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UCE results out, as O'level old curriculum comes to an end

Uneb and ministry of Education officials at the release of the results

Uneb and ministry of Education officials at the release of the results

Today's release of the Uganda Certificate of Education (UCE) has officially marked the phase-out of the lower secondary old curriculum.

Uganda National Examinations Board (Uneb) released the examination results for the final group learners under the lower secondary old curriculum, revealing a modest improvement in performance compared to the previous year. 

According to Dan Odongo, the executive director of Uneb, 346,816 out of 361,695 candidates who presented themselves in the 2023 examination have achieved results qualifying them to advance to the next educational level. 

According to his statement, 95.9 per cent of the candidates who appeared for the examination successfully passed to proceed to the next education level. This reflects a 0.5 per cent improvement in performance compared to the 2022 results, where the pass rate stood at 95.4 per cent. 

In 2022, the total number of candidates who sat the examinations was 345,695. According to data provided by the board, the breakdown of results indicates that 64,782 candidates, constituting 17.9 per cent of the total candidature, achieved success in Division One. 

Additionally, 85,566 individuals, accounting for 23.7 per cent, passed in Division Two, while 83,545 candidates, making up 23.1 per cent, succeeded in Division Three. Furthermore, 112,923 learners, representing 31.2 per cent, attained passing grades in Division Four.

Performance in subjects 

Compared to the previous year, Odongo highlighted a noteworthy improvement in English language, religious education, mathematics, and biology. However, there were noticeable declines in history, agriculture, and physics. 

The performance in other subjects has remained relatively consistent. When commenting on the candidates' work, Odongo observed a positive shift, noting a reduction in the practice of presenting memorized passages from texts in response to questions that demand original compositions in English language exams. This marks a departure from a long-standing trend that has persisted for decades.

A more in-depth examination of the results reveals that among subjects with a high number of registered candidates, Art (IPS) emerged as the top-performing subject, with an impressive 99.9 per cent of its registered candidates achieving at least a pass eight. 

Islam Religious Education (IRE) and Christian Religious Education (CRE) also demonstrated strong performance, with 92 per cent and 88.95 per cent of candidates passing, respectively. Additionally, IRE witnessed a notable number of candidates obtaining scores above distinction two. Another subject where candidates performed well is agriculture, with 88.1 per cent of those who registered for it successfully passing the examination.

Sciences still poorly done

Odongo highlighted that the performance in science remains a cause for concern, particularly with less than 20 per cent of the candidates attaining a credit pass level in physics and chemistry. Consistent with previous years, nearly half of the students who took the examination faced challenges in passing the science subjects. 

On a positive note, Odongo pointed out an improvement in performance in biology, which had been experiencing a steady decline in previous years. Despite substantial investments in the teaching and learning of science in Uganda over the years, these subjects have consistently yielded the poorest results at both the Uganda Certificate of Education (UCE) and Ugandan Advanced Certificate of Education (UACE) levels.

Examination records from the past six years highlight chemistry and biology as the subjects with the lowest performance. Each year, Uneb provides explanations for the recurring challenges faced by learners in these subjects. The reasons persistently include a lack of knowledge on how to handle scientific apparatus, students' inability to make and record observations or draw conclusions from them, difficulties in tabulating experimental results, and challenges in interpreting results to meet the requirements of the questions.

Furthermore, students continue to struggle with poor mathematical skills required for calculations. Many were found unable to accurately write symbols of elements, formulate compounds, and construct equations, among other issues. These persistent challenges have been reiterated each year, reflecting a recurring pattern in the difficulties faced by students in science subjects. 

While delivering her speech, Janet Kataaha Museveni, minister of Education and Sports, expressed her satisfaction with the improvement in biology performance. She credited this positive change to the collaborative efforts between Uneb the mnistry, and the Association of Biology in Uganda. 

However, Ms Museveni cautiously acknowledged that she hoped the improvement was genuinely a result of these engagements and emphasized the need for sustainability. She pointed out that the current results, although showing improvement, have not yet reached satisfactory levels.

The minister also conveyed her joy over the improved results this year, as a larger number of learners are now qualified to progress to the next level of education compared to previous years. 

While appreciating this positive development, she acknowledged that it raises crucial questions about what was done differently this time and what factors contributed to this trend. The minister emphasized the importance of understanding these drivers, as it would enable the ministry to sustain and enhance positive trends in learner achievement. 

"The 2023 UCE results have been better than those of the previous years and we thank God for that. Uneb has shown us that pass levels have gone up and the failure rate has come down. This welcome development must be sustained and further improved. However, to improve this positive trend we must get a full understanding of what is driving the positive trend so that we really know what we're doing and what we'll no longer accommodate," she said. 

"Is it the effect of the abridged curriculum that was being utilised, has anything changed in the way teachers facilitate learning? Has Uneb improved the design of examination questions to make them better understood by candidates? Now these are questions that need answers to enable us to sustain and improve positive trends in learners' development. Learning is a continous process and so is improvement and to continuously improve learner achievement we must be bold and courageous enough to ask the uncomfortable questions," Ms Museveni added.

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