OpED

Open letter to the Education Minister Janet Museveni; implementing the new curriculum in its current state, is suicidal!

When a 33 year old Chinese Dr. Li Wenliang detected the first Coronavirus patient in November, 2019, he notified the relevant authorities about the same, but to his dismay, he was accused by the Chinese government of spreading false propaganda.

Unfortunately, Li Wenliang, passed on, on February 20, 2020, after falling prey to the virus.

Arguably, the entire world, has since then, witnessed the wrath of the virus. No wonder, President Donald Trump, of the United States, has continually stated that the Chinese Government, is absolutely responsible for this mess.

I believe many of you out there, agree with him, to a large extent. How I wish, instead of tossing Li Wenliang, around, government had listened instead to him! Too bad, this (listening), happened, at a time when the damage caused by the virus was already irreparable.

You will all agree with me, that the damage caused by Coronavirus, will be felt, globally, even after 200 years, and beyond, from now.

Several people, including myself, have laboured to raise the gaps evident in the new curriculum for lower secondary education, unfortunately, nobody has been listened to.

There is no doubt, there are so many issues surrounding the new curriculum, and if they are not addressed, I can guarantee with certainty that the intended motives for this innovation, will remain on paper.

“Is there a crisis in our education system? Yes, there is! Has the problem been diagnosed? No, it has not! … We do things without thinking twice. We request you not to play around with the future of our children,” said honourable Abdul Katuntu. “What did you have in mind in deciding which subjects were compulsory and those that were optional? What parameters did you use? How do you make agriculture optional? Where are we taking this country? We want change that is fair, and where every stakeholder is consulted,” said honourable Betty Nambooze. Nambooze’s assertions are not farfetched, for even the Buganda Government, under the stewardship of Katikiro Charles Peter Mayiga, is equally wondering why agriculture was ruled out among the compulsory subjects, yet it (agriculture), is the chief economic activity of our country.

Among the core objectives of secondary education in Uganda, put forward by the Ministry of Education and Sports (MoE&S), is, “enabling individuals to develop basic scientific, technological, technical, agricultural, and commercial skills required for self-employment.” According to the Education Ministry, how are we going to promote self-employment in the field of agriculture, without adequate trained/educated labour-force in the field?

What was/is the essence of designing this objective, aware of the fact that “Agriculture”, as a subject, was to be made optional? Laying the foundation for further education, is yet another motive of secondary education in Uganda, laid down by the MoE&S.

There are several questions that one can draw from this object. First, according to the Education Ministry, what is the essence of introducing a student to Chinese Language at the Ordinary Level, yet we do not have the same at the Advanced Level? How possible is it for a student to study “Art and Design” at the Ordinary Level, and then switch to “Fine Art”, at the Advanced Level? What is the essence of introducing a student to, “Nutrition and Food Techology” at the Ordinary Level, and then, taking them back to, “Foods and Nutrition”, at the Advanced Level? In upper secondary, according to information obtained from the Uganda National Examinations Board (UNEB), only seven (7) local languages (Luganda, Rukiga-Runyakore, Lusoga, Langi, Djapadhola, Ateso, and Acholi, are examined.

However, according to the National Curriculum Development Centre (NCDC), in lower secondary, there are ten (10) local languages, to be taught. Surely, of what relevance are the other three local languages to a student, yet they cannot continue with the same in upper secondary, and beyond? What subject combination does a student who studies “General Science”, take on in upper secondary, of course, with a bias of General Science? So, after studying “Performing Arts” at the Ordinary Level, what other two subjects at the Advanced Level, can a student match this (Performing Arts), with, so as to come up with the required subject combination? What is the essence of introducing a student to, “Techology and Design”, in lower secondary, and then teaching them, “Technical Drawing”, in upper secondary? How do you introduce a student to “History and Political Education”, at the Ordinary Level, and then, at the Advanced Level, take them back to History? What is the essence of introducing a student to “Physical Education”, in lower secondary, yet we do not have the same in upper secondary? These are pertinent questions, that ought to be convincingly answered, ahead of Implementing this new curriculum. Short of that, we shall end up, shooting ourselves to death.

