The research and evaluation department of National Curriculum Development Center (NCDC) has proposed that all Students at A level be given a chance to offer Subsidiary ICT. This proposal is part of the recommendations in a 164-page study report on assessment of the implementation of subsidiary mathematics and subsidiary information communication technology curricula at advanced level which was released in September 2018. Out of a population of 320, a sample of respondents from 192 A’ Level Secondary schools in 46 districts of Uganda participated in the research. Download Full report here: NCDC Sub ICT MTC Report Sept 2018 (159 downloads)
In 2011, the Government of Uganda through the Ministry of Education & Sports reorganized the delivery of the Advanced Level curriculum in secondary schools as guided by the Government White paper (1992). Beginning with 2012 academic year, all students admitted to Senior Five were required to offer, in addition to General Paper, the option of either Sub-Math or Sub-ICT as part of their subject combinations (MoES Circular No. 8, 2011). According to this circular, the criteria for choosing the subsidiary subjects were as follows:
- General paper to be compulsory to all candidates.
- All students offering Principal Mathematics would be required to take Sub-ICT.
- All those offering a combination that includes Economics but without principal Mathematics would take on Subsidiary Mathematics.
- All those offering science combinations without principal Mathematics would take on Subsidiary Mathematics.
- The rest of the students outside the above categories are free to choose between Sub-Math and Sub-ICT.
The ultimate goal of the designers of the above curriculum for advanced learners was to produce a well-grounded person who can use the integrated knowledge and skills to solve the daily problems. For one to be deemed to have passed Sub-Math and Sub-ICT, one should have scored between Distinction 1(D1) to Credit 6 (C6). Those who score from Pass 7 (P7) to Failure 9 (F9) are regarded to have failed. Nevertheless, the results from UACE exams in the past 5 years indicate that over 30% of the A level students fail SubICT and over 70% Sub-Math as shown in Table 1 below.
Table 1: Failure rate for Sub-ICT and Sub-Math in 2013-2017 UACE exams
Results in Table 1 indicate that in the last five years a high percentage of students failed Sub-ICT (over 30%) and Sub-Math (over 60%). This is the basis upon which this study sought to evaluate the implementation of Sub-ICT and the revised Sub-Math Curricula at A level in Uganda with the aim of proposing interventions to improve performance.
Despite the MoES’ Policy that re-organised the delivery of the A level Curriculum(MoES Circular No. 8, 2011), recruitment and posting of Mathematics teachers and orientation of Sub-ICT teachers, challenges of curriculum delivery still remain. The performance in Sub-Math and Sub-ICT has registered high failure rates (Sub-Math over 70%, Sub-ICT over 30%) according to UNEB results 2013-2017. An impromptu visit by the NCDC Research and Evaluation Department in 2016 in four randomly selected A level secondary schools found out that key textbooks of Sub-Math and Sub-ICT were lacking, schools had few computers of which a good number of them were not functioning. For Sub-ICT, most of the teachers were not trained to teach the subject; they were either Computer Science graduates or computer literate but trained to teach other subjects. Learners revealed that most of the teaching was done in class, and the assessment was by pen and paper. Therefore, the study sought to establish whether implementation related factors were responsible for students’ high failure rates in Sub-Math and Sub-ICT at Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education level (UACE exams) in Uganda.
Objectives of the Study
The study was guided by the following specific objectives:
- To assess the perceived relevance of Advanced level Sub-Math and Sub-ICT syllabi to learners.
- To establish the adequacy of teaching and learning resources being used in the implementation of the revised A level Sub-Math and Sub-ICT curricula.
- To assess the appropriateness of the methods and assessment used in teaching and learning of the revised A level Sub-Math and Sub-ICT curricula.
- To identify challenges in the implementation of the revised A level Sub-Math and Sub-ICT curricula.
Challenges in the implementation of Sub-ICT Curriculum
Head teachers, teachers and learners were asked to identify challenges they faced in the implementation of Sub-ICT. They identified the following challenges;
- Inadequate number of computers schools vs number students.
- Inadequate numer of qualified/trained ICT teachers in schools.
- Erratic/unstable power supply to run the computers.
- Unavailability of adequate ICT instructional materials/ textbooks.
- Insufficient funds to pay for ICT facilities, computers, salaries of teachers not on payroll.
- Frequent breakdown of computers and high costs of maintenance
- Negative attitude by students of SubICT due to one point awarded.
