While President Museveni has declared sciences as the engine for national development, reports from the national examinations body show a worrying decline in overall performance and student interest.
In the recently released Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education (UACE) results, candidates miserably failed science subjects. At the same time, dwindling numbers of students who opt for sciences have been observed by the Uganda National Examinations Board (Uneb).
A total of 99,576 candidates registered for the 2018 UACE from 2,094 centres compared to 101,269 candidates from 1,918 centres in 2017. Of the total candidature, only 7,135 candidates from 732 schools obtained an A in 14 principal subjects assessed by The Observer.
Schools whose results were withheld or those which received theirs after the official release are not part of analysis. In all the subjects, sciences continued to post low results.
Agriculture, the backbone of Uganda’s economy, recorded the worst results with only two candidates (all from Kabale Brainstorm HS) obtaining an A. In 2017, 20 candidates got an A in biology. At B pass level, the numbers slightly increase to 26 out of the 8,945 candidates who sat for this subject.
Biology had 12,898 sit the paper but only four candidates from four schools returned an A. This is a decrease from 10 As registered in 2017.
The Uneb executive secretary, Dan N Odongo, warns that unlike other subjects, the situation in biology is worrying given that the decline in performance has been observed over the last three years.
“There is a serious problem developing in the biology practical paper where candidates do not carry out the dissection of the specimens provided as required by the questions but proceed to make drawings crammed from textbooks,” Odongo said. “This is evidence that teachers in these schools do not expose the candidates to this very essential skill of dissection.”
In higher institutions, dissection is an essential skill that any student needs in medical school or other related discplines.
LOW SCIENCE UPTAKE
Uneb believes that theoretical teaching with very little practical experience given to candidates continues to affect performance.
Whereas mathematics, physics, chemistry and biology are compulsory subjects at O-level, Uneb has found that the number of students both male and female who opt for science combinations at UACE is very low. For instance, in 2018, only 10.5 per cent of the total candidates at UACE offered physics, a decrease from 13.8 per cent in 2017.
Chemistry had 15.4 per cent and biology 13.3 per cent, also about the same percentages in 2017.
It’s only mathematics which showed an increase from 22.0 per cent in 2017 to 30.4 per cent. Odong said the situation is worse for females where on average, less than 10 per cent, offer sciences and mathematics.
On a positive note, mathematics with 29,492 students recorded better results. In 2018, at least 2,012 candidates from 403 schools got an A, compared to 950 in 2017. St Mary’s SS Kitende again topped the pile with 137 of its maths students obtaining an A. An additional 105 got a B; 37 got C and 21 obtained Ds.
Mengo SS came second in maths performance with 83 As. King’s College Budo 79, Uganda Martyrs Namugongo 75, Ntare School 60 and Namilyango College with 45.
In chemistry, Uganda Martyrs Namugongo has maintained its first position with more candidates passing with As at 35 compared to 19 the previous year. Namilyango College, which did not feature among the top ten in chemistry last year, is in second place with 23 As while Kitende is third with 22 As.
King’s College Budo, previously in fourth place, topped the physics list with 24 As. In the humanities, Lugazi Mixed Naalya and Kajjansi Progressive beat Kitende now in 11th place to the top spot with 23 As each. Kitende had 62 As in 2017 but this reduced to 14 As.
Seeta HS was second in history with 20 As and Namungoona Parents SS with 17. In literature, Iganga SS continued to distinguish herself. In 2018, the school had 14 As.
The UACE is designed to test a candidate’s ability to comprehend and apply knowledge in novel situations; demonstrate logical reasoning skills, perform scientific experiments, interpret results and draw conclusions arising there from. In many centres, candidates showed misunderstanding of questions, leading to wrong answers, failure to handle questions requiring explanations, interpretations or offering their original answers.