23 April 2018

Uganda: Will Dropped O-Level Subjects Be Missed?

analysis

As the dust on the banned O-Level subjects settles, questions still linger on how relevant these subjects were.

Although there had been dissenting opinions from some members of the public to retain the subjects, government argued that retaining them was a duplication of some subjects hence they would be merged, and the teachers retooled to teach the merged subjects.

The subjects, including Type writing, Additional Mathematics, Power and Energy, Electricity and Electronics, Accounts, Commerce, Technical Drawing, Woodwork, Metal work, Political Education, Health Science, Home Economics, Textile and clothing, Office practice, Shorthand, Building and construction, Fasihi ya Kiswahili, Textile and Clothing and Tailoring, were dropped and some merged.

Majority of the people who studied these subjects, have since completed studies, and are perhaps pursuing their careers.

However, some of whom we spoke to expressed dissatisfaction over National Curriculum Development Centres's (NCDC) decision, arguing that this could greatly affect vocational institutes.

Worry for skills

Their argument is hinged on the fact that since government is currently emphasising the importance of vocational skills, the dropped subjects would have been instead made stronger to equip learners with better skills.

Albert Bweisigye, 24, a third year student of Urban Planning at Makerere University studied Technical Drawing in O-Level at Mbarara High School, says the subject introduced him to measurements and visual styles, something he says, is he is learning currently at university.

He says since he wanted to become an Engineer, he devoted a lot of his time to Technical Drawing because it had all the essentials. Unfortunately, Bwesigye says, he could not make it for Engineering.

"But even when I missed Engineering, Technical Drawing introduced me to the world of design," he says.

NCDC decision is premised on the fact that learners must be taught subjects that are meant to develop competencies in technology, communication, analysis, synthesis, creative thinking, problem solving and teamwork.

But Bwesigye says any practical subject cannot be duplicated since it offers specific skills hence the learner is not only fed on theory but also practical training.

Competence issues

For instance, Fasihi ya Kiswahili, which deals with novels, plays and poetry, was dropped and government instead maintained Lugha ya Kiswahili, which deals with grammar.

However, this comes at a time when Uganda is emphasising Kiswahili as the second official language.

Julius Kitone, a journalist working with NBS, a local Television station, who also studied Kiswahili during his secondary education at Blessed Sacrament Secondary School in Masaka, says Fasihi ya Kiswahili enables a student to develop vocabulary which ultimately polishes their communication skills.

"Lugha ya Kiswahili alone, which is basically grammar, is not enough to build one's competence in Kiswahili. It must be backed by literature which involves extensive reading. The irony here is that it has been scrapped off in the infant stages of the East African Community," he says.

NCDC intends to pilot the new curriculum next year and roll it out countrywide in 2020.

In the new curriculum, 23 subjects have been dropped or merged and only 20 approved.

Only seven subjects will be compulsory while a Senior Four candidate will be expected to take a maximum of 10 examinable subjects out of 13 taught in Senior One and Senior Two.

Mathias Kasamba, a Member of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA), expresses dismay over the development arguing that Kiswahili is EAC's official language.

"The EAC anthem is in Kiswahili; meaning that this language unites us as a region. Dropping one of the Kiswahili subjects means that we are shooting ourselves in the foot," he says.

Kasamba also says some of the dropped technical subjects helped many people acquire skills.

Many students who studied electronics, he says, joined vocational institutions to study courses such as electrical installation among others, adding that through such shortcuts, they could be able to advance to university to acquire more skills.

In an interview with Daily Monitor last week, Alex Kakooza, the Education ministry permanent secretary, said the dropped subjects have been merged with others hence teachers will still be accommodated.

"When teachers are being trained in institutions, they major in two subjects and this means that teachers can still be accommodated if one of the subjects is affected," he said.

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