Uganda: Why Performance in 2019 Ple Declined

20 January 2020

The National Curriculum Development Centre (NCDC) has said the change of Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE) assessment model affected the performance of many pupils last year whose teachers have not yet adjusted to train their learners to answer questions using knowledge from daily life.

Mr Santus Cale, the NCDC Integrated Science specialist, told Daily Monitor at the weekend their new guidelines to Uganda National Examinations Board (Uneb) in assessing PLE, require that candidates are able to interpret the questions and apply their daily experiences to answer them. The new changes were introduced in 2018.

Unfortunately, Mr Cale added that most teachers are not helping their pupils learn the new model of assessment, which is affecting their performance as exhibited in last year's PLE results where candidates posted a decline.

For example, Mr Cale said 39 per cent of the 2018 PLE papers were composed of recall questions which dropped to 31 per cent in 2019 examinations.

The questions that required candidates to look at application in 2018 contributed to 14 per cent compared to 21 per cent developed in last year's papers.

"We have changed assessment dynamics. Our focus is on critical thinking and problem solving in real life. We are trying to gradually move away from assessment on recall of knowledge to assessing learners on understanding and application of the knowledge," Mr Cale said.

"The shift in assessment was given to Uneb and we are trying to see how we can implement it. Teachers must move away from what they were used to do. When we teach sanitation, emphasis is not on the definition but how to keep the environment clean and the realisation that this toilet is dirty and a child is able to clean it. When we teach about growing vegetables, learners should use the skills developed in producing their vegetables. You are not going to teach vegetable growing on the chalkboard," he added.

Mr James Juuko, the head teacher of Kisugu Primary School, Kampala, admitted the impact of shift in question approach.

However, he said few schools can afford to train their teachers because of the financial requirements.

While government said it had revised the primary curriculum in 2004, Mr Juuko said nothing changed significantly except for realigning the content under themes.

On whether the teachers were prepared for the change in teaching methods, Mr Juuko, who also chairs Kampala Association of Headteachers, saying teachers have no room for self development.

"The timetable engages teachers everyday. If you want to train, it means you suspend teaching which is also a crime. If you ask them to train at the weekend, it means budgeting for their transport and feeding and many schools may not have that money," he said.

Mr Juuko said the situation would be different if candidates who passed were being attracted to the teaching profession.

However, Mr Cale said many schools waste time by opening the new term late and breaking off for holidays early before the official date. In other cases, schools spend most of their time testing the learners rather than teaching them, and consequently fail to complete the syllabus.

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