Despite an outpouring of parliamentary opposition, the ministry of Education and Sports gave the nod of approval and the National Curriculum Development Centre (NCDC) has gone ahead with the full roll-out of the revised lower secondary curriculum.
At the weekend, NCDC distributed teaching materials to various schools. The process is ongoing this week. Schools are receiving materials through their area coordinators.
Speaking to The Observer on Monday, Grace Baguma, the director of NCDC, said the roll-out is on schedule.
“Private schools are also going to receive free materials for the initial senior one class but moving forward, they will retract to the old system of purchasing materials at a fee,” Baguma said.
She said uploading textbooks, learner and teacher guides on the NCDC website is ongoing. It is 13 years since NCDC started revising the outdated curriculum adopted in 1965. Baguma said a curriculum must be revised every five years but this wasn’t done for the O-level curriculum.
In December 2016, NCDC was ready to pilot the curriculum in 20 schools but President Museveni halted the process, calling for more consultation. Cabinet endorsed the new curriculum this year.
Last week, parliament halted the roll-out plan and called on the minister of Education and Sports, Janet Museveni, to personally appear before the House and respond to MPs’ concerns.
This followed a motion moved by Budadiri West MP Nathan Nandala-Mafabi and seconded by Kiboga East MP Keffa Kiwanuka and Kasilo County MP Elijah Okupa.
Chairing the House last week, Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga furiously said: “The minister of Education must come here and answer those questions to the country. If they don’t, honorable members; if you have never exercised your powers, now is the time. We are doing budgeting, you know where to bite.”
Speaking at the closure of the senior five selections and placement exercise last Friday, Janet Museveni, declined to delve much into the roll-out programme.
Head teachers and principals gathered at Lugogo were impatiently waiting for her verdict. Towards the end of her 18-minute speech, Museveni said: “I didn’t want to go much into the roll-out because there’s a misunderstanding between us and parliament. We want to streamline this so that we can move at par. This curriculum roll-out has been in the pipeline for so long and we didn’t want to let this pass again [in 2020] as we try to prepare better.”
“Starting any new thing may not have all the preparations done at the same stage but, nonetheless, we will continue to do what we are doing as a ministry and also get members of parliament to understand this roll-out plan.”
She promised to give a detailed plan after the storm in parliament calm down. The revised curriculum aims to reduce content overload and contact hours in the classroom to create time for research, project work, talent development, creativity and erasing obsolete information.
For the effective curriculum implementation over the next five years, the final budget total will be Shs 143bn. Of the Shs 143bn, NCDC requested for Shs 39.5bn for the first year, 2020. However, only Shs 13bn was released. Another Shs 29.5bn is needed this financial year 2019/2020.
Baguma said the key cost drivers are; textbooks, training of teachers, inspection, guidance and counseling materials, and special needs education.
In the next financial year 2020/2021, which begins in July, NCDC needs another Shs 43bn. At least Shs 36bn is required in 2021/22, Shs 29bn in 2022/23 and Shs 23bn in 2023/24 when pioneers of the revised curriculum write O-level Uneb examinations.
“We need to continue with sensitising and monitoring of teachers. Teachers have been used to dictating notes for learners to the extent of paralyzing their hands while writing. We need interactive learning where you tackle a concept, give an assignment, encourage learners to research and then agree that each learner has understood,” she said.
Frank Manyindo, the head teacher of Nyakasura School, said the new curriculum will get some pressure off learners and teachers.
“Learning has not been taking place in schools. It is just about pumping knowledge and a learner has no choice but reproduce what has been taught,” Manyindo said.
“The system has been down [to the fact] that if your school doesn’t get distinctions and As and first grade, you’re not teaching. The issue now has shifted to whether children are learning and not only aiming for grades.”
The head teacher of Iganga SS, Aidah Annet Balinanseko, said most secondary teachers have been preparing schemes of work and ignoring lesson plans, thus dictating notes to students.
She said head teachers and their deputies should be trained to appreciate this new concept. Baguma said head teachers and deputies were part of the first training plan but were skipped due to funding constraints.
“We had to kick-start this process and opted for the most critical persons; teachers. We hope that in the next quarter release, we shall train them in the first term holidays around April. If we got funds now, we would train them as well,” she said.
