Friday, June 5, 2015

Improving the Quality of Education in Uganda, Experiences of a Research Fellow

Focus is tuned to how the ministry can improve higher education in Uganda. One cannot talk about higher education without analyzing the core, which is lower level education.
A number of people have done research in improving the quality of education. The areas that need serious policy intervention are in the pre-primary, primary and secondary education levels.
Refference is made to research done by Professor John C. Munene who has published a book titled “The Management of Universal Primary Education in Uganda”.  He did research in 2005 and published a book that was talking about the gaps in Universal Primary Education (UPE). It also had policy implications and a clear way forward in order to have basic education improved. However, the research findings and the policy recommendations were not adopted by the Ministry.
The DRUSSA project team at the Uganda National Council of Science and Technology (UNCST) organized a symposium with the researcher where he explained that the biggest assumption the government made was that the community needed free education. They also ripped the community off their responsibility to monitor the quality of education.
Prof. Munene along with a number of colleagues, evaluated the UPE project. The team employed participatory learning and analysis methods to assess what teachers, pupils, head teachers, school management committees, parents and communities do. Data was collected on school performance. Unexpectedly, the number of books available in the schools did not relate to school performance as indicated by the number and quality of grades. Rather, school performance depended on a set of teacher and pupil practices. The Improving Education Quality (IEQ) Research (Uganda IEQ Core Team 1999; Munene et al. 1997; Carasco et al.1996) isolated a number of teacher practices intensifying and decreasing the use of textbooks and improving school performance. They also indicated children practices affecting learning readiness. Teacher practices decreasing the use of textbooks included the following:
  1. Writing lesson objectives for the classroom periods, and in a way that enabled the teacher to measure whether or not the objectives were achieved;
  2. Selecting and preparing learning materials to reflect lesson objectives;
  3. Selecting and using teaching methods that physically engaged students in the achievement of lesson objectives;
  4. Controlling the class in order to achieve lesson objectives within the available time; and
  5. Designing and implementing a classroom seating arrangement that helped all students to attain lesson objectives.
  6. The practices found to be related to a decreasing use of textbooks and negatively impacting on school performance included the following:
  7. Relying on personal knowledge, particularly study notes made during teacher training;
  8. Borrowing teaching notes from other teachers;
  9. Giving a “half-dose” to pupils (deliberately teaching less than what the curriculum called for);
  10. Spending time in activities that generate personal income in order to supplement salary; and
  11. Directing and pacing teaching in large classes for the pupils who understand.
  12. The specific pupil practices identified in the research as contributing to learning readiness included:
  13. Going to school daily and working hard at writing and reading;
  14. Keeping one’s exercise book in good condition and reading all the lessons;
  15. Playing good games, keeping good hygiene, and looking smart
  16. Being disciplined and attentive in class; and
  17. Avoiding such actions as smoking, having sex, abusing teachers and the community on the way to and from school.
These concrete, qualitative findings shift attention away from secondary data, such as numbers of scholastic materials, including textbooks, available to what actually takes place in classrooms. They provide clear guidance regarding what needs to be changed in order to improve learning in schools. They demonstrate the importance of school climate, seen from the point of view of pupils and teachers. They also make it easier to develop valid and appropriate theories to account for why and how some pupils pass, while others fail.
One of the management assumptions that UPE makes is the active participation in administration of the scheme by the community that each primary school serves. For instance, such community is directly charged with the following:
  1. Contributing towards construction of schools buildings by providing local materials such as bricks, stones, sand, water and labour;
  2. Encouraging members to send children to school and support pupils once in school to ensure that they remain there;
  3. Contributing towards the security and safety of school children and the school plant;
  4. Contributing ideas, time and energy towards the improvement of the teaching and learning programmes;
  5. Providing positive discipline for school children both within and outside the school;
  6. Monitoring school personnel regarding the use of positive discipline measures;
  7. Ensuring that the resources for education held by the VCIII is used to improve the teaching and learning programmes of the schools;
  8. Ensuring that the school makes full use of the expertise and resources of the Core Primary Teachers’ Colleges, especially that of the Co-ordinating Centre Tutor serving the school;
  9. Participating in community mobilisation activities that support improved pupil learning at home and at school;
  10. Providing safe water sources, stores, office and staffroom signposts, and recreational facilities; and
  11. Being actively involved in sanitation promotion programmes of their school.
UPE describes the relevant community as composed of at least three entities (MoES 1998).
  1. The first is the School Management Committee (SMC), which is a group of local opinion leaders selected to represent the government in each school. The SMC acts as a form of Board of Directors charged with monitoring the school administration with special reference to government policy.
  2. The second one is the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) which is a community based association formed on a voluntary basis to provide a formal and organised voice representing members of the community whose children attend a particular primary school.
  3. The third, more loosely defined, is everyone else whose civic and non-civic actions could impact on the children and teachers of the school.
So the community sat back and said this was a government programme and it would provide everything. Even simple things like meals that parents used to provide to their children were left to Government.
So far, Uganda has achieved the Millennium Development Goal for Universal Primary Education according to the UNESCO 2015 reports, but they need under the Sustainable Development Goals to improve the quality. As a clear way forward, the government needs to put a clear role of parents and the community to enhance the quality of UPE.
Government needs to put a clear role for parents, the community needs to be involved to monitor quality and be part of supervision and the quality of teachers needs to be improved.  There are now serious governance and policy issues. Let parents be empowered.
At this symposium it was realized that feedback is very critical. From the original discussions about UPE, Government did not know how to involve the parents but now it knows.
The DRUSSA program has helped unearth research that was carried out that could help with key policy intervention. 

Authored by Annabella Habinka Ejiri - a DRUSSA fellow based at the Ministry of Education
More information about DRUSSA can be found on

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