3 February 2014

Uganda: PLE - We Should Count the Gains, Read the Signs


It is that time of the year again, when the country particularly focuses on the educational future of younger generations of Ugandans, based on what they wrote in national exams a few months back.

The Uganda National Examinations Board (Uneb) on Friday released the results of the 2013 Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE). For many of the youngsters, the results could shape their academic trajectories - for instance, which schools they join, how they turn out, and which careers they eventually choose.

This period, therefore, gives us another opportunity, as a country, to reflect on key issues pertaining to education, on which our future depends. The exams again reflected an improvement in access to education at a higher level.

Although Universal Primary Education (UPE) has been instrumental in increasing enrolment since 1997, a good chunk of those who join primary one never make it to the PLE rooms. It is, therefore, commendable that compared to 2011, the number of PLE candidates grew by 13% last year.

But that mathematics and English were the worst-done is a sign we need to read. With numeracy and literacy being at the heart of academic endeavour, our education experts need to devise solutions for this lingering problem.

The thematic curriculum, it has been argued, was meant to help improve the quality of school leavers. It may be too early to conclude whether that is working or not, but we need to keep asking that question.

Another reminder from the results is that in some communities, education is still seen as an optional activity - one that children may indulge in if they are not herding cattle, fishing, or working in sugar plantations.

In this day and age, this is dangerous. Local, political and religious leaders need to do more to mobilise communities to appreciate the importance of going to school and pursuing excellence.

If development can be defined as a process of expanding the range of choices available to people, parents and communities should not neglect their duty to ensure that their children will be able to take advantage of Uganda's expanding range of choices.

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