Education Reforms Should Eliminate Obsession With Scores – Prof. Lugujjo

Professor Eraibu Lugujjo, a distinguished educationist, has suggested that the education policy review commission ought to eliminate the prevailing fixation on marks and scores in the education system.

According to Prof. Lugujjo, who previously served as the vice chancellor of Ndejje University and now the Executive Director Vice Chancellors Forum, the education system’s deviation from its intended path is partly due to the absence of a clear definition of what Uganda needs from education.

“While there are several issues with our education system such as policy implementation challenges and insufficient funding, the pervasive preoccupation with scores, top grades, degrees, and the likes is dragging us to the abyss. This obsession has become central to our education system and requires redefinition,” he noted.

Prof. Lugujjo, made the remarks during his interface with the Education policy review commission where he had been invited to make submissions on the implementation of the current government white paper on education and what needs to be fixed.

It should be noted that Lugujjo is one of a surviving members of the notable Kajubi commission that made recommendations adopted by the government to produce the 1992 white paper on education.

He observed that the Kajubi commission, which provided 220 recommendations, had clearly embedded objectives and expectations in such a way that the society can assess anyone who has received education regardless of whether they completed university or left at an earlier stage. 

While providing his submission, Prof. Lugujjo observed that the education system has not achieved its expected transformative role of the learners. He partly blamed this on curriculum designers whom he says stuffed the curricula with so much learning materials for primary school hence requiring learners to cram and regurgitate the same during primary seven national examinations.

“Now, the knowledge acquired is just for promotional purposes, missing out on the competence based and transformation paradigm we wanted,” he expressed.

According to Prof. Lugujjo, the education system is currently overly fixated on results to the extent that a learner who scores 8 aggregates in primary seven can be unjustly labeled as unintelligent, while in the past even those who achieved second grade (24 aggregates) were celebrated as academic giants.

He cited a real-life example of a parent who was desperately seeking a vacancy at Makerere College School for their child who had scored 12 aggregates in primary seven. Prof. Lugujjo expressed amusement at how a child with a first-grade could be treated in such a manner.

The Professor noted that schools are sacrificing co-curricular activities and skilling learning areas in favor of examinable subjects, in the pursuit of better grades. What Prof. Lugujjo was expressing is already one of the many concerns causing public outcry as some schools are starting lessons as early as 4 a.m. and keeping learners in class until midnight, with weekends also fully occupied with academic work.

Furthermore, he lamented the burden of excessive subject matter being taught to learners, resulting in schools requiring them to carry heavy bags and stress them with homework. He noted that this was not the case in his time when bags were used to carry foodstuffs.

In addition, Lugujjo expressed his confusion as to why vocational education, which is intended to equip learners with the skills, knowledge, and tools necessary to utilize their physical environment, is seen as less valuable.

The Kajubi commission had proposed teaching pre-vocational subjects from P.5 to P.8, and the government, in the white paper, recognized the importance of this aspect, recommending that it be implemented for the entire primary level.

“The government has decided to carry this recommendation a step further by seriously vocationalising the entire primary education cycle instead of merely offering preparatory vocation skills at the upper primary level…” the government white paper reads in part.

Professor Lugujjo also criticized the replacement of co-curricular activities with extra lessons, a shift that was intended to enhance learners’ understanding of concepts. To him, a learner who has passed through such torture by the end of primary seven his or her brain is already tired.

Several individuals who have visited the commission have identified similar issues in the education system, with some recommending the removal of the Primary Leaving Examination (PLE) and its replacement with continuous assessment. Others have proposed a review of the primary curriculum to emphasize ICT and vocational subjects
It should be noted, however, that although the government failed to implement vocational subjects in primary schools, the designed curriculum included Home Economics, Music, Dance and Drama, Art and Design, and Physical Education and different sports discipline among other areas of learning.

Unfortunately, these subjects were abandoned to the extent that many Ugandans, including some teachers and the elite, are unaware that the current primary school curriculum has more to offer than just Mathematics, English, Science, and Social Studies.    

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