Read about the New curriculum brief 

NCDC has convinced us that the total number of subjects has been reduced from forty-three (43), to twenty-one (21), with the new curriculum; this can only be true, if answers to the following questions are found. First, “According to NCDC, does it mean that “Religious Education”, which comprises “Christian Religious Education” (CRE) and “Islamic Religious Education” (IRE), is going to be taught as one subject? And if so, how possible can this be, aware of the fact that CRE is based on the Bible, yet IRE is based on the Qu’ran? If not, then, automatically, this implies there are two independent subjects (CRE and IRE), in the cluster of Religious Education.

Secondly, does NCDC want to tell us that “Foreign Languages” (French, Arabic, Latin, Chinese, and German), are going to be taught as a single subject? How practical is this? I am convinced beyond doubt that this cluster of foreign languages, contains five (5) independent subjects, since each will be taught and assessed separately. Likewise, there is no way ten (10) local languages can be taught and assessed as a single subject, implying that the cluster of “Local Languages”, constitutes ten (10) independent subjects. Besides, we all know that the conjunction, “and”, is used in situations where more than one variable/item is being referred to. Therefore, this automatically implies that there are two independent subjects, surprisingly, to be taught and assessed under the same umbrella, i.e., History and Political Education. Let me hope combining these two, was an oversight.

By and large, you cannot teach “History” (past events), with “Political Education” (a combination of past events and current affairs) under the same block. I believe before combining these two, NCDC had forgotten the common adage, “You cannot eat your cake, and then have it, at the same time.”

If government does not want to drop “Political Education”, then, it should be taught to students as an independent subject, and not under the “arm pits” of History. Believe it or not, teaching a combination of the two, under the same umbrella, is WRONG. Just as you cannot teach “Chemistry” and “Biology”, or “English Language” and “Literature in English”, as a single subject, so can’t you teach “History” and “Political Education”, as a single subject.

While “Art and Design”, or “Nutrition and Food Techology”, can be taught as a single subject, because either way, the two share a lot in common, “History and Political Education” cannot be taught and assessed as a single subject. This is because, as already noted, one (history), strictly focuses at the past, while the other (political education), looks at both past events and current affairs.

This, therefore, implies that the new curriculum is comprised of thirty-four (34) subjects, if not, thirty-five (35), including General Science, and not, twenty-one (21), per se.

You do not have to be an expert at Mathematics to arrive at this conclusion.

According to the Education Ministry, what is the essence of giving the student that liberty to elect a subject of their own, in S.1/2? Is this also aimed at fostering creativity, innovation, or job creation?

Isn’t the Ministry aware that, in principle, we cannot select only one (1) item from a population? Aren’t they aware that the student is given a population containing three (3) samples (local languages, foreign languages, and other subjects) from which he/she is required to select only one subject? How practical is this? Where are the scholars (professors, academic doctors, senior lecturers), to challenge, and advise government on this? Could they also have allowed their children to fall prey to such an anomaly? By and large, the total number of subjects studied by a student in S.1/2, should be dictated by the Ministry. The student should not be allowed any room, whatsoever, to make their choice at this level since they are totally green about secondary school education (and the subjects offered at this level), they, together with their parents/guardians, cannot be in position to make rational judgment. Who are the people going to teach Chinese? In other words, what are their qualifications? Which universities did they attend? Is it possible for us to have a list of these individuals published in the local media? Surely, what is the essence of making the Chinese Language part of the curriculum, even when we are still struggling with English Language and our own local languages? When did the Education Service Commission (ESC) ever recruit either Chinese teachers, or teachers of Chinese Language? On which date did this advert run? Who is the person in charge of Chinese Language at NCDC? Precisely, what are his/her qualifications? How did he/she get this job? Now that NCDC is sending self-study materials for S.1 students as well, whom they very well know, returned home with empty books, at the time schools were closed, what plans does the NCDC have for children passionate about studying Chinese Language?

