2019 UCE: Performance Improves, Boys Beat Girls

Last year, O'level candidature increased, and more girls than boys registered and sat the final exams.

Meanwhile, the rate of malpractice dropped, with the results of 1,262 candidates withheld - lower than the statistic of the previous year - pending a hearing.

KAMPALA - The education and sports minister, First Lady Janet Museveni, has been particularly critical of the reported practice by teachers of rushing through the syllabus, months before the scheduled end of the cycle, saying it is "a very wrong development".

She said compression of the syllabus deprives learners of adequate knowledge because many topics are skipped in the assumption that they are easy to grasp - which is not necessarily true.

"The entire curriculum is meant to develop learners," she said.

Mrs Museveni, who is also the First Lady, pointed this out in her speech moments before releasing the 2019 Uganda Certificate of Education (UCE) results to the public at the Office of the Prime Minister in Kampala.

The Results Carried Many Positives.

To begin with, overall performance, improved with 92.2% passing compared to 87.2% in 2018.

Also, failure rate "dropped significantly" from 12.8% to 7.8%.

Candidature increased by 2,285 - from 335,435 the previous year to 337,730 in 2019. This represents a 0.7% percentage increase.

We learnt that as many as 144,256 (42.7%) of the candidates were beneficiaries of the Universal Secondary Education (USE).

Another highlight was that for the first time, more girls than boys - 398 - registered and sat the final O'level exams.

Commenting on this, Mrs Museveni said she had been equally gratified by females' performance at the recent Makerere University graduation, which had 50.5% of graduands being female.

As Uganda educates more girls, "families will have better quality of life", she added.

UNEB and education ministry officials were glad to underline that there were no reports of exam leakage, and that despite the natural setbacks (bad weather) during the conduction of the October 14-November 16 exams, the release has been done on time.

In fact, last year's results have been released on the same date (January 31) as that of the 2018 results.

In her remarks, UNEB chairperson Mary Okwakol started off by talking integrity, and how it is everyone's responsibility to ensure that "our exams are secure".

The one month of the exams period saw UNEB receive support from various members of the public, some of whom reported suspected cases of malpractice.

Generally, the exams were done "smoothly" and were "free from leakage", said Okwakol.

She said the increased rate of candidature "demonstrates that each year, more of our learners are completing the UCE O'level cycle".

Although more girls than boys registered and sat the final exams, Okwakol talked of UNEB and stakeholders' concern about the "low achievement levels of girls at science subjects".

She said the national exams body will need to investigate the cause of this and address "this negative development" by coming up with solutions.

Girls beat boys in English Language.

But in other large entry subjects, the males registered better performance - with the discrepancy particularly evident in Maths and the sciences.

This time round, Biology, a subject done poorly in previous years, registered better performance.

The special needs and incarcerated candidates also did "quite well".

In his statement of release, UNEB executive secretary Dan Odongo revealed that Godwin Ndyamuhaki, a deaf candidate from St. Henry's College, Kitovu, is the best special needs finalist.

He scored an aggregate of 13 in the best eight subjects.

The best dyslexic candidate is Daniella Miracle Obura from Gayaza High School.

She scored an aggregate of 22.

Gabriel Awas from St. Francis School for the Blind in Soroti was the best in that special needs category. He got 29 (Division Two).

For the 49 inmates who registered to sit from the UNEB examination centre at Luzira Prisons, 48 sat.

Nine of these got Division Two, 14 were in Division Three, 23 in Division Four and two failed.

One trend is evident. Like
in previous years, the rate of absenteeism has continued to drop, said Odongo.

Biology, Geography, Agriculture, Chemistry and Arts improved.

In contrast, English, History and Commerce registered "significant drops".

At district level, the executive secretary pointed out that some districts performed so bad that they registered a failure rate of 35% - which is way above the national failure rate.

Many of these districts have had this pattern "for a long time".

In sciences, UNEB wants candidates to interpret data that they gather as well as apply basic scientific knowledge in their everyday life situations.

As mentioned earlier in this story, it was noted that teachers in some schools were made to fly through the syllabus, completing it by the end of Senior Three or at the beginning of Senior Four, with some topics lightly handled.

The push factor here, according to Odongo, is to create sufficient time for revision.

But the argument is that it is a decapitating strategy.

A deficency in language among learners was also observed, illustrated by the drop in performance in English Language.

Here, candidates were, among other things, tested for their ability to write reports - but many ended up writing letters or minutes instead, said Odongo.

Meanwhile, the measures put in place to curb exam malpractice did well to chop the number of withheld results from 1,825 the previous year to 1,262 in 2019.

Last year, the vice involved teachers providing assistance to candidates as they did the exams, as well as candidates colluding with or copying one another during the exam.

Majority of the cases were found to be from the sciences.

Odongo told the nation that of the 1,825 withheld results of 2018, as many as 1,086 were cancelled and the rest released.

The hearing of last year's Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE) withheld results starts Monday next week.

The Senior Five selection exercise will be on February 13 and 14.

'Huge Leap in Girls Enrolment'

First Lady Museveni said that the NRM government has continued to support education as a key driver in the development of the country.

Educating girls, she said, is particularly very significant in steering the nation forward. She added that Uganda has witnessed a "significant leap" in girls enrolment in recent years.

While at it, hurdles exist, by the minister's own admission.

She said her ministry will continue to tackle the sticking issues of unsafe school environments for girls, early marriage, among others.

But the boys are not to be sidelined.

"Ideally, we would like to see a 50 to 50 ratio of boys to girls coming up in school," she said, also rallying stakeholders to pull their own weight in seeing "that we leave no child behind".

Meanwhile, state minister for higher education John Chrysestom Muyingo thanked UNEB for managing to release the exam results on time despite the difficulties officials endured during the conduction of the exams - too much rainy, some areas being inaccessible, etc.

He was also delighted that there was no exam leakage.

Muyingo made a passionate appeal for students to consider joining technical and vocational institutions all over the country.

"That is my reminder," he said.

Heads of exam centres were told they can download soft copies of the results off the UNEB portal, without having to physically collect them from UNEB's Ntinda office.

But if you function the old way, make your way to their office for collection.

For individuals, the SMS option can also be explored to check your result:

Go to messages, Type UCE, leave a space ( ), type the full index number and send to 6600.

New Vision - 31st January 2020.

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