As Mathew Bukenya, the executive secretary of the Uganda National Examinations Board announced results for the 2014 Primary Leaving Examination (PLE) he had both good and bad news for the candidates, parents, local leaders as well as policy makers.
First, Bukenya said the overall performance of candidates in 2014 was slightly better than that of 2013 with 88.1% of candidates who sat PLE passing. In concrete figures, 516,860 candidates passed their PLE in 2014 compared with 494,839 in 2013.
A total of 604,971 candidates from 11,904 centres (schools) registered for PLE last year and of this number, 471,914 (78.5%) were beneficiaries of the education for all or UPE programme. The rest (133,057) or 21.5% of the candidates were non-UPE.
Bukenya noted that a candidate is deemed to pass if they obtain divisions one (the best grade), two, three, or four. Such candidates, he said, qualify to register for any post primary examination conducted by UNEB. The candidates who passed in division one in 2014 were 10.4% compared to 9.4% the previous year.
In comparison to the 2013 performance, last year’s candidates performed best in the subject of Social Studies followed by Mathematics, Integrated Science. English was the worst performed subject last year.
“The reports from chief examiners indicated that generally, the quality of candidates’ work has improved compared to that of previous years. The candidates’ expression and handwriting showed improvement compared to the previous years,” Bukenya said.
As far as regional performance is concerned, still, candidates from urban-based schools outperformed their rural-based counterparts and just like last year, the best performing towns were Bushenyi with up to 47.3% of candidates registering division one, followed by Mbarara (46.2%); Rukungiri (43%), Kabale (41.3%), Fort Portal (38.3%) and Ntungamo (38.1%), all from western Uganda.
Lira Municipality in the North had up to 34.4% of its candidates passing in division one. Lira was followed by Entebbe (31%), Jinja (23.9%) and Masindi (16.3%).
On the flipside, as has been the case over the past couple of years, the districts with the worst failure rates came from eastern Uganda with Kween (37.3%); Bukwo (34.9%), Bulambuli (29.1%), Luuka (29%), Bugiri (26.9%), Iganga (25.4%), Buyende (24%), Mayuge (23.7%), Kapchorwa (23.6%) and Manafwa (22%). These are all from eastern Uganda.
Bukenya said results of 1344 candidates from 22 examination centres around the country were withheld due to suspected involvement in various forms of malpractice.
He said external assistance was noted to be the most common form of malpractice followed by others such as collusion, impersonation and substitution.
However, Bukenya noted that the candidates whose results have been withheld will be accorded a hearing by UNEB’s Examinations Security Committee as required by law and those who will be cleared will have their results released.
As she acknowledged receipt of the results, Jessica Alupo, the Minister of Education and Sports said the government is still committed to improving literacy levels all across the country.
She said the government has come up with a number of measures to further improve the quality of primary education including; the on-going early grade reading programme which will soon be scaled up to cover more than three quarters of the districts in the country.
She added that the monitoring and learning assessment programme which is being implemented by the Directorate of Education Standards has proved to be a good tool for measuring the progress of learners in the middle of the primary cycle. This too, she said, will be enhanced and scaled up to the entire country.
Alupo was particularly happy with the enrolment numbers that have relatively remained impressive since UPE was initiated by the government in 1997. She noted that since 2003 when the first UPE beneficiaries (406,000) sat their PLE, that number has since improved to 604,971 in 2014.
“This is not a mean achievement as it means that the number of candidates benefitting from the UPE programme has grown by almost a half since 2003,” she said.
However, the actual number of UPE candidates who actually sat for PLE reported by UNEB was 471,914.
Alupo reiterated the call to local leaders to put pressure on parents and guardians to send their children to school and also ensure they complete the education cycle at each level.
She was also not happy with pupils dropping out at the final hurdle and failing to sit for their examinations due to factors like elopement, early marriage and teenage pregnancy especially among the girl children.
But despite this, Alupo said, she was satisfied the country has “nearly achieved gender equality in access to basic formal education.” The difference between boys and girls who sat PLE last year is about 1,200 boys only which is much less than what it used to be previously.
“This is an indication that we have almost achieved gender equality at national level. However, more effort is still required in promoting girl-child education. In the 2014 PLE, still boys out performed girls,” Alupo said.
“We should do everything possible to uplift the girl-child because there will be no meaningful development when one section of our young population, the girls, who are very crucial, are left behind.”
The minister also noted that the government has embraced special needs education by supporting candidates with special needs during examinations and as such, the number of candidates with special needs who sit for PLE under special conditions is growing.
UNEB gives special consideration to these candidates to ensure they are not unduly disadvantaged as they sit for the examinations. Affirmative interventions by UNEB include printing examination papers in larger letters, allocation of extra time for them, special typewriters and dictation for the blind.
Alupo said the selection of students to join secondary school and other institutions will be conducted on Jan.29-30 at Kampala International University.
How to access your candidate’s results via SMS: Go to the message section, type PLE, leave a space, type the candidate’s full index number. Then send message to 6600.