Poor Performance in Computer Studies: What Teachers Ought to Know

The week ending 3rd February 2019 has been dominated by the recently released UCE results by UNEB. The ICT Teachers’ whatsapp group became too busy with all kinds of analysis especially on the performance of Computer Studies that it overshadowed the discussion of creating regional committees for the association.

While there was jubilation from some circles, there was no cause for celebration since the performance was not convincing overall. From the list posted on schoolsuganda, traditional giant Gayaza High School emerged best with 15 distinctions out of 23 students. But the highest number of distinctions came from Seeta High School with 74. Kibuli Secondary School did well too with 62 students scoring distinctions.

Overall, out of the 28,749 students who sat the Computer Studies paper, there were only 170 D1s. Sadly, almost a quarter (23.7%) of the students who sat for the Computer Studies paper scored F9. This number should be worrying to any teacher and stakeholder in general.

What is to blame?

The success (or failure) of a student in any subject depends on many factors. According to the post on schoolsuganda, ill-equipped laboratories, unskilled teachers of ICT, little practice by students and low motivation of staff were  mentioned as the cause of these failure rates. While, I was trying to assess the impact of the factors mentioned above, I was particularly struck by the fact that the role of teachers was also pointed out.

How teachers are failing themselves

As a teacher, ask yourself how much you know about the subject? If you were to sit for a theory paper how much would you score? Truth be told, many teachers have very little knowledge of their subject. The theory part of computer studies suffers silently because even we the teachers have different and sometimes outdated information on the subject matter.

How often do you set your own papers? On the ITAU whatsapp groups, one of the most popular requests is that for exam papers. A teacher will stay silent on salient issues being discussed on the forum only to wake up and ask for an End of Term paper. The moment the paper is shared, s/he will follow his request with a reminder for the marking guide. The next time you will hear from them is when they need the next set of exams. This is a characteristic of an unprepared teacher who is expected by the school administration to prepare his candidates for the final paper. So, the question is, when do you assess your students on what you have covered?

Most teachers do not do research. Even those who try, a good number do not know how to research. You will find teachers asking for help on social media and have no clue how to differentiate between fact or fiction. The speed at which trends change is too fast compared to their willingness to move with the trends.

This is worsened by the poor grammar, spellings, logical and organizational skills exhibited by teachers during our chats on social media. I have seen teachers post questions without a question mark while many write lengthy opinions without the use of paragraphs and emphasis. You look at how disorganized a teacher’s notes are in Ms. Word and wonder whether they have seen a text book in their life.

The failure by teachers to engage themselves outside the classroom is an ignored factor. Typically, a teacher will wake up before sunrise to prepare for school only to retire after sunset. They will only change their duty station when going to another school to make ends meet. Holidays come with a lot of anticipation for the much needed rest leaving themselves with no mind to venture into ICT related excursions.

A group of ICT teachers with other industry enthusiasts at the Word Camp Kampala of 2018

Anyway forward?

Fortunately, the teachers of ICT in Uganda have come up and organized themselves into an association called the Uganda ICT Teachers Association. The association is currently led by a team of volunteers called the NEC and assisted by Regional Committees.

The association has a couple of whatsapp groups where a lot of brain storming is done and this is one way teachers are helping themselves get better. If you are a teacher of Computer Studies, this link was created purposely for you to join like minded people in your field.

I would encourage teachers to host and attend meetups that are related to ICT in order to learn from the experience of others. One such meetup I have attended is the Word Camp Kampala of 2018 where we were taken through the corridors of WordPress. The WordPress community in Uganda is currently organizing a meetup for Entebbe from 29th to 31st March, 2019 and this would be a good place for teachers to enhance their web development skills. Interested teachers can be part of this first such camp in Entebbe by following this link.

E-zone School of Computing has also hosted 2 meetups in January 2019 where 1 day camps in selected topics are discussed as a way of keeping teachers abreast with the trends in the subject. At these half day events, teachers are also encouraged to write articles on issues of their choice in relation to the subject . This is one way teachers are enhancing their skills and become more relevant for the good of the subject

Rogers Mukalele with a group of Web enthusiasts

In summary, better grades will only be achieved if all factors are given their due attention. Even when the best workforce, other factors like well facilitated computer labs, well stocked libraries and more time on the time table need to be worked upon.

Stephen Dumba
E-zone School of Computing
0772 111 223 / 0752 111 223