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PLE shames UPE critics

By Vision Reporter

Added 24th January 2004 03:00 AM

THE good performance in the 2003 Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE) has put to rest criticisms that Universal Primary Education (UPE) programme had compromised standards

THE good performance in the 2003 Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE) has put to rest criticisms that Universal Primary Education (UPE) programme had compromised standards

By John Eremu & Fortune Ahimbisibwe

THE good performance in the 2003 Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE) has put to rest criticisms that Universal Primary Education (UPE) programme had compromised standards.

The trend in performance over the past five years shows little variance from that of 2003 when the first UPE cohort sat PLE, according to an analysis by the Education Vision.

The results released on Thursday showed overall improvement in performance with 11% or 41,090 of the registered 406,563 candidates passing in Division One, the highest percentage pass level ever recorded in the last five years.

The opposition Reform Agenda recently said the examinations had been ‘politicised’ to give UPE a face value. They said the papers, particularly mathematics, was too simple to enable massive passes to hoodwink the public that UPE programme had not affected quality.

However, Matthew Bukenya, the secretary Uganda National Examinations Board (UNEB) dismissed the criticism as misleading. He said the board used the same format in setting the examinations usually beginning with simple to difficult questions.

“In psychometrics, questions to candidates are sequenced in such a way that they begin with simple ones to progressively more demanding ones,” Bukenya said.

“This has been the pattern of UNEB questions even before UPE was launched. It is therefore, misleading for anyone to say that this was a simple paper aimed at promoting UPE,” he added.

Bukenya said UNEB was an autonomous assessment institution whose activities are not influenced by any external forces. He was a member of both the Association for Educational Assessment in Africa (AEAA) and the International Association for Education Assessment (IAEA) and its assessment commands respect not only within the African region, but also internationally.

Sam Onek, the commissioner for primary education also dismissed the criticism and outlined the various reasons for the improving performance over the years.

“First of all, the clamp down on examination leakage and cheating has made pupils to put in more effort. Supervision in schools has also improved so the teachers have been putting more effort,” Onek said.

UNEB last year deployed over 5,000 scouts to monitor the PLE. The board has also dealt ruthlessly with examination cheating. In 2001, results of 12,065 cheats were cancelled. In 2002, another 63 candidates had their results cancelled compared to 76 this year.

Onek also said contrary to the belief that there would be a huge bulge when the UPE cohort sits, there was no big increment in the number of candidates. The number of candidates went up by just about 5,000, from 401,000 in 2002 to 406,563 in 2003. “So the teachers handled more or less the same number of candidates,” Onek said.

The commissioner said another factor for the good performance is the barring of weak candidates from sitting by some unscrupulous head teachers. “A lot of schools make candidates repeat and register only those they know would make it in the final examinations,” he said.

In a nutshell, the 2003 performance is comparable to the past five years. A total of 79.7% or 301,547 candidates passed, an improvement from 74.5% in 2002.

The passes at Division One level over the past five years shows a similar trend as summarised thus: In 2003, 11% of the candidates passed in Division One, 8.9% passed in the same grade in 2002, 8.3% in 2001, 7.8% in 2000, 11.4% in 1999, 9.6% in 1998, 10.8% in 1997 and 8.6% in 1996.

The passes at Division One level over the past five years shows a similar trend as summarised thus: In 2003, 11% of the candidates passed in Division One, 8.9% passed in the same grade in 2002, 8.3% in 2001, 7.8% in 2000, 11.4% in 1999, 9.6% in 1998, 10.8% in 1997 and 8.6% in 1996.

Mathematics, the best performed subject last year slipped to the second position this year with a cumulative pass level of 80.2%, but still better than last year’s 80.1%.

Social Studies (SST) was the best-performed subject with a cumulative pass level of 83.9% compared to 74.1% the previous year.

It was by basic science with a pass level of 79.5% up from 76.4% and English 77.3% compared to 70%. The overall failure rate also dropped to 20.3% or 72,118 candidates in 2003 compared to 25.5% or 93,250 candidates the previous year.

The impressive performance was however, more of a Kampala - Wakiso - Mukono- Masaka and Luwero triangle affair. While the top five candidates from schools in these areas had aggregate four, some rural districts even had candidates with up to aggregate 11 listed as the best. The exceptions were Lira, Rakai, Iganga, Bushenyi and Mbarara.

Greenhill Academy has for the fourth year running produced the best candidate in Kampala district. It was followed by Kampala Parents, City Parents and the hitherto unknown Kasubi Church of Uganda.

Kampala also maintained its top position among the districts with 39.7% or 8,615 of the 22,315 candidates passing in Division One. It was followed by Wakiso 33.8%, Mukono 16.8%, Jinja and Luwero 16.4%, Masaka 15.5%, Busia 14.7%, Rukungiri 13.8%, Kabarole 11.8% and Masindi 11.5%.

Bundibugyo dislodged Kibaale as the worst performing district with only 0.6% or 12 of the 2,298 candidates passing in Division One. It hot pursuit from the bottom was Kaberamaido with 0.9%, Sironko 1.3%, Adjumani 1.5%, Kapchorwa 1.6%, Kamwenge 1.7%, Apac 1.8%, Kyenjojo 1.9%, Bugiri 2%, Kiboga 2.1% and Yumbe 2.2%.

In recognition of northern insurgency toll on education, state minister for primary education, Geraldine Bitamazire announced affirmative action in this area.

“I would like to assure the general public that during selection, efforts will be made to see to it that those candidates join good government secondary schools,” she said.

PLE shames UPE critics

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