Government Halts O-Level Vocational Exams[DIT]


The Ministry of Education has halted the Directorate of Industrial Training (DIT) assessment component under the new lower secondary curriculum following litany of implementation flaws, this publication can reveal.[Monitor]

Highly-placed sources familiar with the process said the decision was taken on Monday in a meeting at State House Entebbe chaired by the line minister, Ms Janet Museveni.

It was attended by ministry bureaucrats and top officials of DIT, established initially in 1972 to, according to information on its website, “develop policies and implement strategies for skills training, upgrading and testing workers in industries and apprentices in work places”.

The government revised the lower secondary curriculum and began implementing the new one in 2020 to make each student graduate at every education level with employable skills for the world of work, but now acknowledges it was ill-prepared to roll out the practical training programme.

Ms Ketty Lamaro, the permanent secretary in the Education ministry, who was yesterday reported out of the country and unable to comment on the matter, is expected to issue a circular on the partial curriculum implementation suspension anytime this week.

Two ministry officials, commenting on condition of anonymity for lack of authority to speak on the matter, said the freeze followed a litany of complaints by teachers across the country that they did not understand the teaching required for DIT skills transfer and evaluation.

The classroom teachers told Education bureaucrats that whereas up to 118 courses were outlined for a student to choose one for technical skills development, they knew neither the specific content nor how to teach it.

It also emerged that many in-service teachers, without refresher trainings, lacked the requisite knowledge in the hands-on subjects while no new skilled counterparts were hired to bridge the gap.

Officials discovered that individual schools and teachers were each teaching different things under the same prescribed technical subject, rendering future uniform assessment unlikely.

A different headache presented at mainly rural schools; they never bothered teaching the revised curriculum and continued using the old version, meaning educational institutions were working at cross purposes.

There were also complaints about the cost of teaching the hands-on subjects linked to either inadequate or lacking instructional materials or unexplained charges such as the Shs80,000 that schools imposed per student for DIT class. It remained unclear how the cost was arrived at, considering that teachers confessed that they did not know what to teach and how.

The Shs80,000 fee is in addition to Shs164,000 a DIT students is supposed to pay in Senior Four before taking a Uganda Certificate of Education (UCE) examination.

“Making learners pay a separate fee of Shs80,000 for DIT was a double fee, according to the ministry’s top officials, and most parents were not going to afford it,” a source briefed on the matter noted.

The source added: “The cost of teaching these programme is also high for schools. So, the minister of Education decided to suspend it indefinitely.”

The suspension is happening in the third year of the implementation of a curriculum whose pioneer students are set to submit the project work to DIT for assessment this November ahead of their final Uganda Certificate of Education (UCE) examinations next year.

Under the revised curriculum, every student is to graduate with two certificates; one issued by DIT for the vocational subject, which would make them employable, and the other issued by Uganda National Examinations Board (Uneb) as proof of one’s academic competence.

The decision to suspend the vocation competence assessment means learners in the pioneer cohort will not get the Competence Certification of Level 1 on the Uganda Vocational Qualifications Framework (UVQF) by DIT, making them unable to be evaluated for hands-on skills in A-level.

Details of complaints lodged by school owners and administrators show that the DIT courses are expensive to run, with most beyond the means of the institutions and parents, while required facilities and materials for instruction and learning are lacking.

The schools have fewer-than-required or no instructional tutors with vocational skills to pass to learning, leaving many to gamble teaching of the hands-on subjects.

Among the elective vocational subjects are farming, tailoring, cooking, website development, baking, dietician skilling, interior designing, soccer practitioner, ceramist, events decorator, and building and carpentry.

Others Information, Communication and Technology skilling, Literature in English, art and design, performing arts, technology and design, nutrition and food technology, and foreign languages, among them, French, Latin, Arabic, and Chinese.

Schools said for a vocation such as bakery and carpentry, they lacked money to buy and install ovens and baking materials or set up a workshop and buy timber for learners to make furniture, leaving a good programme wet in the wings.

Mr Hasadu Kirabira, the chairperson of the National Private Education Institution Association (NPEIA), said many private schools never registered their learners for DIT assessment because they lacked facilities needed for the training.

According to him, there are no training manuals and text books from DIT to guide schools on what content to give to learners under vocational training.

“This project requires money which is not there. That is why I had not registered my students for the assessment,” Mr Kirabira said, adding, “The guiding books from DIT are not in place; so, how do you expect to assess someone who has not been trained? The parents also do not have money to pay for these assessments.”

He welcomed the news that Education ministry was suspending that assessment component.

In an interview yesterday, Dr Richard Irumba, the deputy director for Research, Consultancy and Library Service at the National Curriculum Development Center (NCDC), said the suspension will not affect the other competence training and learning outcomes of the curriculum.

“The suspension is set to give time to the government to plan the roll-out of the DIT assessment. It is temporary and when the facilities are put in place, we shall roll out the assessment in a phased manner,” he said by telephone.

The suspension comes at a time when especially some elite schools, where parents could afford the associated costs, had already registered their students for DIT assessment.

Sr Gladys Kachope, the head teacher of Immaculate Hearts Girls’ SS, Nyakibale in Rukungiri Municipality, said all her Senior Three students had cleared the Shs80,000 for assessment and were just waiting to be registered for the exams.

This publication understands that of the more than 3,500 secondary schools in the country, only 500 had registered with DIT to participate in the assessment.

Some head teachers said they are worried that parents will ask for refund following freeze of the assessment. 

Mr Augustine Mugabo, the chairperson of Head Teachers Association in Uganda, said they had by press time received no communication on the suspension.

Investigations by this publication also reveal that the decision coincides with a power fight between officials of DIT and Uganda Business and Technical Examination Board (Ubteb), which the government plans to merge into one entity, over who should examine vocational courses.

UBTEB is claiming the role on grounds that DIT is by law establishing it supposed to set the parameters and certify qualifying learners.

The Ubteb Deputy Executive Secretary, Dr Wilfred Nahamya, said whereas they do not have any wrangle with DIT, it was improper for the government to sideline them in evaluating the pioneer students under the revised curriculum.

“We believe that DIT should play the role of certifying the students who have been assessed by us,” he said, adding: “It was not necessary for them to go into institutions. We are already into vocational assessment and that is where the departure came from.”

DIT Director Patrick Byakatonda reserved comments, pending official communication on the matter.

Comment On Story

Abusive or Prohibited content won't be published.

Previous Post Next Post