21 February 2018

Uganda: 99 Percent Pass UACE, Qualify to Join University

Photo: Alex Esagala/Daily Monitor
Uganda National Examinations Board chairperson Professor Mary Okwakol hands the 2017 Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education Examination results to State Minister for Higher Education Dr John Chrysostom Muyingo, right, in Kampala on February 21, 2018.

Of the 101, 269 candidates who sat for the Uganda Certificate of Education (UACE) last year, 98.5 per cent passed and qualify to join the university or other tertiary institutions. However performance declined according to the results released today by Uganda national examinations board (Uneb) at the Office of the President.

34,819 candidates got three principal passes, 26,122 got two principal passes, and 22,360 got one principal pass, 15,545 got one subsidiary pass, while 1,141 candidates failed.

In order to join university, one requires a minimum of two principal passes. This means that at least 60,941 candidates qualify to join university. Unlike in the previous exams that Uneb has released, the 2017 results show that there are very few cases of examination malpractices.

Results of only 79 candidates from 24 centres were withheld. The most common forms of malpractice at UACE were external assistance, substitution and smuggling of unauthorised materials into exam rooms. Principal and Sub-Maths, Biology and Economics were mainly affected.

"We have deliberately decided not to publish a list of schools whose results were withheld (79). The numbers are few and releasing them to the press is not worthwhile," Uneb executive secretary Dan Odongo.

Odongo said that the failure rate among female candidates was lower at 0.7 per cent compared to that of male candidates at 1.5 per cent. A total of 41,932 female candidates registered for UACE in 2017 compared to 42,054 in 2016.

"There is a possibility that female students could have opted for vocational pathways that are available to them in preference to the UACE level," Mary Okwakol, the chairperson of Uneb said.

For her part, First Lady also minister of Education and Sports, Janet Museveni whose statement was read by John Chrysostom Muyingo, the state minister for Higher Education, although bothered by the disparity between boys and girls, nevertheless welcomed their performance, saying it indicated that girls have equal potential of succeeding like boys.

"It is a reversal of what we observed at UCE it shows that girls who go for UACE are very determined," Ms Museveni said.

On the big gap between the girls and boys enrolment Janet said she hopes that these girls went to post-UCE institutions and not just opted out of school system.


The results show that the biggest percentage of girls registered for humanity subjects as opposed to mathematics, and other sciences. Only 20 per cent of all the students who sat opted for science subjects. Okwakol said despite this disparity, science subjects are vital to in spurring the country's development.

Performance in sciences remained low with an average of 50 per cent of candidates unable to obtain a principal pass.

"This also affects the supply of the much needed science teachers into the school system and probably explains the shortage of these teachers in many schools," Okwakol said.

Literature in English, Christian Religious Education (CRE) , Physics and Biology registered better performance than in 2016 , with a noticeable drop in performance in History, Geography and Mathematics.

"We cannot force children to do subjects they are not gifted at, but parents and teachers should encourage them to go for some [science] subjects...Teachers should go back to the basics of teaching sciences. The method of teaching theory and practicals later is inefficient. Both should be taught hand in hand," said Janet.

Overall, the number of students who sat for UACE last year decreased by 2.9 per cent compared to the 2016. 101, 269 candidates from 1,918 centres sat for UACE exams last year compared to 104,243 candidates from 2,076 centres in 2006 representing a decrease of 2,974 candidates.

In her statement Janet said that this decrease could be attributed to an increase to enrolment of students in post UCE institutions thus should not be regarded as student dropout.

On average at least 300,000 students sit for UCE every year but only a quarter proceed to A-level. The trend is not different at other levels. According to available statistics, at least one million children enrol in primary one every year.

But only about 600,000 pupils sit for PLE at the end of the seven years. This number reduces by half for those who sit for UCE exams.

Okwakol addressed herself to the criticism that followed the release of UCE exams where results of over 4,000 students suspected to have been involved in examination malpractices were withheld.

"Whereas we understand and appreciate the concerns of stakeholders, it must be noted that Uneb has the responsibility, provided by law to safeguard the quality of education in our country. One of the greatest assets a country has is its human resource. This human resource must be properly equipped with necessary knowledge and skill s obtained through education system. Allowing malpractices in examinations will eventually lead to low quality of the products of the education system to the disadvantage of the nation," Okwakol said.

Uneb has been dragged to court by concerned citizens over withholding results.

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