Majority Students Missing Their First-Choice Course [opinion]

As the excitement of the recently-released A-level examination results dies down, it is time for these high school graduates to consider the next stage in their academic life.

Fifty-five per cent of the 116,000 students that sat for UACE examinations qualify to join university, having attained two principal passes or more.

About 4,000 students qualify for the elusive government scholarship in public universities. The best students nearly automatically get these bursaries.

However, even for these lucky students, it is not plain sailing. According to New Vision’s University Guide supplement, last year over 2,550 students applied for Law but only 67 got government sponsorship at Makerere University).

Nine hundred applied for medicine but only 80 got the sponsorship 468 applied for electrical engineering but a mere 36 were sponsored.

Gulu University admitted only 49 students for medicine on government sponsorship out of the 1,244 that had applied.

Mbarara’s science university is similar in terms of intake – only 40 got the scholarship but 481 had applied. Students applying for arts courses on sponsorship suffer the same fate.

At Mubs nearly 4,000 applied for Business Administration or Commerce but both courses took in a total of 100 students. It is interesting to note that sponsorship is available for Administrative and Secretarial Science, Guidance and Counselling and Business Studies. However, they are also very competitive and collectively took in 36 students on sponsorship from the total of 1,350 that applied.

What we need to be concerned about is that the majority of students in Uganda do not have an opportunity to take up their first-choice subject. So, a top student who may have aspired to study Law or Commerce may very well end up studying Procurement or Entrepreneurship and Small Business Management because they are also offered on government scholarship, having been edged out of their first-choice course.

Consequently, we must not complain that young graduates lack passion when they eventually get to work. Chances are that most are not where they would have wished to be. So, you may find one who excelled in veterinary medicine classes but ended up as an accountant or an MBA student now into poultry.

For some, the problem begins when choosing A-level subjects. If one is perceived as a clever student, they will end up in a science class automatically. On this one, parents and teachers are usually in agreement and rarely bother to consult with the student.

So, it is not surprising to find an A-level class filled with students who are there simply because they are clever or living out their parents’ dream of becoming a doctor or engineer. To improve on the quality of student intake, Makerere University has now copied Uganda Christian University’s policy of a pre-entry test for all applicants for the law degree. The national examinations board, Uneb, and the general public are dismayed.

Frank Nigel Othembi, CEO of the Law Development Centre, which also employs the same policy, is pleased by the results so far. According to him, failure rates at LDC have fallen from a high of 70% to 30% now. And he thinks it will get better. Traditionally, students of history and literature expected to take up Law. Right now any A-level course can do.

So, Makerere and UCU have little faith in Uneb’s assessment of a future lawyer and therefore require an entry test on top of A-level exams. On the other hand, LDC is also unsure of the law graduate and requires an entry test for its certificate course. What does all this say about our education system? It is important to note that law students are usually among the best in the country at A-level!

We should not despair totally. Makerere engineering students have put together and exhibited an electric car now being considered for commercial output. Elsewhere in the world, students’ ingenuity and productivity is at its best. Is it because one has greater choice about what to study in the developed world?

It is best to conclude with two wonder stories. The first is about Jerry, a computer server made out of jerrycans. It is a concept started by a French business school graduate about three years ago that has grown into a community activity. It is happening in West Africa now.

Basically, an old jerrycan is cut up and then old computer parts are put together to make a computer or server for many computers or for different computing services, including sending SMS.

Locally, a heart-warming story is about a young girl who presented herself at New Vision’s pioneering PAKASA series. She requires help with marketing skills in order to sell her products better. The products are frogs and mice that she would like to sell to science clubs in schools. She is in S4! Will she also need a pre-entry test for admission into university after her S6?

The writer is one of the founding Kigo thinkers.

Source : The Observer

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