In Summary

The issue: Exam bodies
Our view: The content of vocational subjects should be incorporated into the main primary science subjects.

The Ministry of Education is planning to start technical examinations in primary and secondary schools. This was revealed by an assistant commissioner in the ministry, Ms Loy Muhwezi. She asked the Uganda Business and Technical Examinations Board (UBTEB) to set up examination centres in primary and secondary schools to start assessing the leaners on technical and vocational skills.
Ms Muhwezi revealed that the ministry is developing a technical vocational education and training system that will enable primary pupils to continue with the technical subjects to post-primary level under a new policy.
This system is likely to breed confusion and disrupt primary and secondary education. It’s hard to envisage how these UBTEB examination centres will operate alongside the Uganda National Examinations Board (Uneb) centres in the same schools without causing confusion and whether UBTEB will have enough trained manpower to assess the learners in the thousands of schools across the country.
There seems to be utter confusion and lack of clarity on how the Ministry wants to shape up the country’s education. The government is pursuing many contradictory innovations that are likely to ruin rather than enhance education.
There used to be technical/vocational subjects like Metal Work, Technical Drawing and Wood Work in secondary schools. These were phased out of curriculum on account that their content was already catered for in technical and vocational institutes. Later they were reinstated under different subject names in the new O-Level curriculum, which is under review and is expected to be implemented by 2020. The academic learning hours have been reduced from 8am to 5pm to 8am to 2pm on pretext of using the three hours for non-academic activities, which time most likely will be used by teachers to instead engage in activities unrelated to education. It is also not clear how the learners’ performance on such activities will be assessed and scored meticulously to add to the learner’s final national grade. This strategy is highly vulnerable to abuse and award of fake grades to the candidates.
The ministry is grappling with shortage of teachers to teach the new subjects in the curriculum examinable by Uneb. But the ministry is again suggesting some of these subjects to be examined by UBTEB. The introduction of a parallel examinations body to assess some subjects while another body assesses other subjects for the same learner is likely to disrupt examination process. The assessment and grading criteria of Uneb and UBTEB may be different. If part of a learner’s examinations are assessed and graded by UBTEB while others are handled by Uneb, who then determines the learner’s ultimate grade and issues the certificate?
The content of these vocational/technical subjects should be incorporated into the main primary science subject and be assessed by Uneb. It will save the learners and examiners unnecessary burden and possible confusion.