FULL STATEMENT: Education Ministry has no special budget for COVID-19, Education Minister Janet Museveni speaks out on limited self study materials

According to statistics obtained from UNEB, a total of 11, 882 students sat for Luganda at the Advanced Level in 2019. Kiswahili had 2,242 students, Rukiga-Runyakore 1,969, Lusoga 830, Arabic 589, French 273, Langi 90, Djapadhola 34, German 31, Latin 20, Ateso 17, and Acholi 08.

How economical is it, for government to teach and assess students, for subjects that cannot even raise 50 students? Has the Ministry ever laboured to perform a cost-benefit analysis of teaching/forgoing some of these languages/subjects? Even after positioning itself as the most highly desired/done Language at the Advanced Level, and, of course, second to English Language at the Ordinary Level, why has the Education Ministry, decided to make it an optional subject, even in schools situated in Buganda, yet Kiswahili, that has far less students than Luganda, is compulsory? What was/is the logic behind this decision?

I strongly believe, it will be a decision taken in the right direction, for government to give a lee-way to schools, particularly, in Buganda, that have the capacity to teach Luganda, continue doing so, as was the case for the old curriculum.

However, should government carry on with its initial decision, there is no doubt, by 2040, Luganda local broadcasters, will have no where to draw their human resource from.

I am sure nobody will get surprised, if they moved down the street in 2045, and they cannot see their popular Luganda newspaper, “Bukedde”, unless government reverses the decision decision.

A language is either foreign, or local, and not anywhere, in between.

According to the Education Ministry, where does Kiswahili fall? So, according to the Ministry, is it worthwhile to promote Kiswahili, and kill Luganda, even when we very well know how Luganda has positively impacted on the growth and development of Uganda?

Besides, where are the people going to teach Kiswahili in the 135 districts of Uganda?

When did government ever formally train this human resource? Is it possible for us to have a list of the teachers officially qualified to teach Kiswahili, including the teacher training colleges/universities where they trained from?

Are we using people qualified to teach Kiswahili, or we are simply going to rely on individuals who can speak, read, and write Kiswahili?

According to the Executive Director, NCDC, Grace Baguma, the review process has taken more than 20 years and necessary steps have been taken prior to delivery of the new curriculum.

Undauntedly, anybody with an inquisitive mind cannot fail to raise a couple of questions from this statement.

First, if the review process has taken more than 20 years, why don’t we have in place even a single graduate teacher qualified in handling the new curriculum for all this long? Does it imply that for all this long teacher training colleges and universities have not been passing out teachers?

Why are we fidgeting with putting the literature/books together that are to aid the teaching-learning process now?
What have we been doing all along? For all this long, what have we been waiting for to retool teachers? Surely, how do you train someone for 3, 5, or 10 days and expect them to put into practice something that is going to stay on for the next 50, or so years?

“As a teacher, I strongly believe the curriculum review has been long overdue. However, if we let what we are teaching our children have flaws all in the name of having a new curriculum, then we will all bear the blame and burden of the repercussions.

The old curriculum had very serious issues, the new curriculum, however good it may seem, has serious issues and flaws, as well. What is actually happening is a movement in circles.

If not that, then, we are just changing seats at a table with different plates, but with the same food”, said Fred.

“This is education we are talking about. By saying we should go with the new curriculum, despite its flaws, is wrong. We cannot experiment on our children. I believe the solution is for government to first of all, put in the required infrastructure, for the curriculum to flourish, and then roll it out. Anything short of that is a really tragedy”, Fred explained. “If this is a competence-based curriculum, why are you starting it in senior one (S.1), and not primary one? Why are you creating an island in this curriculum? How can you implement something you have been preparing for 12 years, in three days?” Honourable Michael Mawanda, asked.

According to the Education Ministry, what was/is the essence of amending the lower secondary education curriculum, and leaving that of upper secondary and primary education unattended to? Precisely, what benefits does one achieve from renovating the first floor of a building, and leave the ground and second floors unattended to? There is no doubt, reviewing the lower secondary curriculum, calls for an automatic review of the primary education curriculum, including that of upper secondary education.