NCDC has condensed 42 subjects into 20 examinable subjects at O-level to achieve four key learning outcomes; self-assured individuals, responsible and patriotic citizens, lifelong learners and positive contributors to society.
Out of 20 subjects, a school will undertake compulsory ones and at least four electives. At S1 and S2, learners will offer 11 compulsory subjects plus one elective. At S3 and S4, learners will offer a minimum of eight and maximum of nine subjects, out of which seven are compulsory.
The eleven compulsory subjects at S1 and S2 are: English/Sign language, Mathematics, Entrepreneurship, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Geography, History and Political Education, Physical Education, Kiswahili and Religious Education (CRE or IRE). At S3 and S4, the seven compulsory subjects are; English, Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Geography, History and Political Education. All learners with special educational needs will do General Science as an alternative to Physics, Chemistry and Biology.
Eight vocational/skill-based subjects (electives) that have been selected are; Agriculture, Nutrition and Technology, Entrepreneurship, Art and Design, Performing Arts, Technology and Design, Physical Education, and Information and Communications Technology (ICT). ICT has been integrated in all subjects as a pedagogical tool. Local languages and Literature are also among the electives.
Since the new curriculum emphasizes practical learning, the Directorate of Industrial Training (DIT) will assess learners in vocational subjects to prepare them for the world of work.
DIT will be visiting schools to assess individual vocational modules in S1 and S2 while the entire occupation will be assessed in S3 leading to the award of a Level One national certificate of competence. At senior five, learners that continue with vocational subjects can be assessed and awarded national-level Two certificates.
Learning hours have been adjusted. Classes are supposed to start at 8am and end at 2:40pm. “Between 2:40pm and 4:30pm, learners will have teacher supervised time for their creativity and innovation sessions,” the framework indicates.
Baguma said termly exams have not been banned but “we don’t want beginning-of-term, weekly, monthly and mid-term examinations.”
“Now that we are into formative assessment, for every concept taught, you have to engage in an activity of integration where you assess whether learners understood the topic. At the end of the term, a teacher will have developed marks for coursework, projects and other necessary concepts to give parents a more comprehensive report card,” she explained.
Balinanseko said she is disturbed that learners in senior one have been allowed to select one elective yet under the previous arrangement; they studied all subjects and dropped some either in senior two or three. “This is so disturbing. Just imagine, these are 12 and 13-year-olds whose capacity to select an elective will not come easy. How will a child choose a subject they have never done? What if one selects a subject and in the process they find that they chose a wrong one?” she asked.
In the absence of manuals to guide learners in their first week into the curriculum, Baguma said learners will, in the meantime, rely on their passions and parents’ guidance to choose the appropriate electives at S1. She argued that similar electives are on the primary curriculum but since they are not examined by Uneb, schools ignore them.
CONTINUOUS ASSESSMENT CONCERNS
Under the curriculum, the summative teacher assessment will contribute 20 per cent to the final mark of O-level examinations. Every year, Directors of Studies must send an average mark of each learner to Uneb.
The deputy head teacher of St Henry’s College, Kitovu, Felix Busuulwa, who piloted the defunct continuous assessment 10 years ago, doubted it will succeed this time round.
“Then, each student was given a Student Identification number (SIN). Many times when we took marks to Uneb, you would find that someone’s SIN is missing. At the end of the four years, those marks couldn’t be retrieved to be added to the final marks of the candidates,” Busuulwa said.
“As long as they [Uneb] are not organised, similar problems will come back. Uneb needs to set up a whole department to take care of these marks. Physical visits to schools must be done to check whether the marks sent are factual,” he said, adding that some teachers are likely to cheat for learners.
The deputy head teacher of Maryhill High School, Mbarara, Joseph Kamagara, said some teachers cheat for students in summative assessment in subjects such as Fine Art, French and Technical Drawing before presenting results to Uneb.
“Teachers are supposed to be exemplary and people of integrity. For those who will cheat for students, you will be killing your products. The curriculum is competent-based and learner-centered. The time is now to adjust our teaching or spoon-feed students and produce half-baked candidates and future graduates,” Kamagara said.