By Enock Kibuuka
As the Uganda National Examinations Board (UNEB) works towards improving the quality of exams for purposes of ensuring and strengthening its credibility for manning national exams, I feel invited to seek clarification from UNEB as regards, the subject of economics.
Apart from science subjects which have the highest failure rate in national exams, economics has the highest failure rate among the arts subjects. Reasons for the students’ failure in economics vary from teachers, to students and of course, to UNEB.
I regularly attend and facilitate in teachers’ of economics workshops and seminars. Truth be told, you appreciate how ill-prepared many of these teachers of the subject are, which understandably spills over to students. The quality of notes of many teachers of economics, irrespective of whether senior or junior teachers is alarming. I have found out that most teachers do not read widely in their areas of specialisation, as a result, often obsolete content is given to students, which largely contributes to their failure.
The National Curriculum Development Centre (NCDC) Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education teaching syllabus for economics specifies two papers in which leaners have to be examined and assessed: Economics P220/1 Paper One, which seeks to test the students’ understanding of basic economic theories and concepts. For the proper examination format, the questions in this paper do not have any particular economy in mind, but rather in any given economy.
Economics P220/2 Paper Two seeks to test students’ understanding and application of economic principles in the Ugandan context. Thus, the proper examination format has questions which apply to Uganda. The NCDC economics syllabus does not specify which topics to be taught in paper one or paper two. However, the approach in setting and answering the questions in both papers is different where in paper two, the focus is on application.
For example, a question like “Explain the causes of unemployment in an economy” is a paper one question, while a question like “Explain the causes of unemployment in your country (Uganda)” is a Paper Two question, where teachers and students are expected to explain those factors that in fact cause unemployment in Uganda, implying that the same question may have more points in Paper One and fewer points in Paper Two.
So, not all points that are valid in Paper One are valid in Paper tTwo. However, often UNEB has set Paper Two questions in Paper One, thereby confusing students. For example, in 2006, UNEB set a question in Economics P220/1: Qn. 6 (a) Assess the role of taxation in your country; 6 (b) How can the current taxation system in your country be improved? Also, in 2012 in UNEB set a question in P220/1; Qn. 4 (b) How does the existence of monopolistic competitive markets affect producers in your country? Another question is Qn. 1 (a) (ii) of 2017 Economics P220/1: “Outline any three challenges faced by your country when providing public goods.”
There are several other Economics Paper Two questions set in Paper One. My question is, and what UNEB should help clarify, is there a significant difference between Economics Paper One and Economics Paper Two? If yes, does UNEB expect students to use Economics Paper Two approach in answering questions in Paper One? Besides, when UNEB sets Paper Two questions in Paper One, does it expect Paper One examiners to assess those questions using Paper Two approach or Paper One approach?
Alternatively, if UNEB believes that there is no difference between Economics Paper One and Paper Two, then why did NCDC separate the two papers? Setting Paper Two questions in Paper One or Paper One questions in Paper Two leaves students confused and, of course, contributing to their failure.
In the final analysis, UNEB has our support, it should do better. Exams should be properly proofread to avoid such careless mistakes.
The writer is a teacher at Gayaza High School