Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Are there any lessons Uganda's Ministry of Education can learn from Namibia?

Uganda's Education system needs to be fixed. It is putting out too many graduates who are job seekers at a time when employment is not there. It is also true that a good number who have had opportunity to get any employment are not good material as many employers seem to observe. It is also true that connections lead to poor man power being recruited given that in instances where demand far exceeds supply you can expect other factors to come into play when recruitment is being made.

The Ministry of Education Namibia

When Namibia became independent on 21 March 1990, education in the country was best characterised by a number of features as follows:

1. fragmentation of education along racial and ethnic lines;

2. unequal access to education and training at all levels of the education system;

3. inefficiency in terms of low progression and achievement rates, and high wastage rates;

4. irrelevance of the curriculum and teacher education programmes to the needs and aspirations of individuals and the nation; and

5. lack of democratic participation within the education and training system.

Teachers, parents, administrators and workers were largely excluded from the decision-making process in education. There was also an extremely unequal financial resource allocation in education based on the eleven ethnic authority systems which were operational before independence. Soon after independence one unified education system was created to provide education to the Namibian nation on an equitable basis.

Structure of the Ministry of Education

The Ministry of Basic Education, Sport and Culture and The Ministry of Higher Education, Training and Employment Creation were combined in March 2005 to form the Ministry of Education. The new structure was approved by the Public Service Commission in the Office of the Prime Minister in August 2006.

The office of the Permanent Secretary, whose objective is to co-ordinate the activities of the ministry and ensure that the ministry provides education to Namibians in line with Article 20 of the country’s Constitution. The structure of the ministry is further divided into four Department listed below.

Department of Schools/Formal Education

The objective of this department is to co-ordinate, implement and monitor all formal education activities. It consist of the following directorates;

· Directorate of Programmes and Quality Assurance

Ø to organise, co-ordinate, monitor and control the implementation of educational programmes at national level,

Ø to train, develop and assess school and hostel personnel to ensure the efficient and effective management of educational programmes and services.

· Directorate of National Institute for Educational Development

Ø to develop and maintain the quality and scope of basic, secondary, and basic teacher education.

· Directorate of National Examinations and Assessment

Ø to provide an examination, assessment and certification service

Ø to enhance the quality of the national education system


Department of Policy and Administration

· Directorate of General Services

Ø The directorate provides administrative support through proper and accountable financial, personnel and auxiliary services to ensure an effective quality education and training sector.

Ø As such, the directorate must ensure proper and accountable financial management, information and communication technology, implementation of legislative provisions and policies underlying public service human resource management and the transparent and well-coordinated delivery of procurement, stores, transportation and other services of a logistical nature.

· Directorate of Planning and Development

Ø The directorate coordinates the strategic and corporate planning process of the Ministry.

Ø It manages the development budget and carries out infrastructure development, human and financial resources, school mapping, and education project planning and coordination.

Ø The directorate is also responsible for the coordination of school data collection, data procession and production of statistical reports, monitoring of policies and programme implementation and evaluation of the realisation of the objectives.

· Directorate of Finance

Department of Lifelong Learning

· Directorate of Adult Education

Ø The main function of the directorate is to provide opportunities for adults in Namibia to acquire knowledge, skills and positive attitudes to participate in socio-economic activities of the country and to improve their lives.

· Directorate of Namibia Library and Information Services

Ø The function of the directorate is to collect, preserve, make available and promote the use of information in support of quality education, effective administration, economic empowerment and lifelong learning.

· Directorate of Vocational Education

Ø The directorate is responsible for enhancing the national capacity through productive skills development that would give Namibia the competitive edge, both regionally and internationally.

· Directorate of Namibia Qualifications Authority (NQA)

Ø The NQA is responsible for setting standards for qualifications,

Ø Accreditation and quality assurance, and

Ø Evaluation of qualifications

Department of Tertiary Education, Science and Technology

· Directorate of Higher Education

Ø The directorate is responsible for managing colleges of education to ensure the effective and efficient use of resources and quality outputs, and

Ø To work together with other public higher institutions of learning and maker stakeholders to ensure cooperation, liaison and cross-fertilization within the higher education sub-sector.


· Directorate of Research, Science and Technology

Ø The directorate is responsible for coordinating and influence the development and implementation of appropriate policies, infrastructure and institutional arrangements,

Ø To advocate the mechanisms necessary to encourage research, technical and scientific education, innovations and their output, and

Ø To facilitate value adding linkages between and among industry, commerce, science and technology institutions and the wider community.

· Directorate of Namibia National Commission for UNESCO

Ø The Namibia National Commission for UNESCO was established to enable Namibia to contribute to the maintenance of peace and security and the common welfare of mankind by participating in the activities of UNESCO which aim to advance the mutual knowledge and understanding of peoples, ensure quality education for all, ensure the promotion of respect for cultural diversity, foster the increase of knowledge, ensure access to and the free flow of information and ideas and involve in UNESCO’s activities all government ministries, offices, agencies, institutions and citizens working for the advancement of education, the increase in knowledge of the sciences, the appreciation of cultural diversity and the importance of the acquisition of information.
Jobless super-graduates
What use is a First Class degree if holder cannot earn a living?
When the Music Dance and Drama (MDD) degree course was introduced at Makerere University in 1971 many students looked at it with contempt. They coined a derogatory name for whoever enrolled for the course; musiru ddala ddala, meaning a totally and completely stupid fellow!

Today, those who have done the course and go on to practice music or drama are arguably more successful in society than some graduates of the so-called traditional better courses like medicine, law, and management.
Some MDD graduates have emerged as local stars in the theatre and music industry and are highly paid. Celebrity singer Bobi Wine, international actor Philip Luswata, and theatre legend Alex Rwangyezi of the internationally renowned Ndere Troupe did MDD.

