The executive director of Uganda National Examinations Board Dan Odongo has assumed the presidency of the Association for Educational Assessment in Africa (AEAA), setting the integration of Francophone and Arab countries as his primary target.
Odongo today assumed office at the closure of a five-day AEAA conference at Speke Resort Munyonyo under the theme Enhancing efficiency and effectiveness in educational assessment in an era of educational change.
In his acceptance speech, Odongo said it was unfortunate that of all the 23 countries that were represented, none of the assessment bodies was from a French-speaking country. He also wants countries from Arab North and Portuguese-speaking nations to participate to ensure that AEAA is wholly continental.
"We learnt that part of the reason for their absence was the fact that the conference language, which has been majorly English, did not favour their attendance due to lack of translation facilities," Odongo said.
However, The Observer has learnt that AEAA conference organisers had procured translation devices but they lay idle for the entire five days since Francophone members had not been informed in advance about their existence of the devices.
Meanwhile, Odongo said becoming president was a personal honor as well as a show of trust in the institution of Uneb and Uganda in general.
"I have a strong belief, and I know that within our institutions, there exists an abundance of expertise in various aspects of assessment which we can share for our mutual benefits through regular benchmarking."
PROMOTE SOFT SKILLS
The conference was closed by state minister for higher education, Dr John C Muyingo, who agreed with the delegates that public examinations should integrate practical and soft skills.
Muyingo said acquisition of generic skills by learners will make them become globally-competitive in line with the ongoing Skilling Uganda programme that equips learners with technological and science skills.
"We have decided to accommodate soft skills in our current review of the lower secondary school curriculum," Muyingo said. "The idea behind it is to ensure that at whatever level somebody leaves our education system, they are able to easily join the employment world."
Muyingo added that the education ministry has started regional consultation workshops for the curriculum that is expected to be piloted in schools next year, and later implemented in 2019.
AEAA executive secretary Dr Edmund Mazibuko said the week-long deliberations would help improve the efficiency and effectiveness of respective examination bodies.
Mazibuko said integrating soft skills was still a challenge in many education systems due to its complexity exacerbated by the low levels of assessment literacy among the would-be key stakeholders in soft skills assessment.
"It was noted that contemporary employers required more competence in soft skills than ever before, thus calling upon examining bodies to consider assessment of soft skills," Dr Mazibuko said.
He explained that all assessment practitioners have been tasked to think of demand-driven soft skills assessment frameworks developed with synergies of employers, communities and assessment professionals.
The conference also encouraged examination bodies to conduct frequent reviews of their assessment procedure as well as institute prohibitive penalties to contain examination malpractice.
Muyingo commended the outgoing AEAA president Esau Nhandara, also the director of Zimbabwe Schools Examination Council, for steering the association as well as 'peacefully' handing over office to Dan N Odongo, the Uneb executive secretary.
The conference attracted delegates from Botswana, Cameroon, Ethiopia, France, Ghana, India, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, The Netherlands and Nigeria. Others are Sierra Leone, South America, South Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, The Gambia, Uganda, UK, USA, Zambia and Zimbabwe.