Cabinet will decide the fate of the halted new lower secondary curriculum, ministry of Education and Sports has said. Early this week, parliament halted the implementation of the new curriculum with MPs saying its rollout begun on grounds that it was being rushed without adequate consultations of all stakeholders and harmonisation on some key elements among other factors.
Parliament’s decision and the heated debate around the curriculum have generated public anxiety. Now, the Education and Sports minister Janet Kataaha Museveni says they have taken note of the MPs' concerns and forwarded the matter to the cabinet for discussion and guidance.
Janet told journalists shortly after the release of the Uganda Business and Technical Examination Board (UBTEB) results on Friday that after the cabinet discussion, they will have to sort out their next course of action with parliament.
"We’ve heard the concerns raised by our honorable members of parliament regarding the rollout of the lower secondary curriculum and we plan to present this matter to cabinet for guidance of the sector so we know how to go. We’ll to continue to discuss this with everybody and I would like to have parliament really come with us, walk with us in this journey because many of them are parents themselves, others are leaders of community and we want them to really feel confident that what we’re bringing out is good for our children in this country," she said.
Ministry of Education permanent secretary, Alex Kakooza, who punched holes in the over 26 queries raised by MPs, notes that they were surprised to see that some legislators raised issues mostly based on hearsay thus making a wrong decision at the expense of the country.
Kakooza notes that the ministry went through every step until when the curriculum was approved by cabinet. He hopes that the guidance from cabinet will come before the learners report to school. Kakooza said developing a curriculum is not a job for everybody but for a team of experts.
"Given the reservations given by parliament, we shall be waiting for advice from cabinet. Fortunately, there is still time, the S.1s are not yet in school. We hope that the guidance, the advice from cabinet will come [before they report]. First of all, you need to know that the work of writing a curriculum is a work of experts. A curriculum is a specialization." said Kakooza.
Although MPs halted the implementations of the curriculum, according to the Education ministry, parliament's education committee was duly consulted, updated and knew what was happening to the extent that they recommended the skipping of a pilot study of the curriculum in question.
“During the August 28, 2018 meeting, NCDC [National Curriculum Development Cente] presented the ministry’s plan of piloting the curriculum in 20 schools. The advice from honourable members was that since the design of the curriculum had reverted to subjects from the earlier design of learning areas then there was no need to stretch the already thin budget on piloting,” said Kakooza.
Another area of contention has been the mode of assessment in the new curriculum, with the MPs asking the ministry to explain the three forms of assessment including formative assessment awarded by teachers, and other two summative assessments one conducted by Uganda National Examination Board (UNEB) and another by Directorate of Industrial Training (DIT).
“The formative assessment score will form part of the total learner score at the end of the cycle with 20 per cent and the 80 per cent will be for summative,” the Kakooza noted.
Adding that, “the new curriculum allows interested learners to be subjected to DIT examinations which will assess the world of work competencies (skill development).”
Kakooza says that DIT examinations in subjects like; Entrepreneurship, Agriculture, ICT, Performing Arts, Art And Design, Physical Education And Food And Nutrition will be sat while in S.3 and then UNEB will assess after the completion of the cycle in S.4.
NCDC director Dr Grace Birungi Baguma explains the decision to include skills development was made following a labour market survey, which showed that learners lacked needed skills at the end of the education cycle.
"A number of studies continued to be carried out, we have a labour market survey which we did just before the lower secondary before we also embarked on it and we have a report which established the requirements of the public and among them even the employers. One of the issues that we found out was lack of communication among the children. So there were a number of studies." said Baguma.
With this arrangement, a learner will get out with two certificates that are the Uganda Certificate of Education (UCE) and level one competency certificate from Uganda Vocational Qualification Framework (UVQF). For both certificates, the learner will have a chance of progressing to the next level of education.
In 1989, Prof Kajubi chaired an education commission, which conducted a needs assessment of the entire education system culminating in the 1992 Government White Paper on education. The white paper recommended among other things a review of the curriculum across the board.
However, the review delayed up to 2005 beginning with the early childhood development curriculum, lower primary in 2007 and upper primary in 2013. Available information indicates that the process of reviewing the lower secondary curriculum begun way back in 2007 starting with a study on a report on the curriculum itself, assessment and examination.
The report revealed that the curriculum was not in line with international benchmarks, emphasized book learning and academic achievements for entry into the next level than mastery of competencies and skills.
Birungi stresses that in the past ten years, NCDC has been benchmarking to borrow best practices that could work for Uganda. Some of the countries where the benchmarking was done include Ghana, Singapore, Turkey, Kenya and Finland in addition to consulting different stakeholders including the head teachers association, vice-chancellors forum, and representatives from national teacher’s colleges among others.
"In fact, the ministry should be regretting since 1992, [Prof Senteza] Kajubi died a long time ago. We should have honestly implemented this recommendation a long time ago. 1992 is when Kajubi said the curriculum is not right, deal with and we have been working since that time. And we used international experts, we worked with academia, a number of credible people who are knowledgeable. We even gave them the drafts, the looked at them over 10 years." she said.
"They has been a lot of input in this material development of the curriculum and again development of it. I want to repeat it, it is not that we have changed facts. Can you tell me that you can change River Nile or another fact in algebra? It is not that we have reorganized and reduced the content and also said let us teach it differently." added Birungi.
During a recent interview, Filbert Baguma, the secretary-general of Uganda National Teacher Union (Unatu) challenged the ministry to bring a list of teachers who were consulted. He noted that UNATU had been sidelined and relegated to the role of observer in the entire process.
In 2016, work on lower secondary curriculum begun. The said curriculum was designed to reduce learners' load by merging overlapping and repeated content and dropping irrelevant areas. The new curriculum also emphasized competency-based learning as opposed to cramming.
According to The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco), a curriculum should be reviewed every after five years due to the rapid global changes to address the quality of education achieved by learners and how effective learners use learning for their personal social, physical, cognitive and psychological development.