- Inability to access internet – expensive/lack of internet facilities.
- No/In adequate computer laboratories – Small/lack of a fully-fledged.
- Inadequate time for Sub-ICT – Time not enough for learners to practice.
- No technical people to repair computers
Also learners gave similar views like their teachers and head teachers. They lamented thus:‘we are given little time for practice, computers are not being repaired, computer laboratories were small, we lack equipment like printers, scanners, and projectors, attacks by viruses, some programs were missing in the computers, and to make matters worse some teachers were rude and lousy and finally the Sub-ICT paper is awarded only one point but requires a lot of effort’.
Head teachers, teachers and learners were required to give their views on how they were dealing with the challenges to support the implementation of the policy. Below are the study findings.
Ways of Dealing with Difficulties in Implementation of Sub-ICT
- Mobilizing parents’ contributions – for paying teachers’ salaries, purchasing textbooks/instructional materials, computers, installing solar panels, maintenance of machines and standby generator etc.
- Recruiting teachers locally (not on government payroll) on part-time basis and locally retooling staff.
- Grouping students – lessons conducted in shifts; 3 or 5 students per computer; registered for 2 practical papers.
- Lobbying for computers from donors and the ministry; borrowing standby generator
- Guidance and Counselling of students – implementing rules and regulations in place e.g. MoES and UNEB.
- Improvised ICT laboratories/building a wider laboratory.
- Organise extra time outside the normal timetable for teaching computer lessons.
- Emphasis on computer practical to expose learns to hands-on experience.
- Hire technicians to do regular computer maintenance and repairs.
- Accessing Internet externally, in a nearby town.
Teachers and their students were asked to assess the adequacy of textbooks for Sub-ICT.
Study findings show that the majority 74(80.4%) of the teachers indicated that textbooks for the subject were inadequate while only 18(19.6%) said were adequate. Likewise in most FGDs students said they did not have any textbooks for Sub-ICT, instead pamphlets were being used. This means that generally Sub-ICT textbooks are inadequate in many schools. Therefore Sub-ICT teachers are likely to find it hard while teaching the learners without reference books for teachers and students. This as a result may slow/obstruct learners from acquiring all the necessary skills and develop competences in relation to the designed curriculum.
Concerning textbooks, both teachers and students gave long lists of pamphlets they were using. The teachers gave a list of seventeen (17) and the students twenty two (22). The most commonly mentioned by teachers were; Introduction to Computer Studies, A level subsidiary ICT by E. K. Isiko, ICT essentials and Computer Studies by Ritah Nyanzi as stated by 20.0%, 16.9%, 10.6% and 9.4% of the teachers respectively. Those mentioned by students included pamphlets by Nsamba Gonzaga, Simplified Approach to UACE SubICT by Mugoya, MK Computer for Olevel, and Essentials of ICT. Therefore Sub-ICT teachers and learners had relied on pamphlets as the main reference books. This as a result may obstruct learners from acquiring all the necessary skills and developing competences in relation to the designed curriculum.
Though there were a variety of pamphlets/textbooks, only 57.5% of the teachers had pamphlets/textbooks as reference materials. Study findings showed that the majority (80.4%) of the teachers indicated that textbooks for the subject were inadequate. One respondent said that “there are no textbooks for Sub-ICT in the libraries, and whoever is responsible is very reluctant to purchase some/more as they cite no money in the budget simply because it is looked at as a mere subsidiary subject”. Yet textbooks are important as Mutai (2006) asserted that learning is strengthened when there are enough reference materials such as textbooks, teaching aids etc. Therefore this gross inadequacy or lack of ICT instructional materials experienced in A level schools is a limitation to effective learning of Sub-ICT.
The researchers observed that in the Sub-ICT syllabus document, no appropriate textbooks were recommended for study of Sub-ICT. Hence schools which would wish to purchase are not guided. It is six years now since Sub-ICT was introduced in schools. NCDC and MoES should develop instructional materials aligned to Sub-ICT syllabus which should include print and/or non-print materials e.g. instructional films, laboratory manuals, learning modules, problem sets, study guides, teacher developed materials, textbooks and workbooks (Ruthven & Hennessy, 2002).
