Brief on the new lower secondary curriculum

This is a brief on the new lower secondary curriculum introduced by Ministry of Education and sports, together with NCDC and other partners!

The current curriculum which has been in existence since colonial times has been criticised for being knowledge-based with little emphasis on skills and values.

It has been found not to adequately address the issues faced by the learners of today and the social-economic needs of the country. In order to address public concerns and in fulfilment of the recommendations of the Government White Paper (1992), the Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES) through the National Curriculum Development Centre (NCDC), embarked on the review of the curriculum at all levels.

The genesis of the curriculum review process started with the Early Child hood
Development curriculum (ECD) in 2005, where government developed a Curriculum Framework which was translated into 16 local languages and others which had approved orthographies. This was followed by the review of the primary curriculum; which was aligned to the ECD curriculum especially in the use of a familiar language at the early stages of learning. The curriculum at the Lower Primary level P1 to P3 was aligned with that of ECD to ensure that learning of concepts rotates around familiar themes and language to the learners. The emphasis at this level is to enable learners acquire requisite numeracy, literacy and life skills.
The review of the Upper Primary Curriculum followed, with the aim of having it follow a Competency Based approach and this was rolled out grade wise starting with P1 in 2007 up to P7 in 2013. It emphasises the acquisition of both the language and subject competences.

new lower secondary curriculum

Ministry of Education introduced the new lower secondary curriculum

After the review of the Upper Primary curriculum, it was necessary, to align the lower secondary curriculum with the Primary Curriculum. The MoES undertook a study and came up with a report on the Lower Secondary Curriculum, Assessment and Examination in 2007, highlighting the following as the gaps in the existing curriculum

i) It is overloaded with a multiplicity of overlapping subjects which are expensive to implement.

ii) It is not in line with international benchmarks in key learning areas.

iii)It lays emphasis on ‘book learning’ rather than mastery of competencies and skills.

iv) It focuses mainly on academic achievement to select entry into the next cycle. This leaves out many learners.

v) The examination system drives what is taught and how it is taught, instead of the reverse. Most of the examination questions emphasise understanding hence cram work. The papers and the grading system do not cater for a wide ability range.

vi) Existing textbooks are content heavy and written for learners with the generally high reading levels.

The Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES) embarked on the review of the lower secondary curriculum in 2008. The review was guided by the recommendations in the 1992 Government White Paper on Education, the Vision 2040, National Development Plans I and II, the Education Sector Strategic Plans (ESSPs) of 2004/05 – 2019/20, the NRM Manifesto 2016-2012, the East African Secondary School Harmonised Curriculum Framework, the Sustainable Development Goal number 4 and subsequent researches conducted by the MoES.

In addition UNESCO, under its department for curriculum, emphasises the need for countries to focus on the reform of their curricula if they are to achieve Sustainable Development Goal No.4 which aims to “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”.
2.0 Justification for the Curriculum Review
The many profound and rapid changes taking place in the country and globally today have necessitated reform of the Lower Secondary School Curriculum in order to enable society to cope with those changes. The explosion of knowledge in science and the consequent developments in technology have created a need to learn new knowledge, skills and attitudes and to acquire a high degree of adaptability, innovativeness and creativity. This, in addition to the following, has created a need to overhaul the Lower Secondary Curriculum:
i) The current curriculum does not meet the needs of the 21st Century particularly in the area of science and technology;

ii) The curriculum has a narrow focus on a small academic minority and not for the broad range of student profiles to cater for the greater inclusiveness in learning achievements;

iii) To bring the current curriculum in line with the aspiration of the nation and the learners.

iv) To maximize the utilisation of resources by reducing the number of subjects further from 22 to a manageable and affordable number.

v) To reduce the school day thus giving students time for self-study, research work, group discussions, project work and recreation.

vi) To design and develop a curriculum that balances the learning process which caters for the three domains, (cognitive, affective and psychomotor). These are required for higher education and the world of work.

vii) To come up with new approaches to assessment and certification that affords all learners an opportunity to demonstrate their achievement according to their ability.

viii) To put in place a Curriculum Framework which clearly spells out what is to be taught and learnt in each subject on the curriculum menu.

