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Opting out of A-Level

Students of Nakawa Vocational Institute doing a motor vehicle repair practical . INDEPENDENT/JIMMY SIYA

More students are joining technical institutions, many more might be simply falling off

Kampala, Uganda | RONALD MUSOKE | A growing number of students is increasingly opting out of Advanced Level education stirring mixed reactions amongst educationists and officials at the Uganda National Examinations Board (UNEB), The Independent reveals.

Speaking during the release of the 2017 Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education (UACE) on Feb.21 in Kampala, Prof. Mary Okwakol the UNEB chairperson noted that the trend has persisted since 2014.

Last year, the number of candidates who registered to sit the A-Level examinations were 102, 269 compared to 104,243 in 2016. This represented a reduction of 2,974 candidates or 2.9%, she said.

“The reason is not quite clear, but could be due to the availability of other post-Uganda Certificate of Education (UCE) programmes,” Okwakol said.

Meanwhile, the candidates who went ahead to sit the examination were 100,066 compared to 102,858 in 2016, a decrease of 2,792 candidates (-2.7%).

According to John Chrysostom Muyingo, the Minister of state for higher education, although the number of students at A-Level has declined since 2014, this should not be interpreted as a case of students dropping out.

Information available at the Education Ministry, Muyingo explains, shows that the number of students at technical and vocational education and training institutions, teacher training colleges, nursing and midwifery institutions which take UCE graduates has been increasing.

“It is clear that many students are now taking this other career path than the UACE course,” Muyingo said.

Dr. Wilfred Nahamya, the deputy executive secretary at the Uganda Business and Technical Examinations Board (UBTEB), the agency mandated with streamlining, regulating and coordinating examinations and awards in the business and technical profession in Uganda supported Muyingo’s view.

He said the number of students pursuing diploma in business and diploma in technical fields such as engineering and other specialized fields of agriculture, land, meteorology and fisheries has been going up over the last five years.

But available statistics do not appear to wholly support this view. Over the last three years, there is a big difference between the number of candidates who sat the UCE and those who sat UACE the same year.

In 2017, close to 320,200 sat UCE compared to 100,066 who sat UACE; in 2016, there were 316,624 candidates who sat UCE compared to 102,858 (UACE candidates) and in 2015, the UCE candidates were 306,507 compared to 99,847 (UACE candidates).

Going by Muyingo and Nahamya’s view, the bulk of those who did not make it for UACE should have gone to technical schools.

Yet the Education Ministry’s report on the 2012/13—2021/22 “Skilling Uganda” strategic plan says there is relatively few school leavers and fewer adult drop outs accessing organized training especially in the close to 1000 private and public formal business, technical, vocational education and training (BTVET) institutions around the country. Over all, the current enrollment in these institutions is projected at slightly above 110,000.

The report noted that these institutions are currently taking in only about 1% of P7 leavers; 3% of O-Level and 7% of A-Level graduates.

During the release of the 2017 Uganda Community Polytechnic Certificate examination results on Jan. 30, Prof. Venansius Baryamureeba, the UBTEB board chairman, noted that the percentage of students doing BTVET courses had gone up by 9.7%.

Baryamureeba said the growth in students’ enrollment for BTVET courses points in the right direction for Uganda.

“A tree must be bent while it is young; you cannot teach an old dog new tricks,” Baryamureeba said.

Baryamureeba said that as a country, Uganda needs to aggressively market vocational education to primary leaving examination certificate holders so that they join these polytechnic institutions instead of waiting for recruitment for UCE or UACE.

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