Students were required to comment on the competence and availability of Sub-ICT teachers. To a large extent, FDGs said that their teachers were knowledgeable, inspirational and motivational while very few claimed that their teachers were not available for them. In agreement Pratt (1994) observed that the teacher is the greatest factor in the success of any education system because a teacher is the driver of curriculum implementation; a teacher interprets the curriculum, makes schemes of work, prepares lessons plans, organises teaching and learning resources, teaches, motivates and assesses learners, and keeps records. Much as a sizeable number of Sub-ICT teachers were not trained, the learners applauded them to be competent and knowledgeable which implies that the teachers are able to facilitate their students to acquire the requisite skills as stipulated in the curriculum. On availability of Sub-ICT teachers for consultation by students outside class time, 85 FGDs (75.9%) agreed that their Sub-ICT teachers were available for consultation while 27 (24.1%) said they were not. The researchers deduced that this could be due to the fact that some of these teachers were part timers. One Focus Group member said “The assistance we get from our Sub-ICT teachers during consultations includes further explanations on what we had not understood in class, question interpretation and past paper revision”. This means that Sub-ICT teachers enable and allow students to consult them which imply that the teachers are able to facilitate their students to acquire all the necessary skills and develop competences in relation to the curriculum. In confirmation, Pratt (1994) emphasizing the central role of a teacher stated that “a good teacher will transcend a mediocre curriculum while a mediocre teacher will undermine the best designed curriculum”.
Results of this study showed that Sub-ICT teachers when requested to evaluate their abilities in some given teaching tasks. 35.5%, 32.8%, 36.8%, 44.9% and 46.1% of them said they were not good at actively involving learners in the teaching and learning process; interpreting the syllabus; assessing learners’ achievements; making schemes of work and making lesson plans respectively. The Sub-ICT teachers who mentioned that they were good at each of these skills ranged from 53.7% to 64.3% meaning many of them had problems handling those tasks to acceptable levels. This means that Sub-ICT teachers are likely not to follow the Sub-ICT syllabus as desired thus learners are likely to fail in acquiring all the necessary skills and develop competences in relation to the designed curriculum.
The study showed a significant minority (29.0%) Sub-ICT teacher were not professional teachers yet Birgen (2005) recommends that due to teachers’ central role in education, adequate qualified teachers should be recruited. Birgen asserted that experience and qualification are the best assets for handling a task. In agreement with the findings, one respondent said that “the primary cause of ineffective teaching is a fact that our teachers have not been prepared to teach.” This means that those unprofessional and inexperienced Sub-ICT teachers are likely not to follow the Sub-ICT syllabus as desired thus learners are likely not to acquire all the necessary skills and develop competences in curriculum.
In terms of numbers, only 70.3% of the schools had achieved the recommended ratio of 1 Sub-ICT teacher to 40 students as per the Ministry of Education and Sports Policy. These teachers, however, also teach O level classes meaning teacher student ratio was high. This means that the teaching and learning process is compromised; there are big numbers under one Sub-ICT teacher. This affects efficiency levels implying that Sub-ICT learners may not acquire all the necessary skills and develop competences in relation to the designed curriculum. The study notes that one main reason of inadequacy of time for Sub-ICT as experienced by teachers and students in most schools was due to non-adherence to the recommended 6 periods a week. Likewise some respondents’ during the focus group discussions stated that “much time for learning was being lost due to teacher absenteeism, poor organisational abilities of the teachers, inadequate facilities and equipment and large number of students in class”
Other comments from the Experts
The two experts raised very important concerns about the Sub-Math/Sub-ICT policy implementation and made proposals for policy/curriculum review and rewards for the consumer. The first concern was that the policy is discriminative in the way it segregates the target learners and is oblivious of the learners’ background, their needs and interests.
They observed that:
The syllabus assumes that all students at this level are all being introduced to computer studies for the first time which is not the case. Some students at this level have higher skills in ICT than what is offered in the syllabus. Therefore some students who must offer this subject may not add any value to their ICT skills within the 2 years.
One respondent added that the ICT syllabus was being used for only a specific group of students who don’t offer Sub-Math. Another Head teacher commented that:
It is ironic that the policy on one hand is forcing some students who already have ICT skills to repeat to learn the same content they already had competences in. On the other hand the policy is locking out a group of students who may not have any ICT skills because they offer sciences or Economics and therefore must offer Sub-Math hence cannot offer Sub-ICT.
