Special Reports

The Tragedy Of Uganda’s Exam-Oriented Education

drug http://dcointl.com/wp-includes/post.php geneva;”>The mood in most parts of the country is still jovial, http://choladathaicuisine.com/wp-content/plugins/jetpack/json-endpoints/class.wpcom-json-api-get-customcss.php save for the exact opposite at Bushenyi Valley College and group.

Media frenzied with “stars” success stories, results get held, cheats get apprehended and blacklisted, universities raise cut off points and all that… that’s the story that everybody else in the country is getting used to (at least by now).

It rather remains pertinent a question however, of whether or not these so called stars deserve much of our excitement – when you think of the week long headline makers with dailies half filled with their names profiles, success stories and dreams.

As one celebrates these UNEB heroes, it’s imperative as well to ask oneself whether or not these students have actually received from their school teachers, the value of one’s school fees.


Education Minister Hon. Maj. Jessica Alupo Rose Epel to begin with, last Monday decried, or resounded the tragedy of school teaching nowadays being oriented to passing exams.

She highlighted the numerous test being conducted to achieve this: Beginning of term, midterm, end of term, and various mocks, for all of which a teacher must find time to mark, losing about nine weeks of teaching time per term.

Observers say the education system of Uganda has been so commercialized and does not evaluate students on all their abilities.

Like their parents, students crave for “top schools” simply to pass with “flying colours.” This temporary stardom does not directly translate into life success stories or national development.

Good scores with no life skills appear to be the thrust of the Ugandan education system thus far, much to the detriment of the youth.

According to R. Murali Rajaratenam, a lecturer of a foundation programme in Malaysia, the exam-oriented education system distorts motivation and learning by overemphasizing the importance of scores as outcomes and measures of students’ abilities.

Students lack personality and creativity, and are not qualified enough to fulfill future careers.

Heavy rote learning associated with boarding schools (winter reading) makes students tired of learning and in worst cases, some even develop psychological problems. It also leads to students’ deterioration in thinking and solving problems.

Murali argues that the exam-based system grooms students to focus on extrinsic goals and task completion that finally results in excellent grades, minus the creative skills.

“Being an educator, I find the exam-based system enables students to obtain knowledge quickly and secure perfect scores rapidly. However, in my classes, students do not dare to talk with me because of the lack of confidence and intellect to justify arguments,” says Murali.

“They are used to having blind faith in authority — both teachers and textbooks. Research on academic motivation has shown that a focus on extrinsic goals such as exam scores and task completion undermines intrinsic motivation, interest and persistence.”

The bane of it all is that graduates of an exam-oriented system are very dependent on their parents and teachers, and are not willing to do things themselves.

One core reason for having an exam-oriented system is the selection for university entrance. Therefore, what is needed is a more comprehensive selection mechanism.

Experts advise that the curriculums should concentrate on regular grades; all grades will be evaluated, including University/tertiary entrance examinations. This long-term assessment makes students treat every exam seriously.

Secondly, if students are made to take University/ College entrance examinations several times a year, it would avoid students playing below par.

Thirdly, it’s important to use a continuous assessment system. Not only the score, but also all the abilities will be used to evaluate a student. This helps avoid instances of student scoring high grades but having low abilities.

For example recently, the Malaysian government took initiative to nurture a workforce with comprehensive abilities but under the exam system, graduates who are good in exams will be chosen.

They will be unwilling to ask questions and provide advice as they have been groomed to obey others.


For the education sector to take giant strides, teachers play a pivotal role.

Mr. Fagil Mandy, the board’s chairperson disclosed to journalists a study he had conducted around the country, seeking to find out whether teachers were living up to the expectations of a ‘good teacher’. 3804 teacher were sampled to respond to his questions.

While it was agreed upon that a good teacher understands his students, only 60 out of the 3800 acknowledged they did.

“So generally our dear teacher doesn’t understand his student whatsoever!” wondered Teddy Bagaya an aspiring lawyer at the Law Development center.

“In such an instance, the student will start scheming how to wet her matron’s beak, get her name checked for last night’s roll call while she’s off for campus night at Rouge.

And thus no one must be astounded when the same kid has grown up to do the same with the Parliamentary clerk to beat the Honorable Speaker’s roll call,” she added

Mandy’s study revealed numerous other appalling facts about Uganda’s teachers that would not go without mention:

That out of the 3804 respondents, only 70 are physically fit, 60 do read, 100 are multi-skilled and multi tasked, 65 have other means to a reliable income, while only 60 carry out research.

Such is the basis for this country’s topmost intellect (for how on earth would a man be smarter that his own teacher)?

What then shall we do is your next question, and so is mine. Certainly the beloved teacher cannot be held responsible entirely.

When your child has blown up half of the school fees in a betting company, and the rest on hard drinks, and shamelessly comes back for more, he will by no means fail to repeat the same 15 years later with the sh100 million meant for MPs’ rides, or the Constituency fund fund. He may even choose not to purchase that iPad.

Although Mr Fagil is convinced that teachers’ motivation must emanate from within themselves, it certainly can only be incomplete without external support.

The numerous tantrums that we have occasionally woken up to in the news about teachers’ salaries are not entirely unjustifiable.

President Yoweri Museveni while commemorating the 27th NRM day recently was full of pledges, putting teachers next in line for salary increment after judges and scientists…thankfully.

But in 2003, having stricken a deal with the World Bank, the big man had promised UPE kids some milk at break time, that their brains and bodies needed an extra handful of protein. So teachers should humble themselves and pray.

Uganda is one country that still boosts of such stories as a teacher who took to the stage to dance at a soft drink promotion rally to win himself a t-shirt because he had nothing to wear in the classroom.

It is clearly pointless therefore for citizens hoping to turning around an education system that had already gotten itself hard blows right from the colonial era.

A Ugandan has an average lifespan of just below 45 year, yet he needs 20 of those years to obtain the minimum amount and quality of training being offered by the country’s current education system; after which all that awaits him in the interview room is “You seem a bit too unprocessed and inexperienced to take up this job.”

I thus feel slightly justified to jump to a conclusion that it’s it’s much better that he forgets all about competing for quality, creativity and productivity with his fellow counterparts studying countries with better organized systems in first world countries.

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