Is the Country Ready For the New O-Level Curriculum Starting 2020?

Students sitting previous UCE examinations

Government’s plan to introduce a new O-level curriculum in 2020 which will see subjects taught reduced from 43 to 20, continues to raise many questions with the Uganda National Teachers Union (UNATU) already expressing skepticism regarding implementation.

In January 2017, the National Curriculum Development Centre (NCDC) revealed that in the introduced changes, only seven subjects will be compulsory while a Senior Four candidate will be expected to take a maximum of 10 examinable subjects out of 13 taught in S1 and S2.

The process to have the new Curriculum started in 2008 when, concerns that the adopted colonial curriculum was outdated, then emerged. In December 2016, President Museveni refused to endorse the new proposals by NCDC ordering a fresh review, which has given birth to the new one, anticipated to start in February next year.

In the new curriculum (which the President has already endorsed), various subjects including Commerce, Accounts, Political Education have been scrapped and other obsolete topics removed from maintained subjects, while some topics have been merged to take care of overlaps. Other topics that will according to NCDC, contribute to nation building, have also been introduced.

Also, schools will be expected to run classes from 8:30am to 2:30pm, allowing students two additional hours each day for self-discovery and engagement with teachers before school closure at 4:30pm.

Speaking to SoftPower News on Tuesday, Filbert Bates Baguma, the General Secretary of Uganda National Teachers Union (UNATU), said he was pessimistic about the effectiveness of the new curriculum, given the fact that teachers are yet to be prepared for the new changes.

“The change of the Curriculum itself is not a problem because reforms are part of education systems, but the challenge is how it is implemented. The teachers were supposed to be prepared for that, but right now as we we talk, NCDC say they do not have the money,” Baguma said.

The teachers have not been retooled and re-skilled and yet they are saying, they are going to have it next year, Baguma says.

“So if you are going to have it next year and this is end of April, you have not yet even started vetting the textbooks for the new Curriculum, you have not trained the teachers who is going to implement it? Shifting from the 43 subjects to 20 subjects needs preparation on the side of the teachers”.

He adds that the government has not yet sensitized other stakeholders like students, parents, opinion leaders and others on the upcoming changes.

He says if the sensitization is not done yet, then the implementation is not ready.

Asked about whether they (teachers) who are the implementers of the Curriculum were part of its formulation, he responded to the contrary, saying the fate of the teachers of the scrapped subjects is also unknown to them yet.

“If you are going to use the same teachers to implement the new Curriculum, then you are supposed to retool and re-skill them so that they get prepared. For us as a Union, we don’t expect to hear anything like laying off of teachers, because first of all we are very few teachers compared to the number of students in these institutions,” he says.

“And therefore, if you have not prepared them, how do you expect them to work happily when you are affecting their performance? Instead of concentrating on what they (teachers) are supposed to do, they are doubting whether they will have jobs next year, or not and that is affecting the whole process,” Baguma adds.

He says nobody has come out to show and explain the implementation plan that stipulates when and how teachers are going to be re-tooled and whether all the teachers are to be absorbed in the new arrangement.

But, when SoftPower News contacted, Bernadette Nambi Karuhanga, the deputy Director, NCDC, she said there is still time for preparing the teachers.

“We still have time when that will be done and according to our implementation plan, we are supposed to start retooling teachers in the next quarter. We have started on the procurement process of the books to be used but as NCDC, the training materials which the teachers will be exposed to during the training are ready and these are people who are already trained as teachers so they know what to do,” he says.

She adds that NCDC will only be focusing on changing the methodology to emphasize a learner-centred approach as opposed to one which focuses on the teacher has been the case.

According to Nambi, once government releases the funds, NCDC will immediately embark on this process.

“We are sure that by the end of this year, everybody will be set to start the implementation next year in February,” she said.

On whether the country will not witness yet another postponement when it comes to implementation of the new curriculum as it has been in the previous years, Nambi said: “According to our plan, it is beginning next year and we are hoping that the money will be found for us to roll it out in February next year”.

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