ICT Teachers React to UNEB programming question in UCE Computer Studies 2018

Last year, UNEB set a precedent by setting a question requiring algorithm design (using pseudo code or flow charts)in UCE Computer Studies. Now after the recent UCE computer studies examination results which were recently released with the rest of the UCE results showed general poor performance in computer studies, we have also received reports from some teachers who went for UNEB marking (but have prefered anonymity) that in the entire county Uganda, not even a single student managed to pass the programming question as was required in the marking guide (download draft guide on sharebility).

This has raised alot of brainstroming within the ITAU whatsapp groups and below we share some of the reactions. (NB Teachers’ identity has been concealed for privacy purposes).

Screenshot of Whatsapp group where the discussion started. Uganda ICT Teachers have a growing network of several general, regional and subregional Whatsapp Groups. If you are an ICT Teacher and havent joined one, JOIN through this link.

TEACHER X: I am reliability informed that not a single candidate, among the few who attempted the programming number in the whole country Uganda, passed it. As teachers  we need to master the topic first in order to be able to teach it to our students effectively.

TEACHER Y: Programming will always be failed because of: 1. Time allocation. 2. Algorithm, pseudo code, flowchart, coding are a bit advanced concept that a scope need be defined. In this case, nature of problem to be introduced. 3. One programming language need be used, so teachers can resource from each other. 4. There is also a habit of setters to intimidate teachers and students with questions. It won’t be uncommon to find another question with looping and function definition.

TEACHER Z: I can understand. I see a scenario of teachers trying to outwit each other.

TEACHER AA: In my village, if they send a young man to go catch a cock,  you are advised to pick some g-nuts and line then towards a room where the cock will end up while eating, there you just harvest it with little sweat.  I think UNEB needs this approach in setting Elementary programming questions.

TEACHER X: Surely we should not blame UNEB for setting….  Its us the teachers who have not done enough in this area of programming. Since 2008 when the topic was included in the NCDC curriculum, most of the teachers have just been ignoring it. I also dont think the concepts are too advanced for the learners.  How come in many other countries,  including in our neighborhood in Kenya, even more advanced programming concepts have over the years been taught to the same and even lower age group of students and they are doing better than us. Last year was the first time UNEB set about pseudo code / flowcharts,  I believe this will be an eye opener to all of us who have been ignoring these concepts.

TEACHER BB: I agree with you Teacher X.

TEACHER CC: Seconded

TEACHER Y: Look at Teacher AA’s argument. He puts it well. If you have a staff almost 95% that cannot comprehend a simple code, then you want learners to answer questions that have branching concepts, to me it’s absolutely ridiculous. For those of you who taught since early 2000s, you will agree with me that practical paper used to be very simple. In excel, just SUM and AVERAGE functions could be seen. I even remember one excel number that involved only typing, but no use of functions. Nothing like calculated queries, form or report could be seen. Nothing like wildcard characters. But now they do. Teachers have gained experience. Am also convinced that teachers have the capacity to learn, but adamant! They still look at section C that gives options of doable numbers. Perhaps, if an imposition is mounted in section B,  to write a code even at 5 marks score. Also to the setters, a piece meal approach is required. If Teacher X, the report you have given to us, that non of the candidates who attempted programming number could pass it, then don’t think those of this year will. I even don’t think those of 2015 passed. Unless if the setter taught his first,  then forwarded the question, which is evil habit!! Then, teaching two languages side by side, is like teaching two subjects. If in one department, one member know C, the other VB, who should adjust? Even I discourage questions that say, using any available software do this! Does any examining body in Africa have the capacity to free examinee to use software of their choice? That would be a miracle!

