What Informs the Basis of Uganda’s Education System?

I have been prompted to write about Uganda’s education system today because of the urgency which this particular sector holds for the development of the country.

In the draft report of the ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, to the sixth all stakeholders’ international conference on adult education hosted by the government of Brazil in Beleacutem from 1 to 4 December 2009, it was emphatically observed that: “Education has been identified as a key component of human capital quality that is essential for higher incomes and sustainable economic development.”

The same report applauds education as an important ingredient in poverty eradication. Also it underscores that the Poverty Eradication Action Plan, Uganda’s planning framework, recognizes the important role education plays in strengthening civil institutions, building a democratic society, empowering women and protecting the environment.

The report points out that Uganda’s education system is both formal and non-formal. It then shows how government efforts to meet the Education- for-All-Goals agreed on in 1990, in Jomtien, Thailand that it introduced Universal Primary Education (UPE) in 1997, of which as a consequence, the enrolment increased from 3.1 million in 1996 to 7.4m in 2002.

And since then, Universal Secondary Education (USE) has been introduced and we are waiting for another surprise from government as far as education is concerned.

Uganda has made long strides in the education sector, of which any critical mind would stop to pose a salient question: what is the principal philosophical theory that guides our education system? There are misconceptions about philosophy as a speculative science with no relevance to the practical and concrete human experience.

But we have to inform ourselves that there is no particular system which can exist or society which can aance without a philosophical outlook to guide its ideas, practices and norms. Philosophy is a comprehensive system of ideas about human nature and the nature of the reality in which we live.

It is a guide for living, because the issues it addresses are basic and all-encompassing, determining the course we take in life and how we treat other people. Hence we can say that all the aspects of human life are influenced and governed by certain philosophical considerations.

As a field of study philosophy is one of the oldest disciplines. It is considered as a mother of all the sciences and learning in general. In fact it is at the root of all knowledge.

All education theories and practices have drawn their material from different philosophical bases. Education, like philosophy is also closely related to human life.

Therefore, being an important life activity education is also greatly influenced by philosophy. Various fields of philosophy like moral philosophy, philosophy of religion, linguistic philosophy, political philosophy, social philosophy and economic philosophy have great influence on the various aspects of education like educational procedures, processes, policies, planning and its implementation, from both the theoretical and practical aspects.

When we consider Christian missionary education, it was clear in its objectives. The main aims of Christian missionary education were to Christianize and improve indigenous people’s life within the context of Western civilization through formal education.

The colonial era in Uganda, therefore, was marked by vigorous attempts by the missionaries to achieve in the field of education, a synthesis of Christian faith, moral and character formation, and intellectual learning of classical studies in literature, arithmetic, geography, history and practical education.

However, today, many high- ranking people in Uganda, both from politics and civil society, have criticised Uganda’s education and its products. If we take education in its traditional sense “as the process by which society deliberately transmits its accumulated knowledge, skills, beliefs, values and symbolic expressions from one generation to another, with all the criticisms, should we consider that there is a rupture between the education system and the society it serves?

In this instance, we could take the postmodern view of education as an example. This philosophical attitude has, as the basic aim of education to prepare the youth, to become practical and useful members of society.

Therefore, education has to equip the learners not only with ideals, knowledge, information, moral values, and attitudes but also with skills and competences that are espoused by the society and considered suitably worth having.

In societies with clearly defined philosophy of life based on the contemporary reality, the aim of education is to disseminate their philosophy. Schools are thus used as the milieu for popularizing and inculcating this philosophy among the young. A school curriculum is designed in such a way that it responds to a society’s or the country’s philosophical needs.

Societies without a well-defined philosophy of education end up having diverse and multiple philosophies and aims of education with subsequent complex, irrelevant, and wide-ranging curriculum. If we consider our Ugandan case, what is that singular philosophy of education on which our education system and school curriculum are built for the better development of our country?

The writer is Academic Prefect and senior lecturer in Philosophy and Theology at St Mbaaga’s Major Seminary, Ggaba.

Source : The Observer

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