13 years ago .
Does a Ugandan education meet job market needs?
THE challenges of the job market are tight and require adequate prepareation through school. And every year, thousands of graduates hit the tarmac every year in search of jobs, with thousands more doing interviews that rarely lead to that dream job? When jobs usually fall short of impressing the emp
“MY first concern when I am interviewing a prospective employee is to look at the personality, the mental strength. I look at the confidence in a person; not the papers,” says the GTV general manager Daniel Kagwe.

Kagwe is not the only employer who looks for an all-round person. Many employers say they have to spend a lot on retraining employees.

Could this be the reason why thousands of graduates hit the tarmac every year in search of jobs, with thousands more doing interviews that rarely lead to that dream job? When jobs usually fall short of impressing the employers who look deeper into the personality of a prospective employee.

Employers always look for something that our education system seems to have failed to instill in students. Very few students have come out of our higher institutions of learning with both the theoretical and practical skills that are required to handle jobs.

Morris Egesa was happy to graduate three years ago. With a good upper second degree, Egesa thought the sky was the limit for him, but three years down the line, he is still job-hunting. He has lost count of the interviews he has done.

“Most employers doubt my capabilities; they insist that I should do an internship for them to gauge me,” he says.

With most employers complaining about students graduating from major universities half-baked, officials are pointing an accusing finger at the education system. They say a new system might work, and some are looking at China and India as model systems.
The change of education system has a strong advocate in Fagil Mandy, an education consultant.

Another voice of change is Makerere’s dean of students, John Ekudu, who calls for an assessment of the education system. Ekudu has his basis on the just-concluded Celtel Challenge. He has twice been short-changed by the students he had high hopes in.
He says he was dismayed as Makerere was relegated by the little-known Herbert Kairuki Memorial University of Tanzania. Then Mbarara was floored by Sokoine University and Uganda Christian University by new-comer Malawi University.

Ekudu believes that if Uganda’s education system was competitive, then Ugandan universities would compete favourably. He says: “Our students have a narrow outlook. That is why they fail to answer the questions.”

Mandy, too, believes that our education system is lopsided; with a narrow knowledge base. He says it is hard to get a person who is good in all sectors from our system.

“Students lack certain skills; hence having little memory, leading to very little retention of facts in the head,” Mandy says.

Connie Kateeba, the director of the National Curriculum Development Centre (NCDC), says they have received complaints from the public that point to the fact that products from our schools have very low writing and comprehension levels. “Students have very low numeracy and literacy skills,” she says.

The education ministry spokesperson, Aggrey Kibenge, says due to the inherent weaknesses in the system, the ministry, through NCDC, has come up with a new curriculum.

“We have done our own tests with UNEB (Uganda National Examinations Board) and found out that literacy and numeracy was still a problem in primary schools,” says Kibenge.

He says most pupils leave primary level with a very weak foundation, adding that if one leaves primary without numeracy and literacy skills, it is indeed hard for such a student to cope with education system at higher levels.

Mandy in supporting the complete overhaul of the education system, said: “Our students have a very slow speed of thought, analysis of issues, observation of facts and manipulation of figures.”

He decried the culture of students just listening to teachers and copying notes. “Even thinking itself is a problem,” he said, adding that the brain must be developed deliberately through exercises.

“Physical education is a very critical form of brain training but how many schools have a programme on it?” he asks.
But probably the worst catastrophe is that the teachers are unknowledgeable, with some of them teaching concepts they do not understand.

“I was talking to 500 teachers in Hoima when I asked them how many had read Constitution and only three had. If a teacher who is supposed to teach students has never read the C onstitution what knowledge can he pass across?” Mandy wondered.
Kibenge blames the colonial education system inherited at independent that the country has used for decades as the main cause of inconsistencies in the education system.

However, critics argue that the colonial education system seemed to have provided even better products than today’s.
“It is the same system that produced the top managers in this country today,” he said.

The Chinese system of education
China has a nationwide system of public education, which includes primary schools, middle schools (lower and upper), and universities. Nine years of education is compulsory for all students. Education is the responsibility of the Ministry of Education.The education system provides free primary education for six years(some provinces may have 5 years for primary school but 4 years for middle school), starting at age seven or six, followed by six years of secondary education for ages 12 to 18. At this level, there are three years of middle school and three years of high school.

The Ministry of Education reported a 99 percent attendance rate for primary school and an 80 percent rate for both primary and middle schools. Since free higher education was abolished in 1985, applicants to colleges and universities competed for scholarships based on academic ability Private schools have been allowed since the early 1980s. The population has had on average only 6.2 years of schooling, but in 1986 the goal of nine years of compulsory education by 2000 was established. The total literacy rate in China was 90.8% (male 95.1%; female 86.5%), based on 2002 estimates.

In 2003 China supported 1,552 instituions of higher learning(colleges and universities) and their 725,000 professors and 11 million students.
The total literacy rate in China was 90.8%(male 95.1%;female 86.5%)based on 2002 estimates.