Open Education: How open data could improve Uganda’s education system

Open education
Photo credit: Center for Education Innovations

 

As the sun rises on such a beautiful Wednesday morning, my thoughts cannot be separated from what has happened in Uganda for the last three months.

But, as of today, let’s talk about one of the country’s key sectors–the Education sector.

I acknowledge that Uganda’s education sector has gone through a serious trajectory,  but it’s important to focus on the now and the future. We are certain that Uganda’s Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES) released the Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE) on the January 12th, 2018. On a positive note,  i applaud the institution for the timely release; for it has provided parents with enough time to make decisions on their children’s next chapter. Kudos!

 However, at the just concluded PLE release, the MOES  that out of the 646,190 candidates who sat the exams, 57,198 passed in first grade, 293,977 in Second, 128,573 in Third, 91,504 in Fourth while 57,354 completely failed the exams.as highlighted below.

Education data
Data source: Daily Monitor

Whereas the MoES highlighted an improvement in pupil’s performance as compared to 2016, a number of pupils and parents were disgruntled and never satisfied with the results.

Let’s also acknowledge that parents and pupils also have a right to an opinion, but, how do their opinions affect the education system and the future PLE candidates?

 Where is the problem

While making a press briefing on the PLE results, the MoES officials noted that pupils failed in subjects which required applying knowledge in problem-solving situations or freely express themselves. To them candidates were more comfortable with questions that are direct and based on recall.  

However, as a parent and well wisher, i am interested in the data on what translates to scoring a 1st, 2nd, 3rd etc grade! Is it academic excellence, marks, handwriting  or favoritism of certain schools against others?  When i dug deeper into the PLE website, such important information is also missing on the website yet it qualifies to be public information.

For preparation of future candidates, such information should be in the open and accessed by all parents and citizens. This is not a matter of national security, but integrity of the esteemed institutions responsible for setting, marking  and supervising the exams. With no data to answer people’s questions to understand the system better, this has reduced Ugandans to social media news! —false or right will be tackled next time!

Furthermore, the MoES  is cognizant of the fact that 13,023,114 Ugandans i.e 31.3% have access to  internet and could use social media to get heard. And if the MoES  and UNEB pays a blind eye, the system will be deemed opaque, biased and of course discriminatory. Using social media escapades, alternative data (since we don’t have official data) has been spreading from  one social media site to another; with information on how the grading for private schools differed from governments’ Universal Primary Education schools.

According to the alternative data, a pupil in a public school only needs a 75% to get a distinction and one in a private school needs 94%! If this is right, I presume that the esteemed ministry would openly inform the public on its decisions, as well as justifications. Further Still, how does the MoES expect dubbed performers to participate in their next leg? Will they  excel or  expelled upon mediocre performance in the senior schools!.

Well, in case its false news, we still expect the MoES to  openly deny the claims for the sanity of the institution. With such information unattended to, some parents will be biased against the educated seniors who have their children’s future in thy hands. In a nutshell, we won’t need to take our children to private schools, and they won’t need to hustle that hard to pass, after all, a distinction is just next door.

How  the situation affects the Ugandan economy?

With a non transparent system for grading pupils, the MoES and UNEB  could be indirectly impeding the performance and excellence of the future workers, innovators and employees. If someone is used to getting things done on a silver platter, at such a tender age, this will be his or her attitude once faced with challenges, ultimately contributing to economic slowdown.

Ministry of Education and Uganda National Examinations Board—  could do better

To improve on the openness and transparency of the grading system; which are key ingredients of a good democracy, we should have the same grading for private and public schools in Uganda. This will not only restore trust in Uganda’s education system but also produce the best future employees for the nation.

The Ministry can do better if only grading parameters are  displayed on their website. A publicized memo could do a lot of transparency instead of making decisions in boardrooms and implementing them on the entire population.This could save Uganda from the premier of the education transparency theater which is threatening to happen.

One thing for sure, the government should invest in the UPE schools as private school owners do. Can we first rethink of the tutors salary, followed by collaborative efforts between parents and government to jointly contribute to the scholastic materials, food etc? This will not only improve the environment of  the learners but also their performance.

Conclusion

Lets focus on the pupil-teacher environment to improve Uganda’s public education system,  disclose the grading parameters to citizens for better preparation of candidates  for such important exams and  bring parents on board by reminding them on their role in pupils performance. This will not only contribute to effective information flow and transparency, but will produce academic giants ready to take the nation to the next level.

For God and my country.


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Author: Joy Namunoga

Joy is a US Department of State alumni for the Community solutions Program 2016. She was a Policy Fellow at Sunlight Foundation in Washington DC and presently,the Advocacy officer for Anti-Corruption Coalition Uganda, where she empowers citizens to actively and sustainably demand transparency and accountability from public and corporate officials. Join Joy in envisioning a world where transparency and accountability exists.

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