimba acknowledged that many schools are not ready for the assessment, listing several challenges that schools have all long been crying out as the ministry remained silent.
"Schools are not ready, and readiness means human resource etc, etc. So we shall continue teaching, delivering the curriculum but delivery DIT in the assessment is what is not in," said Mugimba.
Mugimba further stated that after the meetings, it was revealed that the assessment of secondary school learners by DIT went beyond their designated role and was not included in the recently revised curriculum. It was found that DIT had exceeded its authority on this matter.
"I really don't know who started the terminology of doing DIT because DIT is not supposed to be in the lower secondary curriculum. It is something different, it is preparing for the world of work. So what should happen is [a student] has acquired a certain skill and says he wants to demonstrate that competence. Then it is you who goes for that certificate, not the school saying that because you have now learnt a bunsen burner now you want DIT to certify you because you know how to clean a bunsen burner as a student. No, no, no that is not right," added Mugimba.
Additionally, the spokesperson added that it was discovered that DIT had made significant mistakes during its operations, leaving parents and school administrators puzzled. He noted that they wrongly asserted that they were responsible for assessing student projects and awarding 20 per cent of marks, which was intended to be evaluated through continuous assessment by teachers among other misinformation.
Mugimba further explained that in order to address the confusion, the ministry decided to suspend the assessment process. However, he emphasized that parents and schools who desire to have their children assessed could opt for private organizations to carry out the assessments. Nonetheless, he advised against schools pressuring students into undergoing such assessments.
"If parents want to have their children do that assessment of DIT through the various skills that the children are exposed to in or out of school, parents are free to do that but not through the school system. Yes, if it is a school initiative then they can do it as long as it is a demand that has come from the parents and they are not imposing it on them because the challenge is when you begin imposing charges on parents saying you have to pay this much because everyone has to do DIT. That is a challenge," added Mugimba.
The spokesperson made this statement to highlight the fact that even before the introduction of the lower secondary curriculum, DIT had been conducting vocational occupation assessments in various primary and secondary schools. Notable examples of such schools include Mbarara Municipal primary school and Katende secondary school in Mpigi district.
Despite Patrick Byakatonda, the executive director of DIT, declining to comment on the matter, a source from the directorate who preferred anonymity expressed surprise at the comments from the ministry of Education.
“During the curriculum design process, we were actively involved and informed about our designated roles. Our responsibilities included assessing vocational occupations, and ever since then, we have been dedicated to developing teaching materials and training master trainers,” the source said.
The source said that the rushed implementation has resulted in unforeseen problems, and as a result, certain individuals within the ministry are attempting to shift the blame onto DIT in order to protect their own faces.
“It's worth noting that all our endeavors have been carried out with budgets and plans that received approval from the ministry. Hence, we can confidently state that there has not been a single action taken without their explicit approval,” the source added.
The source also said that all circulars related to vocational occupation assessment were issued by the ministry. An important circular that stood out was the registration circular, which was authored by the permanent secretary, Ketty Lamaro.
This particular circular issued on March 10, 2023, not only emphasized the need for student registration but also provided explicit information regarding the registration fees applicable to students in private schools. Also worth noting is that the distributed assessment and training package books for the Uganda Vocational Qualification (UVQ) dated December 2020 were signed off by Alex Kakooza, the permanent secretary of ministry of Education.
Ever since the new curriculum was rolled out in 2020, one of its prominent features was the introduction of two certificates for students at the end of O'level. It was communicated that in senior three, students were going to undergo level one UVQ framework occupational assessment administered by DIT.
The second certificate, commonly known as the Uganda Certificate of Education, would be granted based on assessments conducted by the Uganda National Examination Board (Uneb) in senior four. This assessment would encompass 20 per cent of continuous assessments conducted by teachers.
But, Mugimba highlighted that even if DIT were to be permitted to conduct the assessment, it would not be possible due to the fact that the Uganda Vocational Qualifications framework, which they intended to use for the assessment, had not yet received approval.
"First of all the Uganda Vocational Qualification framework that is being talked about has not yet been approved by the ministry, okay! So there are a number of things," said Mugimba.
The new curriculum has been mired in various controversies since its introduction. These controversies encompass problems such as a lack of available instructional materials and insufficient training provided to teachers among others. Consequently, many schools have opted to persist with the use of the previous curriculum, despite warnings from the ministry to discontinue this practice.
Critics and experts have raised concerns regarding the hasty implementation of the curriculum without thorough piloting. According to their perspective, the emergence of each new challenge is dealt with using a trial-and-error approach, as there was no prior testing or preparation. This approach has sparked further skepticism about the effectiveness of the curriculum.
I'm of the view that this statement should have come out properly with a wide media coverage other than premising to yet again another uninformed grounds from the DIT and the Education minister.
Can Ugandans find capable educationists to address this in the strongest term possible?
DIT and CBC need proper management and implementation processes that designed by the educationists, not these so called planners!