Does government want to tell us that it is only the lower secondary education curriculum that contained gaps? I wish to inform the Education Ministry, that in research, the lower secondary curriculum is treated as the mediating variable, and changing the mediating variable, many a time, calls for an automatic adjustment of the independent (primary education) and dependent (upper secondary education) variables.

In fact, the dependent variable dictates the mediating variable, and not the other way around. Whether the Ministry likes it, or not, the curriculum for upper secondary education MUST be reviewed, forthwith, if the benefits for the new curriculum for lower secondary education, are to be achieved.

Short of this, will be equivalent to changing one’s pair of trousers, and leave the coat on, after fish stew has spilled over the entire suit.

Where are the personalities (James Mulwana, Ssenteza Kajubi, Janan Luwum, etc.), being talked of in the revised syllabus of History and Political Education, catered for, in History at the Advanced Level? What is the essence of teaching students in lower secondary, from 8:00am to 2:55pm, while their counterparts at the primary level and upper secondary, study from 7:00am to 7:00pm for those in day schools, and 4:00am to 11:00pm, for those in the boarding section?

The other ambit of secondary education in Uganda, according to the MoE&S, is, “enabling individuals to develop personal skills of problem-solving, Information gathering and interpretation, independent reading and writing, self-improvement, through learning and development of social, physical, and leadership skills, obtained as a result of participating in games, sports, societies, and clubs.

According to the Ministry, does it, therefore, imply that it is only students at lower secondary, who need such skills? Majority of the teachers qualified to teach Physical Education, have either retired, or are nearing retirement.

According to the Education Ministry, where is the manpower to handle this subject? Is it possible for us to have a list of the teachers qualified to handle Physical Education, published in local media too? Surely, at a time where technology advancement is evolving at a speed, 10-fold that of Coronavirus, don’t you think it is suicidal to make Information Communications Technology (ICT), an optional subject?

Today, even medical practitioners in Uganda, and beyond, are required to issue digitalized medical forms. This implies, introducing a student to Chemistry, Physics, or Biology and exclude ICT, might prove to be a waste of resource, include time.

Arguably, in this 21st Century, a person who is not computer literate, will definitely be left out in many things. I implore the Ministry to review this decision, and make ICT, a compulsory subject, throughout the Ordinary Level of study, if the intended objectives for reviewing the curriculum are to be achieved as expected.

Definitely, this will require all universities that train teachers, to among the teaching subjects handled, also incorporate, ICT. With only one university (Uganda Christian University, Mukono), handling ICT, as a teaching subject, one cannot fail to ask themselves where the Education Service Commission (ESC), gets the manpower posted to handle ICT in the various schools, from.

From where do the private schools source their human resource, meant to handle ICT in the classroom? I am reliably informed that NCDC has prepared prototype literature as teaching-learning aids for S.1 students. For those of you who might know what a prototype is, here is its meaning, in simple terms, “a product that is still being tested, ahead of its certification.”

A prototype can never be used as a final product. Many a time, it still has defects that need to be done away with, before it can officially be introduced to the market.

By and large, it is wrong for NCDC to issue literature in the form of prototypes as teaching-learning aids.

This evidence is enough, for one to conclude that government was/is not yet ready for this new curriculum.

Surprisingly, we are almost half-way the year, and NCDC is still fidgeting with the writing of books meant to aid the implementation exercise for the new curriculum.

They seem to have learned nothing, from the revised syllabus for Entrepreneurship Education at the Advanced Level, that was rolled out in 2013. Unless NCDC lays on table its original work for the two publications, i.e., Secondly School Curriculum: Entrepreneurship Education, Learner’s Book for Seniors Five and Six, I still insist, they do not have copyright for these books, since the books were published using largely downloads, moreover, in copy and paste form, from Google.