According to UNESCO, a curriculum should be reviewed every 5 years due to the rapid global changes. UNESCO further notes that the Key indicators of curriculum success include; the quality of the learning achieved by students, and how effectively students use that learning for their personal, social, physical, cognitive, moral, psychological and emotional development. The new curriculum emphasises knowledge, application and behavioural change based on a clear set of values which must be developed in the learners during the learning process. At the centre of the curriculum are generic skills and values which cut across all the subjects on the curriculum.
The generic skills emphasised are critical thinking and problem-solving, cooperation and self-directed Learning, creativity and innovation, mathematical computations and ICT proficiency and Communication.

The values in the curriculum are adopted from the National Ethics and Values Policy (2013). These include; Respect for humanity and environment, Honesty; uphold and defend the truth at all times, Justice and fairness in dealing with others, Hard work for self – reliance, Integrity; moral uprightness and sound character, Creativity and innovativeness, Social Responsibility, Social Harmony, National Unity and National Consciousness and patriotism.

There are cross-cutting issues that are embedded across all the subjects to enable learners to understand the connections between the subjects and complexities of life.

3.0 The Benefits of the New Curriculum

The new curriculum aims at “A holistic Education for Personal and National Development.” The review, therefore, envisions to produce a secondary school graduate with employable skills that are competitive in the job market. By the end of the educational process, the learner is expected to become a: self-assured individuals, responsible and Patriotic citizens, lifelong learners and positive contributors to society. It is postulated that the reviewed curriculum will:
1. Promote effective learning and acquisition of skills by developing a curriculum that builds meta-cognitive abilities and skills so that individuals are better placed to adapt to their evolving roles in society and the dynamic workplace.
2. Reduce subject and content overload.
3. Address the needs of all students and lay a foundation for improved pedagogy and assessment procedures that allow learners to realise their full potential more effectively.
4. Address the social and economic needs of the country by meeting the educational needs of the learners aspiring for higher academic learning as well as those that wish to transit to the labour market.
5. Allow flexibility to absorb emerging fields of knowledge in the areas of Science and Technology.
6. Address the 21st-century skills required in the world of work.
7. Address issues of wastage with regard to utilization of resources (teachers, school facilities/space, and instructional materials) so as to ensure efficiency.

4.0 Chronology of the activities prior to the roll-out of the curriculum
2016: – Consultations on the proposed curriculum were held and the guidance led to the total overhaul of the curriculum from learning areas to subjects. Moses was guided to revert to the subject-based curriculum but maintain the principles which had guided the reform. The guidance was also given to conduct key stakeholder engagements on the framework before finalization of the development process. As a follow up of this guidance, NCDC embarked on the following activities;
Dec 2017: – A stakeholders’ engagement was held with University Vice Chancellors to discuss the curriculum framework, the curriculum menu and the core subjects at Senior 1&2 and Senior 3&4.
Jan 2018: – Held a stakeholder’s workshop with; Deans of Education and Science from various universities, regional executive members of the Association of Secondary School Headteachers of Uganda, members from the geography association of Uganda and members from the historical association of Uganda. As a result of the consultations, a curriculum menu of 21 subjects was proposed as follows:
1. English Language
2. Literature in English
3. Mathematics
4. Biology
5. Chemistry
6. Physics
7. Geography
8. History and Political Education
9. Foreign Languages (French, German, Arabic, Latin, Chinese)
10. Local Languages//sign language
11. Kiswahili
12. Art and Design
13. Religious Education (IRE and CRE)
14. Performing Arts
15. Agriculture
16. Nutrition and Food Technology
17. Entrepreneurship
18. Physical Education
19. Information Communication and Technology (ICT) Skills
20. Technology and Design
21. General Science (for learners with special learning needs)

Justification for the composition of the above Curriculum Menu
▪ The proposed Curriculum Framework is broad-based with a variety of subjects to enable the learner to explore his/her potential and interests as a basis for choosing subjects according to future careers.
▪ The Framework also aims at addressing issues of inclusiveness and flexibility so as to allow learners to have a range of subjects from which to choose.
▪ The menu aims at feeding into the Skilling Uganda Strategy by having workplace skills integrated into the various subjects.
▪ It provides for the teaching of skills-based or pre-vocational subjects such as Agriculture, Nutrition and Food Technology and Technology and Design

April 2018: – The MoES presented the curriculum menu to H.E The President of the Republic of Uganda, H.E Yoweri Kaguta Museveni. He agreed with the reorganization of the design of the lower secondary curriculum. He guided on the 20 subject curriculum menu and asked the sector to prepare it in preparation for a nationwide rollout in 2020.

