Head Teachers Embrace New Curriculum but Concerns Remain

Last week, head teachers of secondary schools from Kawempe division resolved to embrace the new curriculum for lower secondary school, due to be unveiled in 2017.

However, the head teachers, who gathered at Makerere College School on April 20, were concerned that the new curriculum would not render some of them jobless, among other concerns.

The meeting was called to brief the head teachers on the progress of the new curriculum, with the executive director of the Coalition of Private Schools Teachers’ Association (COUPSTA), Patrick Kaboyo, facilitating.

The new curriculum is designed to dispense with the traditional 42 subjects to make way for eight learning areas, aimed at tapping into students’ creative skills. The eight learning areas are Science, Mathematics, Creative Arts, Technology and Enterprise, Languages, Religious Education, Life Education and Social Studies.

There will be no literature, foreign history, and geography and only English and Kiswahili will be recognised as compulsory language subjects of instruction.

But during the April 20 meeting, the head teachers were concerned that with the reduction in the size of subjects, the new curriculum would see some teachers fired.

The teacher in charge of Career Guidance at Brilliant High School in Kawempe, Isaac Tamale, was concerned about the design of the learning areas.

“If you consider that History and Geography had separate teachers, we hear that the two have been merged into one area called social studies. Won’t this result in some teachers losing their jobs?” Tamale asked.

In response, Ismail Mulindwa, the assistant commissioner for Private Schools at the ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Sports,remarked that there would be no job losses in implementing the new curriculum.

“It was our major concern from the beginning, that there would be no loss of jobs when the new curriculum is implemented, so take it from me no one will be forced out of a job,” Mulindwa said.

MORE TEACHERS

Experts, who have seen the syllabus for the new curriculum, are concerned that more teachers will in fact be needed. Dr Anthony Mugagga is deputy principal at the college of Education and External Studies at Makerere University.

“I have seen the syllabus and I can tell you that in just one learning area we may need more teachers,” said Mugagga. “It is hard to find a teacher with several teaching competencies in the different thematic areas.”

With current shortages of teachers across the sector, Dr Mugagga believes that the new curriculum will present even tougher challenges.

Francis Xavier Kyasa, the head teacher of Midland High School in Kawempe, was concerned that if the government was determined to implement the curriculum in 2017 as promised, it was yet to started training teachers on the new programme.

Mulindwa indicated that universities and teachers’ colleges had been directed to start training students on the new curriculum. However, a check among universities and colleges that train teachers showed that none had started training any of their current students on the curriculum.

“I’m concerned that we are getting late. We should have started on the current students, before we start retooling those already teaching ahead of 2017,” said Dr Mugagga.

The principal at National Teachers’ College in Kabale, Benjamin Turyahikayo, also confirmed that the curriculum was yet to be taught to current student teachers.

“We had asked to share the curriculum so we can familiarise ourselves with it in time, but nothing has happened. I think we are running out of time,” Turyahikayo said.

He was particularly concerned that time was running out to train the current student teachers on the new curriculum.

“They are still learning the old curriculum and I think they should have adjusted by now,” he added.

CORE OF CURRICULUM

Kaboyo took the head teachers through the progress made since the idea of a new curriculum was first developed in 2007. He explained that the reforms were called after realising that the current curriculum is not producing students that the market needs.

“The new curriculum will be more learner-centred, meaning that teachers will do more to involve students in finding solutions to problems in their environment,” Kaboyo said.

All students will be required to do Mathematics, English, Kiswahili (and any foreign language), Life Education, Social Studies and Science, among others. Students will be encouraged to be more creative and develop new ideas.

“Schools will have to find more resources to engage in field work and visits outside the compound,” Kaboyo added. “School heads, whose students have never visited major landmarks, need to find a way out, or else they will be in trouble.”

The field work will involve growing crops, raising animals and some light manufacturing work. “Students will be required to spend an average of five hours in class, and the rest outside, doing field work,” Kaboyo continued, indicating that the old practice of holding classes from 7:30am to 5:30pm, will soon be phased out. Students will also be required to engage in projects, during their free time.

But the head teachers, who are yet to see a manual on the curriculum, are concerned about when scholastic materials for the curriculum would be developed.

“I think some of you teachers are authors and should study this curriculum more closely so that you develop the material needed,” Kaboyo added.

In her remarks, Hajjati Zaujja Ndifuna, of Mbogo High School, who is also chairperson of the association of Kawempe head teachers, said they were ready to embrace the new curriculum, but would need to start early.

“It is not too late to engage in the programme, that is why we need to start early,” she said. “By the time the curriculum is implemented, we ought to be ready.”

She also asked the government to start training teachers on the new curriculum in time, to avoid a crisis, when thousands of teachers turn up to be retooled on the new curriculum in 2017.

A-LEVEL CURRICULUM TO CHANGE

Meanwhile, there are plans to overhaul the A-level curriculum, to bring it in direct connection with the new O-level syllabus. Sources at the education ministry indicate that a proposal has been forwarded to the World Bank for a $124m loan to fund the curriculum overhaul. The overhaul is expected to be complete by 2021, when the first cohort of students studying under the new O-level curriculum, complete their senior four.

Source : The Observer

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