Uganda: Low Teacher Training Grades Revive Education Debate

Kampala — Educationists have warned that unless the teaching profession is made attractive, it will continue to absorb poor grades in the training colleges and individuals who join it as a last resort.

This follows emerging results that almost half of the Primary Teachers’ Colleges admitted candidates who appeared in grade three in the recently released 2015 Uganda Certificate of Education results.

Of the 29 PTCs out of 45 Daily Monitor looked at, it was established that entrants have their cutoff points as high as aggregate 56 in the best done eight subjects (grade three). A total of 8,119 students were admitted to PTCs out of 274,863 who passed last year’s UCE examinations.

According to ministry of Education information, a student to qualify to join the PTC should have scored at least a pass in English language and Mathematics as well as a pass in two other science subjects such as Biology, Agriculture, Physics or Chemistry. In total, the student needs a minimum of six passes to be admitted.

By Uganda National Examinations Board (Uneb) standards, children in grades one, two, three and four have passed and qualify to proceed in their academic career. But candidates who fall in grade four, according to Mr Daniel Odongo, Uneb deputy executive secretary, “have almost failed and few institutions would be interested in taking them”. The best students lie in grade one; where candidates exhibit high levels of knowledge and skills.

Mr Odongo further pointed out that grade one stops at candidates whose score is between Aggregate 8 to 32, grade two (aggregate 33 to 45) while Grade Three is between aggregate 46 to 58. The last grade pass which is grade four has students who have at least one pass and any six credits or a minimum of six passes.

For example, Moyo-erepi PTC will take candidates with Aggregate 56, Mukujju, Busubuzi and Kabukule will each admit candidates with at least Aggregate 50, while Kotido, Kapchorwa and Kabulasoke had their cutoff points at Aggregate 48. Kabale Bukinda PTC had the best students after it picked girls and boys who scored Aggregate 38.

Ms Goretti Nakabugo, Uwezo country director, said it was a pity that the best performers in academics opt for other professions except teaching and appealed to government to make teaching competitive to ensure every student aspires to join the profession. She said teachers should be paid well and given incentives like housing and health allowances.

A 2011 National Assessment of Progress in Education (NAPE) report by Uneb, which for the first time tested teaching abilities in numeracy and literacy skills among 500 teachers, showed that those who had higher qualifications performed better than their counterparts.

Ms Sylvia Acana, an official at Uneb, recommended that entry requirements to PTCs be revised to a student with a Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education (UACE) instead of the current UCE certificate. “Consider raising the minimum entry qualification into Primary Teachers Colleges to UACE,” she said.

But Ms Elizabeth Kisakye, ministry of Education teacher instructor education and training department, disagrees. She argues that their training in PTCs looks at what a student is able to do unlike Uneb which assesses theory. “Uneb research was a desk research. Somebody sat down and imagined. We used to have A-Level students on diploma primary education but this was cancelled in 2004 because of their lack of competences in handling children. Uneb is looking at awarding marks of 80 per cent and they think you can perform. What makes you think that when you get distinctions you have competences?” Ms Kisakye said.

She added: “Uneb is a deadly thing we have now. That is why we have many unemployed youth who have gone through the system but are on the streets because they can’t even make a pancake. Uneb has killed the country because of their subjective numbers. At PTCs, we look at projects, how can you handle children professionally, understand them, learn how they thrive, methodology on how to teach them and carry out continuous assessment which is accumulated in the course of study.”

Ms Kisakye maintained that the two years spent in college are enough to charnel out a good teacher but appealed for monitoring, supervision and retooling after every six months to equip the teachers with updated training skills.