Database relationships not on syllabus and thus not examinable at UNEB: Why teach?

Many times I have seen several past papers, especially MOCK examinations with questions requiring candidates to create a database with more than one table and then create / establish a relationship between the tables. For example, check out Question 2 of this 2018 UNNASE Mock Past Paper CST 840/2. Several pamphlets and laboratory activity books on market also include these kinds of questions.

However, when you take a closer at the examinable concepts in Databases at O and A level as laid out in the NCDC syllabi, you will realize that database relationships are not included. Should we as ICT Teachers stop teaching about the relationships?

Database Relationships not on syllabus

Below, I reproduce the 2008 syllabus for O level Computer Studies 840 and the 2013 Subsidiary ICT syllabus S850, on the topic of databases:

O level Syllabus : Databases Topic Outline

GENERAL OBJECTIVE:             To enable the learner to understand and use data base development software.

10.1. Introduction to Databases To be able to: Define terms used in database designDescribe and use features of a database development softwareExplain the features of a databaseExplain the importance and limitations of a database Definition of terminologies   Features of a database development software   Features of a database   Importance of a database   Limitations of a database 6 Periods
10.2. Database Design a)To be able to demonstrate skills in designing and developing a database a. Class Register: Planning Compiling data Layout design Data entry Database manipulation (Forms, Queries & Reports) Printing& Saving options 15 Periods
Tasks for database design practice: Address book, School register, Medical register, Company staff profile 15 Periods

Additional Guidelines in preamble

-You should limit the design scope to a flat database file.

-You should make use of resource persons in database development and design.

Teaching and Learning Strategies: Teacher should guide learners to discover on their own; Learning should be through observations by learners; Teacher should demonstrate to the learners to achieve learning; Learners should engage in self study; Practical work and hands-on practice is a must for this topic. A resource person can be used in this topic to supplement the teacher’s input.

A level Syllabus: Databases Topic Outline

Learning Outcome

The learner should be able to create and query a simple database

Sub-Topic Competences Content Learning/ Teaching / Strategies
1. Introduction to Databases The learner: · defines a database. · identifies examples of Database Management Systems. · describes features of Database Management System interface. · creates a database. · saves a database. Meaning of a database · Examples of Database Management Systems · Features of Database Management System interface · Database Describing the concept of a database · Demonstrating the concept of a database
2. Database Objects The learner: · creates a table in a database. · modifies a table in a database. · creates forms in a database. · uses forms to insert records. · uses forms to modify records. · generates queries in a database. · creates  database reports. · modifies database reports. · prints database reports. Tables in database · Forms in Database Queries in database · Database reports · Printing a database deport Demonstrating the creation of a database table · Discussing the structure of the created database tables · Making a database project

Guidance to the Teacher

· You are advised to use the Ms Access or any other database management system that uses a GUI. No knowledge of sql commands is expected.

· Using demonstration, guide the learners to take note of the procedures of creating and saving a relational database.

· Group the learners or give them individual activities to enable them develop hands-on skills to create databases with appropriate relations, identify features of database development software and their uses.

· Demonstrate to the learners the process of adding fields, field names, and specifying data types for a database.

· Assess the learners’ correct use of database terms, create and query databases to form reports.

· Where possible, prepare a project activity for learners to keep adding on to their skills as they progress with the topic.

Suggested Competences for Assessment: · Assess the learners’ ability to create and query the database using a low end database management system.

Database relationships not Examinable

When you take a look at the various UNEB past papers for Computer Studies and Subsidiary ICT, you will realize it is only in 2014 when UNEB asked candidates to create two database tables, but still the candidates were not required to relate the two tables. (See UNEB 2014 CST Past Paper on Sharebility). The national examination body has been carefully following the syllabi during setting, and they have never required the candidates to create relationships during the final examinations.

‘UNEB will never set database relationships’

Recently, Mr. Lukyamuzi Ronald, the ITAU National Vice Chairperson, posed a question in one of the various ITAU WhatsApp groups which has a number of UNEB examiners and facilitators. His query was that he had failed to trace the database relationships in the syllabus booklets and was requesting for guidance whether he should include the lesson on relationships in his scheme. He said that other teachers in the department were insisting that the relationships should be taught.

One of the examiners on the group (name withheld) responded and said that actually that debate has ever occurred even at the UNEB marking center and the examiners resolved to stick to the syllabus and never to set relationships in the national examinations so long as current syllabus stands. Check screenshots below.

Screeshot of the WhatsApp group where it was revealed that UNEB will never set relationships again

Why Teach?

In my opinion, I think the concept of database relationships is very fundamental in a database environment – actually it is one of the main advantages of using a relational database over spreadsheets and flatfile databases.

Related: Manual vs Electronic Databases-Advantages, Disadvantages and Features.

In a relational database environment, you create ties or relationships among the tables. You first specify the primary key for each table. A primary key is a field in a table that uniquely describes each record. Then you create the logical relationship between two data files using a foreign key. A foreign key is a primary key of one table that also appears in another table. If relationaships are not practically taught and demonstrated to the learners, it is not easy to explain these fundamental concepts of databases.

Relationships  is one of those vital but out-of-scope concepts which we may briefly teach as extra information for our students just to help them appreciate the relevance of the topic at hand, but we should remember to focus more on the examinable concepts as laid out in the syllabus.

Dont Miss Tomorrows ICT Teachers Workshop for further discussion on this and alot more!

This is one of the topics which will be discussed during tomorrow’s Eastern Region rCDW at Busoga College Mwiri.

ICT Teachers at Busoga College Mwiri the host school, including Mr. Kakaire Charles the National Chairperson ITAU, setting up the lab ahead of our upcoming CDW which will be held in this lab.
ICT Teachers at Busoga College Mwiri the host school, including Mr. Kakaire Charles our National Chairperson ITAU, setting up the lab ahead of tomorrows rCDW which will be held in this lab. Lets go pay them a visit!

All members are invited to come and attend, we shall also discuss other issues pertaining the practical examinations, and also get an overview of what has been shared at the past workshops regarding programming, and digital pedagogy. We shall also have partners from School Master Solutions who will share about their school management solutions. Lots of free resources including tutorials, notes, software, past papers with marking guides, support files, etc will be given out to all participants.

A trip to Jinja for Kampala based members has also been arranged. For inquiries, you can call 0775356622/0750666887. See you there!

Article by Mukalele Rogers
National Coordinator 2018-2020