TEACHER DD: Still i disagree with teaching programming in secondary its to complicated n requires time

TEACHER EE: True that, it instead discourage learners and they take ICT to be a very hard subject

TEACHER DD: Yah some one shud find programming in case he or she decides to take a course in university .. Its nice n interesting coz u no ure majoring in dat only not learning programming then u go for physics n CRE

TEACHER EE: True

TEACHER FF: The issue is syllabus coverage you will have programing coverage done too. So when do u cover the oleve syllabus if by s3 its done then you can have time to so programming

TEACHER GG: (in response to DD) This can only be understood by students practically while they see where their code is gonna work. I have seen my students in senior two programming robots in arduino which i myself failed to give time. They upload the code to the arduino board and observe the result. Its fun but you cant teach programming in isolation of the hardware and think they will understand

TEACHER DD: Yah though but imagine teaching programming language to a std in katakwi who only accesses a computer once or twice a week …. Will the std grasp oba ….

TEACHER Y: Teaching programming is  very essential. The argument here is just about the skilled trainers,  but not the ability of the students to learn. It’s even too late!! Programming can be taught effectively without  the use of computer, using “Dry Running ” of computer codes. My only opposition is to start setting questions that are challenging, even to teachers, yet there so many other simple concepts that could have been learnt. If we were to teach one language, there so many concepts that could be emphasized, including the syntactic usage of functions and the expected output. Also each language breaks down information differently, so you will find hard to ask students in a national exam to give a difference btn printf and scanf or float and int coz some may have learnt a different language. Yet, if you don’t examine such kind of details, forget abt anyone learning programming. The other alternative is to teach only algorithm, pseudo code and flowchart. But this will still limit someone from ever becoming a programmer.

TEACHER HH: Members, the new syllabus proposed to start next year s.1 will have no programming. If these fellows can understand spreadsheet, web design, DB, then the concept of programming is well there. As they advance to A level, we get into Apps and real programming in a principal subject.

TEACHER X: (in response to Teacher HH) Wow. Thanks for the hint

TEACHER II: I like these arguments. Truth be told, programming is challenging and needs commitment to understand and put to practice. Imagine a teacher who did business studies with Education and now has  specialized in teaching ICT OR computer studies, when did he learn programming really?? Am sure such teachers find it hard to teach programming to students, whereas others enjoy the work coz they are a specialist in the field.

TEACHER Z: I am convinced. Well said bro.

TEACHER II: But I have this to say, even syllabus allows the use of a resource person. Please, hire a resource person through your school administration to handle basic programming, you can program such lessons at appropriate times and utilise the resource persons. You will find yourself learning too. learning is interest

TEACHER JJ: I am available to resource programming. Inbox me for details.

TEACHER II: So please, don’t hang yourself and start blaming UNEB for setting basic programming.

Change the attitude and resource, or go for retooling.

TEACHER Y: Elementary programming is within the range of all teachers from all backgrounds. Arts and Science. One doesn’t need to be a guru to teach elementary programming. One still doesn’t need to have been taught in the college or university. As you know things in computer are to learn new things daily.

TEACHER Z: I now see why the executive should ensure that all of us learn the basics of programming.

TEACHER KK: Hahaha….. I even don’t support here a student to use choice of software

TEACHER II: (In response to Y) But we at least agree that one who didn’t undertake it from the start probably finds it harder. And I don’t in anyway refute the fact that all concepts are learnable given interest and commitment

TEACHER LL: We have to blame the two parties, I blame UNEB for the setting, if you are to look at the steps programming, the question was extracted from step 2 not from the first level, Again to the side of teachers, we are really discouraging learners from attempting such questions or we are not teaching, Then to the whole country, it’s a big shame, because these questions were set by teachers whose learners also sat for the paper, how come that in whole country the question was not passed? It means even the examiner who set, never taught His/Her learners well, So UNEB needs to revise it’s setting mechanisms and let teachers truly teach all the topics thoroughly.

TEACHER II: (In response to LL) Good submission my brother. There is need for retooling especially in the areas of programming. Trust me, most teachers just give the notes to the students and then disappear

TEACHER LL: (In response to II)You are welcome

TEACHER KK: But my case of discouraging learners it’s not I instead as usual I teach both VB & C+++ and what learners usually tell me is, things here are complicated we can’t do it at UNEB.

