Every year, students in candidate classes are subjected to examinations by the Uganda National Examinations Board (Uneb) to determine who is ready to join the next level of education.
This system of assessment is referred to as summative assessment which is intended to evaluate students’ learning at the end of an instructional unit by comparing it against some standard and the ‘bright’ learner passes as the ‘dull’ fail.
Statistics from last years’ Uneb examinations show that a total of 86,445 candidates failed the national examinations and cannot continue to the next level of education. Some 57,349 failed Primary Leaving Examination (PLE), 27,955 failed the Uganda Certificate of Education (UCE) exams while 1,141 students failed to attain any principal pass in Uganda advanced certificate of education (UACE) exams.
The same has been happening for decades resulting into several stakeholders in the education system wondering how selected questions answered in two or three hours justify the number of years a student spent learning at a given level of education.
“Many unlucky learners who could hopefully have not known the asked questions will eventually fail but this is not enough to imply that they did not get the concepts at that level. Failing means that the learner had not learnt anything at a given level,” Joe Billy Kisozi, a tutor at Ndegeya Core PTC in Masaka District, said adding that every academic year there are students who fail exams and a big number of them end up dropping out of the system.
Fodder for malpractice
Kisozi, who is also a Centre Coordinating Tutor, notes that the current education assessment and examination system does not give room for learners to get the relevant skills as teachers always focus on making them pass the final examinations.
“In candidate classes it is worse. Learners are put on pressure, taught for hours without rest, given numerous pre-tests all focusing only on yielding better results in national examinations,” Kisozi adds.
He says even while admitting students, schools base on the learner’s grades.
To Peter Kabanda, a parent, students are usually in actual sense not ‘learning’ but rather cramming the taught content which they can hardly apply after school.
“These are the country’s next human resource completely without any skill but presenting the best grades on their pass slips,” Kabanda noted.
Examining and assessing learners through summative assessment has since come with consequences including cram work and examination malpractice.
Education expert Fagil Mandy says rumours have it and neither can he rule it out that bad and good schools are determined by the same examinations a reason teachers and learners end up being pushed into examination malpractice.
“It is high time we thought of broader reforms in our education system and introduce a new and better examination and assessment system or policy to ensure that learners get the intended skills at every level of education instead of mere passing set examinations,” Mandy said in a recent interview.
He slightly agrees with a number of educationists who have over time noted that there must be gradual and periodic assessment of the learners so that powers of the final exams by Uneb are limited.
The end result
Mandy says the assessment policy should squarely focus on the end product of the learner the country wishes to have every after a given level of education.
Mandy adds that there are a number of learning areas which are paramount and are within the curriculums but are not assessed such as physical education which would rather produce sportsmen and women among others.
He, however, draws worry to the current education system which he says is limping with numerous fundamental sections such as the evaluation to which is at some extent inactive thus suggesting a scrutiny of the system.
Speaking to this reporter, Patrick Kaboyo, a private education consultant, noted that the current system is cognitive focused and does not cater for the psychomotor and the affective domain which are also equally important.
Kaboyo’s worry is that the current system can produce a first class degree holder without any skill and this can as well explain why very few arcades in the city are owned by the so called academicians.
In 2011, the National Curriculum Development Centre (NCDC) proposed continuous assessment at primary level which was piloted by Uneb but rather deserted due to a number of challenges encountered funding inclusive. In the same way, the new O-Level curriculum, which has however not been rolled out also intended to introduce a system where a teacher could assess individual learner’s competencies and write a report on their achievements.