All students enrolling in Uganda to train as teachers effective 2021/2022 academic year will study for four years, instead of three, the Ministry of Education has said.
The changes coincide with the elimination of Grade III and Grade V --- certificate and diploma teaching courses, respectively --- in line with a 2019 Teacher Policy that Cabinet approved to standardise the teaching profession.
Under the lapsing arrangement, National Teachers Colleges (NTCs) would admit mainly eligible Senior Six leavers and award them diplomas after a two-year training in teaching while Primary Teacher Colleges or PTCs recruited students O-Level leavers who graduated with a certificate, also after two years.
Each of the years would include a three-month teaching practice, without which a student would not qualify as a professional teacher, and after which the graduate formally registered with Education ministry that issued the teacher a practising certificate.
However, government is converting many of the phased-out NTCs and TTCs to secondary schools and vocational training institutions, in sub-counties or districts without them, while the retained teacher colleges will train students and only award degrees of a proposed Uganda National Institute of Teacher Education (UNITE).
Described by Education officials as an equivalent of Uganda Management Institute (UMI), UNITE will be headquartered at Shimoni Primary Teachers' College in Wakiso in an arrangement that mirrors a resurrection of the Institute of Teacher Education Kyambogo (ITEK), which government merged with related specialised educational institutions to form Kyambogo University.
The Education ministry spokesman, Dr Denis Mugimba, said the fourth year of study for a teaching scholar will be for internship to be supervised by a proposed Uganda National Teachers' Council (UNTC), which will in turn award practising licences to future teachers.
"We want our teachers to have more hands-on [knowledge] than being too theoretical. Some teachers might graduate after their three years of study, but when they are incompetent," he said.
Currently, under-graduate education courses last three years, inclusive of teaching practice, and increasing the study period will up the costs to pursue a qualification without guarantee of a job or higher salary.
Officials admitted that the transformation, for which Cabinet passed a policy two years ago, is currently not supported by a law since Parliament, for instance, is yet to enact a legislation to create the proposed Uganda National Teachers' Council.
The Bill is pending Cabinet consideration before it is tabled in Parliament, where a long, winding debate is likely, despite technocrats aiming to fast-track the establishment of UNITE as a degree-awarding institution under the Universities and Other Tertiary Institutions Act by next June.
"UNITE is going to run the undergraduate programmes in the teacher colleges; so, it's until then that the [2020 A-level leavers] will be admitted," Dr Mugimba said.
News about the proposal to extend teachers' training to four years and strictly at degree level played out as music to the ears of the teaching fraternity.
Mr Filbert Baguma, the secretary general of the Uganda National Teachers' Union (Unatu), said "it is worth it because the teaching profession has been lacking in terms of professionalism. If it has to match with other professionals like lawyers and doctors, four years are nothing."
He added: "We were tired of people looking at us as certificate holders. When we kick off this new arrangement, people will stop undermining us."
There is nothing to suggest that what is taught during a teacher's training, say at established universities such as Makerere, will radically change to dramatically improve the quality of graduates other than an extended internship period.
The Principal of Busuubizi Primary Teacher's College in Mityana District, Ms Beatrice Kayegi, yesterday said a number of her staff, who were first degree holders, have enrolled or completed Master's degrees in readiness for the changes.