TEACHER MM: From the issues  concerning programming  raised by many of us,  let it come to the board of itau we pay some money for some refresher  program s. Thanks

TEACHER X: (In response to LL) Final Examinations are set with the entire syllabus in mind.  So members who are saying that UNEB will have started with the simple questions I dont buy that urgument.  Remember the current syllabus was released in 2008 and UNEB gave a reminder in 2015 to the teacher to teach and expect questions from all the topics.  So why do we want UNEB to sent from only step one…. So long as a question is within the scope of the syllabus, UNEB has a right to set from anywhere between A and Z. On the issue of teachers not knowing the topic…  Members teachers ideally are not taught everything at universities and training colleges,  but are expected to be able to interprete the syllabus and prepare them selves to deliver. Originally most teacher training colleges and universities were not offering computer as a teaching subject option. I remember it was Busitema University which introduced the computer subject option in its educ programs in 2007… and I was part of the pioneers there….. and yes, we had some course units on structured and object oriented programming as part of the bachelor of science education programs.  Gradually,  many other universities have introduced computer and now even Makerere has it as an option in its education program. There have also been initiatives for retooling workshops by government aimed at empowering the rest of the teachers who joined the subject but when they were originally not trained in computer studies or never undertook any IT related program . If other countries are teaching programming as early as primary,  why do we want to let our country down by ignoring the topic,  well knowing that most innovations and even the richest people in the world became because of programming? Till when shall we say that our teachers are from an arts background and so we shall not teach this and that?  So should we also continue ignoring teaching web design because ourselves we were not taught at university? Lets stop the excuses and build our capacity to deliver the entire syllabus and make our students ready to sit for questions from anywhere on the syllabus!

TEACHER NN: Good morning members. I suggest that we organise ourselves here and help one another in elementary programming. One thing I am certain is that this topic contributes 4 – 5 marks in QN. 26, and one of the 5 topics suggested for Section C. Where you have no control, do not blame anyone. Do the right thing. When the students fail, our bosses do not blame UNEB but the teacher. We have the resources here we need.

More views on status of teaching programming at Olevel

During last year’s ICT Teachers Capacity Development workshop, teachers pointed out the challenges they face when it comes to teaching programming.

Listen to what they said in the following video.

Teaching Notes and References / Resources on Programming

To make a contribution to the cause of solving the problem highlighted in this post, I am resharing the resources below so that the members can make use of them to learn more.

  1. Programming Handout with notes and past paper questions: S4 Topic 11 Elementary Programming Notes Handout with Past Paper Qns and Answers (72 downloads)
  2. Computer Studies Notes, Past Papers by Mwangaza Secondary School Kenya: http://mwangazasecondary.sc.ke/content.php?pid=54 (Check out the Elementary Programming under Form 3)
  3. PSEUDOCODE STANDARD by California Polytechnic State University http://users.csc.calpoly.edu/~jdalbey/SWE/pdl_std.html
  4. BBC Algorithm Designs: https://www.bbc.com/bitesize/guides/z3bq7ty/revision/3
  5. Programming Basics by Vidyapeeth University India: http://www.tmv.edu.in/pdf/distance_education/bca%20books/bca%20ii%20sem/bca-222%20%27c%27%20%27programming.pdf
  6.  Pseudocode and Flowcharts notes by RICE University: http://www.owlnet.rice.edu/~ceng303/manuals/fortran/FOR3_3.html
  7. VIDEO: Concepts of Algorithm, Flow Chart & C Programming by Garden City University https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DF2XAc07eI0
  8. Computer Studies Notes section on Elimu Library Kenya: https://elimulibrary.com/site/category/5/secondary-notes/15/computer-studies
  9. C Programming Foundation Level Notes: https://www.ictteachersug.net/cmdownloads/1102-c-programming-foundation-level-pdf/
  10. Visual Basic Tutorials at VBTUTOR.NET (These tutorials cover both the legacy Visual Basic 6 and the newer Visual Basic.NET programming language plus Excel VBA )

Feel free to download and also to share other resources you may be having by uploading them to the resources section of this website or by leaving links to other resourceful sites in the comment section at the bottom of this page.