August 2018: – The Centre hosted honourable members of Parliament of the Committee on Education and Sports. The purpose of the visit was to familiarise themselves with what NCDC does but specifically to establish how far NCDC had gone with the lower secondary curriculum reform. NCDC presented a paper to the members on the Lower Secondary Curriculum and NCDC at large.

Members of Parliament noted that the budget for implementing the LSC was big, and needed government intervention if the curriculum was to be rolled out in 2020. Members further advised that it was not necessary to have front runner schools as had been planned but expressed the need for government to provide the required funds for a nationwide rollout.

They were concerned about the rising unemployment among youths in Uganda which they largely attributed to a predominantly theoretical national curriculum and they wanted to know what steps NCDC was taking to address this concern. In response, the members were informed that there are numerous contributing factors including the nature of the curriculum and that the Centre was shifting away from purely theoretical to a competence-based curriculum which emphasizes skills development.

Prior to this visit, the Hon. Members had received a presentation on the lower secondary curriculum from NCDC in 2016 at Esella Country Hotel.

December 2018:- NCDC presented the lower secondary curriculum to the Hon. Members of Parliament on the committee of Education and Sports.

February 2019: – The Director NCDC was required by the Minister to present the intention to roll out the curriculum and the budgetary implications to His Excellency the President of Uganda at Kyankwanzi.

June 2019: – NCDC presented a brief on the new Lower Secondary Curriculum and the approved lower secondary curriculum materials to the Education Sector Consultative Committee (ESCC).

October 2018: – NCDC Sensitised members of the Uganda Secondary Head Teachers Association (ASSHU) on the new lower secondary curriculum in Mbale.
September 2019:- The MoES presented the lower secondary curriculum to ASSHU members in Muni Arua.

October 2019: – The MoES presented the progress of the new lower secondary curriculum to the forum for Permanent Secretaries.

December 2019:- An awareness meeting was held with UNATU Executive on the new curriculum.

5.0 Benchmarks with other countries and Uganda Based Schools
A number of benchmarks were conducted both in Africa and in other parts of the world to borrow best practices on what could work in Uganda. Among these included; Ghana, Singapore, Botswana, Turkey, Kenya and Finland Schools visited included Amazima Schools and Vine International School Kungu.
6.0 Changes in the lower secondary curriculum
i. Curriculum Design: A competence-based design has been adopted with an underlying approach of having the learner at the centre of learning. The curriculum is outcome-based with an emphasis on values, attitudes and 21st-century skills. Each topic has a competency (what the learner is able to do after learning); learning outcomes (what to learn or content to be learnt); suggested learning activities (how to learn that is in pairs, individually, in a group or as a class); and assessment activities (how to know that learning has taken place using approaches like observation, talking to the learner and asking for a product from the learner).

The Key Learning Outcomes of the curriculum set out clearly the qualities that young people will develop. By the end of the educational process, young people are expected to become: self-assured individuals, responsible and Patriotic citizens, lifelong learners and positive contributors to society. At the centre of the curriculum are generic skills and values which cut across all the subjects on the curriculum.
The generic skills emphasised are critical thinking and problem-solving, cooperation and self-directed Learning, creativity and innovation, mathematical computations and ICT proficiency and Communication.

The values in the curriculum are adopted from the National Ethics and Values Policy (2013). These include; Respect for humanity and environment, Honesty; uphold and defend the truth at all times, Justice and fairness in dealing with others, Hard work for self – reliance, Integrity; moral uprightness and sound character, Creativity and innovativeness, Social Responsibility, Social Harmony, National Unity and National Consciousness and patriotism.

ii. Subject menu: The number of Subjects on the menu has reduced from 43 to 21 Appendix 1 (The 21 teaching subject syllabus), in the curriculum framework from which a school is expected to offer 12 subjects at senior 1 and 2, out of which 11 are compulsory while 1 is an elective. At Senior 3 and 4, a learner is expected to exit with a minimum of 8 and a maximum of 9 subjects.

Kiswahili, Entrepreneurship, Religious Education and Physical Education are compulsory for learners at senior 1 and 2.
iii. Subject content: Has been reduced and integrated based on relevance, societal needs, and national goals. Obsolete knowledge has been gotten rid of. The new curriculum presents content in activity form emphasising both the activities for the teacher and learner in learning a given concept. This is meant to discourage rote learning and cramming of concepts which is the practice currently.

The new curriculum emphasises imparting values, attitudes and generic skills in the learners. These have been embedded in the designed activities and proposed methodologies to be used by the teacher.
Cross-cutting issues such as climate change, patriotism, human rights, peace education and others have been integrated into the various subjects.

