NCDC needs to rethink the curriculum in a global context with extended stakeholdering, for a formidable curriculum compliant 2030 and beyond
By Rwanga Hezron Kirabo
In reference to the Presentation of the Director NCDC (National Curriculum Development Center) on the Lower Secondary Curriculum at the Headteachers' Annual General Meeting in Arua on 5th September 2019, there is much posited to reflect on, and with open dialogue such as in the press perhaps we can float ideas for the stakeholders to digest.
Curriculum models often being iterative can then allow for refinement of the plausible solutions. I appreciate the foresightedness of NCDC on integrating the Uganda Vision 2040 goals, The NRM Manifesto 2016-2021 and the strategic plan for the Ministry of Education and Sports 2017/20. A bit of reference was also made to SDG4 (Quality Education for All). There are indeed good attributes in the proposed curriculum and as well some areas of improvement necessary for our learners to pace for excellence in a global perspective.
It is a great idea that learners are to be nurtured into an attitude of lifelong learning, with emphases not only on the content but also on those elements which will be useful to learners, such as the 21st-century skills like communication, use of technology, collaboration or teamwork, creativity and innovativeness. Integrative reduction of the numbers of subjects to 20, where schools may offer 15 is as well a thoughtful control.
The move from the current norm-referenced to criterion-referenced assessment and adoption of Directorate of Industrial Training (DIT) certification within the mainstream secondary education is indeed a brilliant idea to leverage on in popularizing the ‘Skilling Uganda' program. Finally, I love the School Day adjustment, where contact time will run from 8.00 am to 2.30 pm and the 2 hours of the day, from 2.30 pm to 4.30 pm, will be allocated to teacher-guided research, discussions and project work in addition to personal reading. I partook of this in my S.2 (1998) and school was indeed fun!
The subjects listed as compulsory for S.1 and S.2: English, Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Geography, Religious Education, Kiswahili, Physical Education, Entrepreneurship plus History and Political Education, is an area I would propose for further debate. Likewise, the subjects listed as compulsory for S.3 and S.4: English, Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Geography plus History and Political education need rethinking.
In 2006, is when Physics and Chemistry were made compulsory up to S.4, and to date, the subjects in UNEB ranking syncopate as poorly performed. This may be attributed to several factors, but we may not take lightly the fact that a bigger percentage of the students register for these two subjects simply because they must. In my opinion, we still have the same fraction of motivated students to take on the subjects by choice for their career goals. It is them that excel. The subjects have remained a deterrent to learners' quality grades and most times several are cut off from further placement where they would otherwise flourish, to earn a living and contribute to the nation's economy through other tertiary, vocational and also technical options.
Information Communication Technology (ICT) plus Technology and Design are instead the 2 other subjects I would recommend as compulsory. This is because they are not only relevant in a diversity of career fields but are also skills-based/ competence-based to facilitate employability, creativity and innovation after O' level. ICT is an evolving subject which if we do not cause an early grip for all the learners, their (global) mobility at higher levels of study or work environments is limited.
On a keynote, if NCDC can consider adding a new compulsory subject, Life Planning Education where learners can learn much more than just the subjects, but what life is and what life can be in context of their individual differences being resourceful in a global sense, then we would realize more value for our children's education. It is one component we can add to pass on career education and several values such as honesty, integrity and social responsibility to make the curriculum new by input and output.
The Ministry has good content in the guidelines for guidance and counselling for post-primary institutions but because it is not a ‘subject', one in a hundred schools have timetable such skilling/ or career guidance. Life Planning Education would adopt this content to pass on the noble guidance in a more honoured mode from S.1 to S.4.
NCDC needs to rethink the curriculum in a global context with extended stakeholdering, for a formidable curriculum compliant 2030 and beyond. Inclusive stakeholdering will save us the scenario of the earlier aborted CURASSE, a curriculum of eight learning areas that were meant to be rolled out in 2018.
We need to regard ICT as not only a subject but a means, to learning other subjects. It is one strength on which broader aspects of mobile learning are tied. The immigration rate eminent in the country may require a policy drafted on ratification of virtual/ remote or online schools. Many of the immigrants and some nationals have home-schooling for alternative education. This will require increased access to curricula, as well as approved centres for registration of such learners. There is need also to study the linkage possibilities of our curriculum to the neighbouring countries, as well as the international examination bodies. Life Planning Education would enrich school experiences into fun as projects translate education into prototype designs for reality.
The writer is a graduate researcher of Instructional Design and Technology at Makerere University, currently at University of Agder, Norway on an exchange program