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We need assessments in touch with reality - First Lady

By John Agaba

Added 8th August 2017 11:50 AM

Uganda is grappling with issues of quality education and assessment

When learners from the Mount of Olives Secondary School in Wakiso moved to the dais inside the Rwenzori Ballroom at Speke Resort Munyonyo Monday, they recited all that is wrong with the current education assessments in Africa and proposed measures the flaws could be righted. 

From assessments that only look at a learner’s capabilities to retell what their teachers taught them, not necessarily inducing cognitive and critical thinking aspects and other very vital intrapersonal and life skills, the learners pointed out the weaknesses. 

They showed how examination periods in Africa equalled times of torture, stress, and all sorts of discomfort with learners, more so those in their final years, having to spend sleepless nights in cold classrooms reading for the assessments, only to find out later that the rewards (good marks) weren’t commensurable with the efforts. In fact, that they (good marks) were nowhere applicable in the world of work. 

They proposed ‘learner biased’ assessments, which are cognisant of the continent’s changing realities: its job market and populations, and learners’ applicability and social skills and those competencies that can make them adapt. 

To the listening chief executives from different examination boards and councils and those of curriculum development centres from all over Africa and assessment experts and practitioners and researchers and the academia inside the ballroom, this was food for thought. The learners had just taught the assessors that they deserve more from them. 

And that is what Ugandan First Lady Janet Museveni, who is also the Minister for Education and Sports, highlighted.

She said Uganda was grappling with issues of quality education and assessment. 

“Since the beginning of the current millennium, the focus had been on ensuring ‘Education for All’, with emphasis on access, relevance, equity and quality,” she said. 

She said the country had made significant progress in providing universal education at both primary and post primary levels. Universal Primary Education (UPE), which was launched in 1997, saw enrolment in primary schools rise from 2.5 million that year to 9 million in 2016. Similarly, implementation of UPPET and USE in 2007, increased enrolment in secondary schools from 728, 393 that year to 1,391,250 in 2014 and enrolment in Business Technical Vocational Education and Training (BTVET) institutions from 25, 514 in 2006 to 58,798 in 2013. 

But still question marks remained — partly because education assessments are not ‘spot on’. 

“As we all know, educational assessment is an integral part of the teaching and learning process,” said Janet Museveni. 

“An efficient and effective assessment practice that is responsive to the rapid changes in the teaching and learning environment especially in the field of ICT can make a big contribution to meeting the learning challenges we face as a continent,” she said. 

“Assessment should not just be about tests, examinations, collecting data and more data on learners’ achievement but must contribute to continuous improvements of the teaching and learning process.” 

The minister tasked educationists attending the conference to address a few more questions including: How assessments can contribute to relevant and quality education. How the experts can enhance efficiency and effectiveness in educational assessment. And to determine how the present assessment systems contributed to the low quality of education the continent had. 

“It is an undeniable fact that assessment influences classroom practice because teachers tend to fashion their teaching to meet the requirements of examinations that you, examination bodies, set,” said the Ugandan minister for education. 

The 35th Annual Conference of the Association for Educational Assessment in Africa (AEAA) was attended by more than 370 chief executives of examination boards and councils and those of curriculum development centres from Africa and assessment experts and practitioners and researchers and the academia from Universities across the continent and beyond. 

It was centred on Enhancing Efficiency and Effectiveness in Educational Assessment in an era of Rapid Change

Janet Museveni asked the experts to examine how assessments and examinations can “discourage rote learning and encourage critical thinking, logical reasoning, problem solving and other generic skills” which are important to learners and Africa’s future generation. 

“We believe that every child matters and every child can achieve when taught in a conducive environment and assessed the right way,” she said. 

MC Mich Egwang chronicled vivid circumstances, where it was that student who didn’t perform that well at school that interesting aced at the job. The ones who scored A’s fluffed their job descriptions. 

AEAA president and CEO of the Zimbabwe schools examination council Esau Nhandara said: “the world we live in today is characterised by rapid changes and we have to also do the same. Change. We have to embrace the changes and adapt.” 

“We have to carry out research and promote development of educational assessment to ensure quality education in Africa,” he said. 

Prof. Celestino Obua, vice chancellor at the Mbarara University of Science and Technology, who delivered the conference’s keynote address, said the assessors also had to be mindful of ICT when implementing examination assessments. 

“It is possible learners can use some of these latest technologies to cheat exams. So, are we ready?”

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