A new report has cast a spotlight on the quality of education in Uganda's primary schools. The finding of the survey, released on Tuesday, highlights a further decline in the quality of learning with the number of primary school going children who can read and count dropping from 39 per cent to 33 per cent in three years.
The report titled, 'Are our children learning,' also indicates that in numeracy, only 45 per cent of the surveyed children of Primary Three to Primary Seven were able to do an arithmetic of Primary Two level. The rate dropped from 52 per cent in 2015.
The survey was carried out last year by Uwezo, an organisation that conducts assessments that measure actual levels of children's literacy and numeracy.
These findings are appalling but not surprising because they are not new. Uwezo has been conducting similar assessments in the country for the last eight years and the latest findings do not significantly differ from their past reports.
For instance, Uwezo's 2012 Annual Learning Assessment report showed that only one out of every 10 children assessed in Primary Three was able to read a Primary Two level story and correctly solve Primary Two level numeracy questions up to division level.
Overall, only three out of 10 children assessed in Primary One up to Primary Seven were able to read a Primary Two level story.
That the findings of the latest report shows the learning outcomes have generally remained low, is a cause for concern. It is worth noting that the reports indicate that pupils in private schools continue to perform better than their counterparts in government schools.
The Uganda National Examination Board's 2013 National Assessment of Progress in Education report gives similar insights into the learning gap. According the report, most teachers cannot interpret the curriculum and follow sequence of topics, but rely on chapters in text books, leading to massive failures in UCE and UACE exams. The report says cram work has undercut students' ability to read. While this assessment focused on secondary level, it portrays a deeper problem across the different levels of education that requires a practical, systematic solution.
An Education ministry official indicated during the launch of the Uwezo report that the government concentrated on high enrolment at primary level, which caused overcrowding and affected the quality of learning.
It is time government reviewed the universal education policy to address the perennial problem of poor quality of learning. Several reports have identified the problems. It is time to solve them.