ICT is to be used both as a pedagogical tool for learning and also as a subject. Its use as a pedagogical tool has been integrated into the learning activities in the syllabus documents.
It has embraced inclusive education by providing for learners’ needs in the curriculum. For instance, the gifted children will be exposed to higher-order thinking exercises while the slow learners will benefit from the gifted learners through peer learning because of the interactive nature of the curriculum. Learners with special educational needs who are unable to do the science subjects will take General Science instead.
It further emphasises the integration of knowledge across subjects and this will be achieved by the integration of all the resources by the teacher during the assessment of a given topic.

iv. Approach/methodology: The teaching will be learner-centred and the teacher is a facilitator of learning to mean that learners are expected to contribute to their learning with guidance from the teacher. The curriculum further emphasises inquiry-based, collaborative and problem-solving methodologies.

v. Time Table: Classroom teaching has reduced to 5 hours a day. Lessons will start at 8.30 am and end at 2.55 pm, which will allow learners an experiential learning supervised by the teacher where they engage in research, project work, clubs, games and sports and have time for self-study and reflection on what has been taught, for 1hour and 40 minutes to end at 4.30 pm.

vi. Assessment: The current teaching and assessment are examination driven focusing on acquiring a high-grade pass as opposed to reasoning, critical analysis, understanding and acquisition of skills and knowledge. The assessment modalities have been revisited in collaboration with UNEB and DIT to focus on both formative and summative assessment as opposed to the current curriculum which considers only summative.

Emphasis is on:
(i) On assessing the learners’ understanding, of key concepts in each subject not just their knowledge;
(ii) Focusing on the learner’s ability to apply their knowledge in a range of situations;
(iii) On enabling the learner to demonstrate a selection of relevant generic skills;
(iv) Using a diversified range of assessment techniques like oral, written, performance, practical skills demonstrations;
(v) Encouraging the development of learners’ abilities to reflect on their own learning and carry out self-assessment.

The formative assessment scores will form part of the total learner score at the end of the cycle. These have been agreed at 20% for formative assessment and 80% for summative.
The teacher is expected to observe the learner for any signs of acquired values, skills and change in attitude and take a record of this in addition to assessing knowledge and understanding.

All these will be considered by the teacher during the learning process and reflected at the compilation of the total formative assessment scores. Proper and detailed criteria guidelines on how to manage assessment at the school level will be given to schools. The marks will be captured throughout the 4 years averaged and computed into a score for each individual learner, thereafter the results will be submitted to UNEB for the overall grading of the learner. 

The new curriculum allows interested learners to be subjected to the DIT examinations which are skills-based (Nutrition and Food Technology, Entrepreneurship, Agriculture, ICT, Technology and Design, Performing Arts, Art and Design and Physical Education) to allow them acquire a competency certification of level 1 on the Uganda Vocational Qualification Framework (UVQF) for the world of work.
Summative assessment of UNEB will be administered at the end of Senior 4. The end of cycle UNEB results together with the results from the formative assessment will lead to the award of a Uganda Certificate of Education (UCE). For both certifications, the learner has a chance to progress to the next levels of education.

7.0 Next steps
The rollout will begin in February 2020 with Senior One in all schools and will take a grade-wise approach up to senior four.

The training of Senior One teachers is ongoing across the country. Four teachers (Sciences & Maths, Humanities, Languages and Pre- vocational) plus the Director of Studies from each school both private and public have been trained in 27 training centres. The trained teachers will train others at the school level. After rolling out the new lower secondary curriculum, Continuous Professional Development Programmes for teachers will be conducted at school level and across the SESEMAT regional training centres during termly holidays.

The MoES will procure textbooks for learners of ‘O Level’ in a phased-out approach.

Continued initial training of teachers on the lower secondary curriculum will be conducted for those teachers that have not yet been trained.

Training of School Administrators and District Education Officers, District Inspectors of Schools, Members of the Board of Governors will be conducted to ensure effective implementation of the reviewed curriculum.

Alignment of the University and National Teacher’s College Curricula to make it competence-based.

Continuous sensitisation of the different stakeholders will be conducted using the media.

NCDC plans to review the Advanced Level curriculum in the next strategic planning period commencing 2020/21 – 2025.26, to align it with the new lower secondary curriculum. Learners who have studied the competence-based curriculum at the Ordinary level will be exposed to a competence-based curriculum when they progress to ‘A-Level’.


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