This is plagiarism, and it is unfortunate that since 2013, students have been taught and assessed using plagiarized work. I have already brought this matter to the attention of the Inspector General of Government (IGG), Parliament, and the three ministers who are directly in charge of education, including the permanent secretary. I pray the concerned authorities, including the Auditor General, pick interest in this matter, and have it investigated, to its final conclusion.

Why Uganda should restructure education system

Writing is an activity that requires ample time, for it involves writing, writing, and writing. Still, it calls for writing, unwriting, and re-writing.

This chain continues until you are convinced beyond doubt, that your publication is ready for public consumption. It is as a result of such fidgeting, that NCDC is compelled to publish plagiarized literature.

Discussing the gaps evident in the revised syllabus of Entrepreneurship Education for lower secondary education, requires an independent write-up, for there are so many gaps therein, that ought to be urgently fixed before introducing learners to the subject.

For instance, I have totally failed to establish the direct link between “Introduction to Government Revenue”, meant to be taught to students in S.1, and Entrepreneurship Education.

There is no doubt, “public finance/government revenue”, is a macro-economics issue, which must, therefore, be taught under Economics, and not Entrepreneurship Education, per se. Engaging Professor Waswa Balunywa, at this stage, will be handy.

The new curriculum provides room for both formative and summative assessment; it is argued that formative assessment will carry 20%, while summative assessment, will constitute 80% of the student’s final score at the end of the Ordinary Level. I wish to inform the Education Ministry, that while this can work at the higher level of learning (tertiary institutions and University), it cannot work at secondary school level. This is because, there is no guarantee that a student will attend only one school throughout their four (4) or even six (6) years.

Consider a student who attends 4, 7, or 10 schools in the 4 years; so, in this case, which school will have assessed them? Worse still, this student, particularly, in private schools, can be handled by over 5 teachers, in a term; according to the Ministry, whose teacher’s marks shall we consider? In fact, this kind of arrangement is already being used by UNEB in assessing students of French and Fine Art, at both levels of study, which is wrong. The formative assessment arrangement can only work, where a student attends strictly one school in the 4 years and/or the same/one school in the two years of their Ordinary and Advanced Levels of education, respectively. Furthermore, the arrangement can only stay put, in a situation where labour turnover, is unheard of. In fact, the student should move on with his/her teachers who start off with him/her in S.1, up to S.4. Short of this, whatever score that is given to a student, is a sham! It is, therefore, high time, UNEB dropped the arrangement of assessing students using formative assessment, in those subjects where this arrangement is being practised, for, as already mentioned, it is wrong. Organizations that cause, or manage change effectively, are to be around, and with great strides, even in the next century. They are the ones using the future to manage the present (Balunywa, 1995). These are the ones that have forgotten the past, and are, therefore, looking into the future to get the rightful direction for today. These organizations are constantly causing change. The future is not tomorrow, but today. To survive and remain afloat, do something different. Your strategies should focus at taking a wild leap into the future. Imagining what the future will be, and enabling it, is ideal, if the desired change is to be ascertained. That is the best way of enabling change. Organizations that fail to recognize, and/or cause change, have no future. However, it ought to be noted that, if change is to yield the expected results, then all the steps of the change process should be exploited to the dot. Obviously, doing so, requires adequate time, prior to execution of the programme, at hand. I, therefore, wish to request the Education Ministry to indefinitely suspend implementation of the new curriculum, until such a time when they are ready to roll it out, if the objectives for why it was introduced are to be achieved, as expected.

I strongly believe, the Ministry should start from the top, i.e., lecturers who handle teachers in the training colleges and universities, should not merely be consulted, but they should be fully incorporated in the entire review process, for these are the key people who are to be relied upon in ensuring that the new curriculum registers its intended objectives.

However, if our intention is to simply have something new, then curriculum implementation, can go on as initially planned, despite the flaws, cited above. But I strongly believe as a mother and person with a unique sense of humour, you will take time off, and diagnose the information presented in this write-up, so as to make an informed decision.

For God and My Country! Jonathan Kivumbi, Educationist, 0770880185.

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