Educationists Seek Ways to Promote Values, Critical Thinking Among Children

Educationists have voiced the need for the assessment of life skills and values among learners.

Life skills are those abilities that one needs to solve problems that are critical to his or her life.

For long the education system has been criticized for producing graduates that are hardly practical in their professions, one factor that affects the rating of the quality of education and the ability to be employed or create jobs.

At a personal level, only 2 percent of Ugandan adolescents had the ability to solve some of their daily life problems, according to a two-year regional study dubbed Assessment of Life Skills and Values (ALiVE).

According to Dan Kyagaba, Manager, of the National Assessment of Progress in Education, NAPE, at the Uganda National Examinations Board, the assessment of life skills is provided for in the national curriculum but is not being assessed.

Kyagaba says that they cannot assess life skills and values because they are not being taught in school. Kyagaba is worried that according to the schedule, UNEB will start conducting the assessment of learners, yet the learners seem not to be prepared.  

This response came after the study showed that the youngest persons could not solve simple problems, while others exhibited a low presence of vital human values.

The study conducted under the Regional Education Learning Initiative was conducted by Uwezo Uganda and four other research and educational organizations, and covered 20 districts in Uganda, targeting 11,07 persons aged 13 to 17 years.

Similar studies have been conducted in Kenya and Tanzania, bringing the total number of respondents to more than 6000 regionally.

“Most (53%) of the adolescents are able to recognize the existence of a problem from one perspective and act on that to identify a possible solution. They are, however, at the highest level of the skill, unable to identify multiple approaches to solving a problem,” the report says.

This, according to some experts also affects the general performance of a child in school and has a spillover effect on life at higher education levels and out of school.

Teachers and school administrators particularly were criticized for not helping the situation, with some accused of discouraging mental growth.

John Mugo, from Zizi Afrique Foundation, for example, said a study he did with the World Bank revealed that the teachers and the system generally, are not taught to conduct interactive learning sessions, the reason why the learners only ask questions when asked by the teacher.

However, Doreen Ankunda, the commissioner in charge of pre-primary and primary education at the Directorate of Education Standards, said the teachers can do better even before the curriculum is enforced because they have some training.

According to Ankunda, for example, children that are affected by the home environment need to be understood and given space to balance between school and home pressures.

Grace Baguma, the Director National Curriculum Development Centre, agreed with this position, explaining that the curriculum provides for these skills but their implementation is what is lacking.

She said that the education sector managers should find a way of operationalizing some of these provisions, suggesting that the study findings should help them develop more documents to help the schools implement these sections of the curriculum.

Baguma said the system should be such that skills like critical thinking and values are given to a child at the earliest time possible, perhaps starting at birth.   Otherwise, she said, in adolescence, it might be too late to create that in someone.

Filbert Baguma, the Secretary General of the Uganda National Teachers Union rejected the blame put on teachers and instead said it should first go to parents and the education system generally.

Baguma instead said the parents have to do better, especially when the couple is not living together, adding that the growing transfer of responsibilities to the house helps is worsening the situation.

According to Baguma, the children need to get the first life skills and values from their parents, and the school supplements.

He also says the system is not even able to assess the competence of candidates for school heads, which leads to the mismanagement of children and the school generally.

Kyagaba said there was a need for all the concerned governments and other agencies to work together to ensure that what is available so far, is adequately given to the earners, instead of blaming one another.

In addition to problem-solving, the study targeted two other life skills collaboration and self-awareness, and one value; respect.

Ugandans have long been known to be among the most respectful people in the region.

However, in the study; overall, only 9% of Ugandan adolescents express high respect for others.

“Whereas 48% of the adolescents were able to interpret bad behavior as a lack of respect for others and may take conciliatory steps to resolve situations, only 9% was able to act respectfully in defense of others and self,” the study showed.

According to the ALiVE assessment tool, respect goes beyond only interpreting bad behavior and looks at respect to self, to others, and to property.

The research also provides findings on the aspect of self-awareness. Sheema District demonstrated the highest level of self-awareness among adolescents while Kyegegwa posted the lowest rate at 0.0 percent.

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