This means that A level ICT syllabus does not consider and incorporate the needs of all learners in the country which results into a waste of time and resources in teaching and learning of skills already possessed by learners which implies that for such students the curriculum is inappropriate in relations to learners’ competence acquisition. Such findings seem to concur with Unwin (2009) who opined that lack of impact may also be due to the initial focus of the ICT program primarily on getting schools connected and giving students and teachers ICTskills, rather than on using ICT to enhance their wider learning experiences. On the other hand the researchers sought for information in regards to the perception of the stakeholders on the subject for effective implementation.
One head teacher stated
“This is a subsidiary subject with 2 papers and 6 periods a week unlike General Paper. Sub-ICT is like a principal subject. It requires a sizeable number of resources to have it implemented. Some schools (mainly private schools) may not see it economically viable to invest in this subject just for ONE POINT. Maybe a sensible condition needs to be attached to encourage students and schools to offer this subject with all the care and attention it deserves.”
This means that a number of school proprietors, administrators and teachers seem to question the relevance and value of the ICT curriculum in relation to the amount of resources in terms of time, finances, infrastructure, manpower etc. required to implement it. Due to low motivation levels of teachers, school owners and other stakeholders, ICT has been awarded less time on school timetables and less consideration on school budgets resulting in poor implementation in schools. Such findings concur with views held by Ndidde et al., (2009) who noted that sometimes school leaders and Boards of Governors have a negative attitude towards computers and Internet and hence do not prioritise access and connectivity.
In the light of the summary findings, the content of Sub-ICT syllabus was found to be very relevant and appropriate; the expert analysts and 86% of the teachers rated all the topics of Sub-ICT relevant. Students too affirmed useful ICT skills they had acquired. Therefore, if well implemented, the objectives of Sub-ICT will be achieved, including learners’ acquisition of competences in the subject.
Majority of schools experienced gross inadequacy of computer laboratories, computers and related equipment, and unstable power supply, while in some schools, resources were unavailable and most of the Sub-ICT teachers were not on government payroll. In most schools (81.1%) time allocated for teaching and learning implementation of SubICT was adequate. Majority of the teachers teaching Sub-ICT curriculum were never oriented on teaching the new curriculum. Methods used for teaching students in Sub-ICT were found to be appropriate. However, they were limited by inadequate resources and the large number of students. The implementation of Sub-ICT was introduced abruptly; the schools did not have time to prepare hence inadequate resources as a major change.
- The syllabus of Sub-ICT should be revised to update the content and reorder the topics.
- The content should be split into compulsory and elective parts. The compulsory part should span over five (5) terms and the last term for the elective part. The compulsory part should comprise a number of topics and essential elements of elective modules. The elective part should provide an opportunity for students to do an in-depth study in a specialised area of ICT. The modules in this part should be: Software Development; Data Communications and Networking; Multimedia and Web Development; and E-Commerce.
- Consider the reward of 1 point and the pass mark to reflect the effort the learners put in. Since Sub-ICT is a practical subject, paper two, the practical paper marks across the levels of learning, should be redistributed as follows; Knowledge 10%, Comprehension 25%, Application 50% and Analysis 15%. The curriculum policy reforms in the delivery of post O level Secondary Education 2011 should be reviewed to give opportunity to all A level students to offer Sub-ICT.
- Government should be responsible for construction of the computer laboratories, provision of computers and ICT equipment to rural schools. School administrators should ensure students’ effective utilization of computer laboratories.NCDC should develop the Sub-ICT textbooks and other materials. Ministry of Education and Sports should provide the Sub-ICT syllabuses and appropriate textbooks. NCDC should organise orientation/refresher workshops for Sub-ICT teachers in the following areas: Programming Languages, Database Management, Data Communication and Computer Networking, Website Designing, Desktop Publishing/Electronic Publisher and methodology and assessment. Ministry of Education and Sports should recruit and post more trained ICT teachers. Universities and National Teachers’ Colleges should introduce courses of training professional Sub-ICT teachers. Directorate of Education Standards (DES) needs to monitor the teaching of ICT in schools.
- It is important that Government endeavours to pay salaries to all Sub-ICT teachers to ensure effective implementation.
- Efforts should be made to have Sub-ICT as a subject for all A level students. Therefore both syllabuses of Sub-Math and Sub-ICT should be revisited to take care of stating competences appropriately, putting emphasis on affective learning, and modifying or removing some content. More important is revision of structure of the examination format /awards for the students. The policy should be optional and not discriminative to any student who may so desire to study Sub-ICT.
Download Full report here: NCDC Sub ICT MTC Report Sept 2018 (159 downloads)