Uganda: Uneb Faults Government Schools On Reading Skills

Pupils in government schools have more difficulties in reading and counting compared to their counterparts in private institutions, a Uganda National Examinations Board (Uneb) report shows.

Uneb highlights that only 44.2 per cent of Primary Three learners from government schools were reported proficient in literacy in English while those from private ones accounted for 83.3per cent. The situation is not any different in upper primary.

Mr Kennedy Jumanyol, Uneb research officer attributed the good performance in private schools to accountability and monitoring, which he said are lacking in most government schools.

"The issue is not pay. Government schools pay their teachers better than those in private schools. But parents in private schools are more involved in their children's education than in government schools. They drop and pick their children which increases their level of interaction with the teachers," Mr Jumanyol said.

Mr Sserunkuma Bbosa, a Uneb research officer, said writing an informal letter with the correct format, use of appropriate debating language and developing content for a topic were some of the areas both teachers and their learners found problematic.

Mr Jumanyol said pupils' proficiency declined as they moved from lower to upper primary because the content and level of disruption increased, especially for the girl child.

Although they insisted the results are not comparable with past National Assessment of Progress in Education (NAPE) findings because they had used a different methodology, they reported an improved performance from the previous reports.

A total of 1,558 pupils from Primary Three and Six, tutors, in-service and pre-service teachers were assessed last year.

Another report by Sauti za Wananchi last year showed that eight out of 10 parents interviewed paid for extra lessons and almost half of paid more money to support teachers.

Mr Jumanyol said such extra contribution boosts the performance of learners and their schools.

Ms Gerald Bukenya, a curriculum adviser at Future Upgrades Foundation, said head teachers force teachers to complete syllabus and pay little attention to whether their learners have understood the concepts.

"There is no learning taking place. They are only testing without teaching," Ms Bukenya said.

Reacting to the findings, Mr Philip Duluga Buni, the Uganda National Teachers' Union deputy general secretary, asked: "What happened to the assessment of these learners at different levels? We are looking at these teachers who have failed to teach and yet they passed through the system. Who passed them to another level?"

Ms Beatrice Byakutaga, the chairperson PTCs principal association, acknowledged the weaknesses but wondered where and who examines the students admitted to their colleges.

"We can never sit back and say everything is okay. Reading is a challenge. As teacher trainers, we will continue doing our best. We will continue to emphasise these areas that have been identified," Ms Byakutaga said.

Mr Dan Odongo, Uneb executive secretary, said their NAPE programme is intended to evaluate the achievements in education system and their findings can be used by government to put interventions that will help improve the teaching and learning.

Asked why Uneb report indicates deficiencies in teacher education, Mr Odongo said while they assess children nationally, they are not responsible for students admitted to PTCs.

Mr Ismail Mulindwa, Ministry of Education basic education director, said the interventions they introduced such as early grade reading are beginning to yield good results as Uneb's report indicated.

However, on the gaps, he said: "We can fix these gaps without calling for a policy change."

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