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Thematic curriculum not failing

By Morris DC Komakech

It’s an opportunity to have pupils’ intellect judged not by scores in English alone but math and sciences also

A couple of MPs have been fuming that the thematic curriculum is responsible for poor performance of some pupils in the just concluded Primary Leaving Examination. They argued that the introduction of mother language at formative years in school, which is the centerpiece of the thematic curriculum introduced in 2006, makes it impossible for the pupils to score good grades in English. They blamed the thematic curriculum for this poor performance and yet, the problem lies elsewhere.

While these MPs are genuinely concerned as parents, they exhibited total lack of knowledge on how education success and scores are measured.

The basis for introducing mother language in lower grade school emerged from scientific evidence from many years of studies by scholars and UNESCO. Consistent evidence illustrated clearly that the overall quality of comprehension and articulation in scholarship are significantly enhanced when a child has mastery of mother language or the first language spoken at home.

The incoherence that we witness in Uganda is embedded in this assumption that mastery of the English language is a superior indicator of being educated or intelligent. This serves to illustrate how dominated and subjugated we are and how unconsciously we now accept this explanation that our intellect is defined by our ability to communicate in the English language. And yet, one of the most unfortunate things ever to happen in Uganda is that this colonial tool of dominance called English has not inspired any advance in any field relevant to human civilisation.

Take for example in my village of Dure. This year, pupils at Dure Primary School in Latanya sub-county of Pader district have posted tremendous improvement in their PLE results. Two students passed in first grade and 39 passed in second grade, 4 pupils passed in division three and 3 students passed in division 4 category. So far, this has been the biggest school grade achievement of this village school in its post-conflict recovery.

Dure Primary School is a rural community school which suffers from challenges akin to rural schools in Northern Uganda. However, this dismal and yet celebrated performance at Dure Primary school provides an evaluation opportunity for those with keen interest in the education of our children beyond English scores. The thematic curriculum has huge promises where the benchmark for our intellect is not judged by one’s scores in English but math and sciences alike.

Here in Dure, we have children who lack in every facility and are heavily disadvantaged in comparison to children in urban schools and in Western or Central Uganda generally. These children may be already heads of their families at tender age because their parents are either dead or immobilised by HIV/AIDS. Most of them live in squalor with grandmother or relatives who are impoverished with very little to eat.

Pader, like most post-conflict Northern Uganda communities endures alcoholism and HIV prevalence which have horrendously devastated homes and livelihood. Children study and compete with their counterparts elsewhere without preps or doing homework because they have no source of light to study after school.

So, the Universal Primary Education is an important asset and any incremental performance in these rural schools becomes a source of inspiration and hope for many guardians. Children here have little prospects of advancing past primary schools because Universal Secondary Education has become costly. Even the six (6) USE facilities are distantly spaced. Small additional costs, such as transportation, basic secondary school requirements and the roles that these children hold in their families, always become major impediments to advancing to secondary school education.

Therefore, these MPs must be taught that performance of the thematic curriculum is not measured only by scores in English grades in examination. There are many factors involved, for instance, how well has Ministry of Education invested in improving the quality of teaching workforce to meet this peculiar UPE challenges? Has the Ministry and UNEB considered revising PLE examination standard to reflect the current English instructional level for candidate classes?

Let’s give the thematic curriculum a chance to gain traction.

Morris Komakech is a visiting research student in Pader/Kitgum on Maternal-Child Health programs

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