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Uganda’s labour market problems beyond curriculum review

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Added 18th April 2018 08:08 AM

Dr. Baguma also expressed optimism about the forthcoming International Conference on Curriculum, where NCDC will “benchmark on the best curriculum development practices, with a focus on innovative ways to skill students.”

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Enock Kibuuka is a teacher at Gayaza High School

Dr. Baguma also expressed optimism about the forthcoming International Conference on Curriculum, where NCDC will “benchmark on the best curriculum development practices, with a focus on innovative ways to skill students.”

By Enock Kibuuka

On Monday, April 16, New Vision ran a headline: “Curriculum Centre to Focus on Skills” on page 12. In that article, it was reported that Dr. Grace Baguma, the Executive Director of the National Curriculum Development Centre (NCDC) revealed that NCDC is doing whatever is possible to revise the secondary school teaching curriculum from “objective-based, to competence-based curriculum.”

Dr. Baguma also expressed optimism about the forthcoming International Conference on Curriculum, where NCDC will “benchmark on the best curriculum development practices, with a focus on innovative ways to skill students.”

The article also revealed: “NCDC has been able to merge and reduce the O’Level subjects from 43 to only 20, dropping those it considers outdated and not applicable in the 21st century.” We seem to be unjustifiably excited about the sugar-coated euphemisms such as education for “sustainable development.”

Whereas I support all the efforts to review the curriculum and make it more skills-based, I hesitate to say that the current worrisome youth unemployment is entirely due to the current curriculum.

For that matter, we need to delve into the problems facing Uganda’s education system. Otherwise, NCDC risks buying-a-pig-in-a-poke even with the new curriculum. I am not being cynical or pessimistic about the proposed new curriculum; indeed, I want the best for my country. But we need to look at the issue broadly.

First, the quality of teacher-training by teacher training institutions including Universities is very poor. Majority of the teachers are half-baked and often ill-prepared. I always interact with many teachers in workshops, conferences, and seminars who have never even seen a copy of the NCDC teaching syllabus for Economics and this applies to many other teachers of different subjects. Two, the teacher commitment and morale for teaching is worrisomely poor.

As a result, most teachers don’t find teaching a prestigious and pride-yielding profession. Therefore, lack of enthusiasm among teachers limits innovative teaching and this negatively affects learners and the quality of teaching as well. There is also the issue of funds to implement the new curriculum, especially the village schools that lack funds or even access to good teachers.

Any curriculum change comes with new and higher expectations. The cost of training personnel and buying the relevant equipment by schools should be carefully scrutinised. Thus, ‘the one to whom much is given, much is expected.’

Three, there is need to change the mind-sets of our people, for instance, parents to actively get involved in the teaching and learning process of their children. Proper career guidance is desperately needed for the students but parents must get involved.

Otherwise, most of the Ugandan parents and students are seething with a misnomer that Universities are a magic wand to societal problems such as unemployment. So, there is need to popularise vocational and technical education.

I applaud the Minister of Education, Hon. Mrs. Janet Museveni, together with President Museveni for promoting vocational education. Government has invested a lot of funds in construction vocational institutions and has equipped them fully.

However, most of these vocational institutions are literally empty with no students or with very few students. This is because most of the Ugandans have not yet appreciated vocational education, which in itself is skills-based.

Lastly, it is worth noting that the current graduate unemployment is to a considerable extent a result of a narrow economy, which cannot absorb the so many students graduating from institutions of higher learning.

In the final analysis, Ministry of Education and its line ministries and Departments must pay passionate interest to the current trends in education. Aspects of globalisation, internationalisation, liberalisation, and cross-fertilisation of education should guide NCDC in its endeavours to revise the curriculum.

The writer is a teacher at Gayaza High School

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