If succeeding in life is what every school fees paying parent wishes for their children, this trio and others have definitely made it. But the kind of education that students are getting from schools and universities today might not guarantee similar results. The education system seems bent on churning out graduates with great academic grades but without life skills.

Results from the recently released beginners Primary Leaving Examination (PLE) and the intermediary Uganda Certificate of Education (UCE) show more and more students scoring the top most grades, aggregate 4 and 8 and the majority pass in first grade. Makerere University and other higher institutions of learning are also increasingly getting high numbers of students getting First Class and Upper Second degrees. In the 2009 UCE exams 68 students of 16,279 who passed in division 1 scored top most aggregate 8 grade and 40 scored aggregate 9. In the just concluded graduation ceremony at Makerere University, 220 students graduated with First Class degrees.
The trend has been criticized. Teachers have been accused of shifting to coaching students to pass exams instead of creating students who can think and equiping them with tools to face the real world. To make their point, the critics point at graduates with top grades who have failed to earn a living.

Dr Fred Masazzi, the dean designate of Makerere University’s School of Education, wants the process of assessing students to be more encompassing and not focus only on the final national exams as the basis for grading and certifying that somebody has completed a particular level of education. He argues that there are many good things that the final exams do not examine.

“There is need to adopt a continuous assessment criterion in lower levels of education to assess the students’ abilities in sports, academics, art and craft, and other such areas that will help yield in a responsible citizen.”

He says academic papers without skills are not so useful in today’s world. “There is need to refocus our education system so that even if somebody stops at primary seven, S4 or S6, they have the skills to enable them gain a shilling. Many people have graduated even with First Class degrees but they are without something to do,” he said.

Prof. Aaron Mukwaya, a senior political science lecturer at Makerere University is concerned that the trend of scoring super grades in national exams has sparked competition in education sector which in turn has made education expensive. It has created classes of schools and students; those who pass with flying colours and the average students and average schools.

He says the education system has not significantly changed from that introduced by the colonialists who aimed at training white-collar workers as opposed to blue collar ones. He says this education only trains a person to achieve at individual level instead of national level as well. Students who pass highly get opportunities to join good academic institutions, local and abroad.

Mukwaya says parents who can afford struggle to have their children in the so-called good schools, leaving the poor parents to train their children from schools that are considered poor because they cannot make students pass national exams highly. He asks: Is this the education system we want as a country?
Students are passing exams sometimes but with question marks on what they have learnt or what they have as knowledge. A school ought to give a student various ways of thinking,” he says, “Education in Uganda should be geared towards development by training people who can think and use their thinking ability to do many things. When you can think, you can sell your ideas, which involve creativity, innovations and a level of clout.” He said there have been cases where students have passed with good upper second class degrees but when called back to teach, they fail. You need to come to university with an open end not a closed end, he says.

Seasoned scholar Prof Senteza Kajubi says the choice of education a country emphasises defines the society it seeks to create. He says good education should stimulate the brain’s cognitive power, the ability to work with ones hands, and the heart’s ability to feel.

“This is what we call values. A well educated person ought to be able to use his head, hands and heart, to feel, to be sympathetic to society and uphold values; to have the courage to say an educated person does not do that.

“The press and parents look at the grades and begin to praise schools that did out-do the other in scooping grades. The question of values is greatly ignored today. This is why we have the outcry of corruption, when we go to elections, the question of falsifying votes emerges, all because the matter of values has been ignored,” says Kajubi.

He says the cut-throat global competition makes this choice more important today.

“It is good to get first classes and grades but are they educative or are students spending more of their time on cramming regurgitating materials given to them. Unfortunately many of our schools and universities concentrate on pumping academic materials into the heads of students yet proper education would be drawing it out not pushing in.”

He laments that a student who can remember when John Speke reached the source of the Nile at Jinja is considered cleverer than the one who can make a chair. “As a result those who memorise dates and formulas are encouraged to go to high school, university, and get First Class and Upper Second degrees. Parents do not regard those that think with their hands as able. Our education system seems to have laid emphasis on training the brain to cram formulas.”

He says the third but important component in education is the heart to remember to do and to feel.

Citing Socrates, the famous classical Greek educator and philosopher who taught by asking questions, Kajubi criticises teachers who fail to draw out the students’ ideas.

“In many of our universities today you find teachers dictating notes. Yet students already have innate ideas that need to be explored,” he says, “Ideas which are received and not thrown in fresh combinations are like stale eggs. No matter how long mother hen will sit on them they will never hatch into chicks. We want to give students ideas which can hatch.”

Kajubi criticises the Cambridge style AAA grading.

“ At PLE level we tend to think that a pupil who scores aggregate 4 has passed and the other with 12 has not done so well but we forget that 12 makes First grade,” he says. He said the focus is bad because of competition to go to the so-called good schools makes all grades that these schools would not admit appear bad.

The trouble is worsened because the public examination board plays a qualifying and selecting role to the next level of education; O level results are used to select and qualify those to go to A level.

“Yet when I finished PLE, the certificate was a qualifying certificate and you would get employment with that, the same applied to secondary school certificates. But to go to schools like Makerere you had to sit for the Cambridge exam but to be admitted at Makerere you had to do the Makerere entry exams, meaning they were not looking for the crammed material you had garnered earlier on but your capacity to think. So the Makerere exams played only the selecting role while the other exams like one for Cambridge were for qualification. They tested whether you had the basics to begin Makerere.”
Dr Masazzi agrees. He says Uganda needs an education system where students after every level of education can meaningfully contribute to the development of this country. “After Primary school a child should be in position to have skills to use to live in this world and sustain themselves economically. The same should apply to secondary school level instead of studying up to college and university to be able to get employment or create employment,” said Masazzi.

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