ARINAITWE RUGYENDO: Why new O-level curriculum is the future of Uganda’s education

Learners with special needs, unable to study science subjects, will offer General Science while a sign language syllabus was also been developed as an alternative language (PHOTO/File)

Learners with special needs, unable to study science subjects, will offer General Science while a sign language syllabus was also been developed as an alternative language (PHOTO/File)

KAMPALA – Next month, the lower secondary education system will experience a massive renovation – A new curriculum.

It will have 21 examinable subjects, which have been whittled down from the previous 43.

Accordingly, classroom hours will start from 8:30 am to 2:50 pm. From 2:50 pm to 4:30 pm, students are expected to engage in co-curricular activities and self-study. The key learning outcomes are: Self-assured individuals, responsible citizens, passion for lifelong learning and make a positive contribution to the nation. Expected generic skills from this include, among others, communication, social and interpersonal skills, creativity and innovation, critical thinking, problem-solving and workplace behaviour.

There is an aura of relief amongst parents and education enthusiasts, following this new seismic shift. In particular, I am personally excited because I am amongst the many who have questioned the benefits of our colonial-era education system. We have been uncomfortable with the manner in which our education system is not aligned with the signs of the times and with how it is not aligned to the ever-changing job environment and need for entrepreneurs.

In 2016, I chose to take the bull by its horns and helped found the e2 Young Engineers Programme, an after-school programme which exposes children aged between 5 – 15 years to practical skills in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) using a LEGO curriculum in order to nurture them into the next generation of Scientists, Innovators, Problem Solvers and Entrepreneurs who possess high-order thinking, teamwork, computer orientation, independent thinking and self- confidence skills. Disappointingly, the programme has received lukewarm reception in local schools but frantic urge from international schools.

Elsewhere in the world, the United States, Asia, EU, Russia and the Middle East, have not only massively embraced this form of early childhood education, their deliberate state funding and facilitation of STEM teachers is rivaling their defence budgets.

Here in Africa, our continent is playing catch up with the perennial thought that rote learning about how the first Kabaka of Buganda was Suuna, and spending months on end forcing children to cram and pass exams in this, will take it us to the Moon, Mars and beyond. Africa continues to wallow in the warped thinking that this sort of learning, where parents are forcing PLE kids to cram pre-set answers in order to obtain aggregate 4s or collapse, will create a critical mass of inventors who will turn its rich resources into instant fortunes of the future.

In 2018, a report by the World Economic Forum, gave me some temporary hope, because I knew countries in Africa would take long to react. Titled: “The Future of Jobs Report 2018,” the report listed the top 10 emerging jobs and the top 10 declining jobs by the year 2022. Looking at the top ten emerging ones, one can see a correlation with the generic skills the Ministry of Education & Sports (MoES) hopes to horn from the new curriculum. These are: Data analysts, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning specialists, General and Operations Managers, Software and Applications Developers and Analysts, Sales and Marketing Professionals, Big Data Specialists, Digital Transformation Specialists, New Technology Specialists, Organisational Development Specialists and Information Technology Services specialists.

The ones declining are listed as Data Entry Clerks, Accounting, Bookkeeping and Payroll clerks, Administrative and Executive Secretaries, Assembly and Factory workers, Client Information and Customer Service workers, Business services and Administration managers, Accountants and Auditors, Material recording and Stock – Keeping Clerks, Postal Service Clerks, among others.

This report may sound far-fetched in countries such as Uganda where technological prospects are still very low. However, the point about the future of education is made. Why do I say this?

Every day, the prospects for the future are changing. Opportunities for the younger generation today are changing. Things kids are doing today in order to secure their prosperity in the future are changing as well. As time passes, what is changing in our world today is more and more related to processes that require creativity and problem-solving skills. The 4th Industrial Revolution has consequences. Many professions are vanishing quickly from the labour market and as time passes, fewer and fewer tasks that Robots cannot do better than us human beings are reducing. This is because, Robots are doing everything quicker, more precise, can work for many hours, many shifts, cannot get sick or be bribed to do tasks and they never get tired or even complain.

Therefore, in the foreseeable future, we will see less and less from current occupations that exist today. For example, about 20 million taxi drivers will be replaced by automated transportation services. More and more Drones will be delivering your Rolex and Chapattis than humans on Bodaboda. The future of education is bright but only for those who wish to see far by embracing the new curriculum. I will be one of them!

The writer is a journalist and Managing Director of e2 Young Engineers Uganda, STEM Education Programme in Kampala.

The writer is a journalist and Managing Director of e2 Young Engineers Uganda, STEM Education Programme in Kampala.


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