Globally, the education sector has faced unprecedented disruption in learning due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Despite that, we must thank the Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES) for pushing ahead with the new lower secondary curriculum that debuted in 2020 with Senior One class. They resumed school in April 11, and effective teaching and learning is going on in many schools, despite a few challenges.
According to NCDC, the new competence-based curriculum will allow students to study only 12 subjects in S.1 and S.2, with 11 of these being compulsory and one elective. The compulsory subjects are English Language, Mathematics, History, Geography, Physics, Biology, Chemistry, Physical Education, Religious Education and Kiswahili. When a subject is made compulsory, both schools, students and parents place emphasis on it.
On the other hand, subjects that are elective (optional) usually do not receive the same level of seriousness as compulsory ones. In the new lower curriculum, these subjects are categorised as vocational or practical electives, and include Agriculture, ICT, Literature in English, Art and Design, and Performing Arts. Others are Technology and Design, Nutrition and Food Technology, and Foreign Languages (French, Latin, Arabic, Chinese). The NCDC has categorised them as vocational subjects.
It is important that schools make many of these elective subjects available so that students have many options to choose from. Yet this is not what happens in schools, because some subjects are more expensive and technical to teach than others.
In the end, most schools choose only elective subjects whose teachers are readily available, and do not require expensive resources. Consequently, this denies many students the full menu of subjects, which limits their choices. That is why Foods & Nutrition & Technical Drawing currently have low student enrolment.
Schools are presently implementing two curriculums in O-Level, which presents challenges in timetabling. The new curriculum requires S.1 to study from 8:00am up to 2:30pm, while S.2, S.3 still go up to 4 or 5pm. This means, the S.1 students do not have to return to class after lunch. Therefore, teachers have to devise ways to keep these teenagers occupied, because an idle mind, is a devil’s workshop. The school library, ICT lab or group discussions come to the rescue here.
Furthermore, the curriculum aims to subject students pursuing vocational subjects in S.3 and S.4 to skills based DIT examinations. This allows the students to acquire a Competence Certification of Level 1 on the Uganda Vocational Qualifications Framework (UVQF) for the world of work. The main thing is ensuring that students actually have the skills, and not do the certification only in order to get the paper. Additionally, what will be the format of termly report cards? Should it also include continuous assessment?
Overall, the curriculum has been well received, and implementation is going on well, despite a few challenges, some occasioned by the pandemic. With or without the pandemic, it was absolutely necessary to change the lower secondary curriculum. There are many good things with the new curriculum, and I want to highlight just a few.
Due to flexible timetable, both students and teachers have more time. This, for students means more time for research, discussions, and for teachers, lesson preparation. As a result of these, classrooms are now learner-centred, more engaging, and interactive. Additionally, continuous assessment, will make final exams not to be a do or die affair. Then, there is the richness of the learning content.
Many teachers appreciate both the new content, and scope, which allows them to incorporate many contemporary issues into the lessons. In a special way, the new curriculum embraces Development Education, an active and creative educational process to increase awareness and understanding of the world in which we live, including understanding the SDGs.
Thus, the new curriculum presents an opportunity for us to redefine our educational approach from largely theoretical approach to skills-based learning, which aligns with global education trends.
Emmanuel Angoda, [email protected]