In 2018 we began the process of evaluating approaches to assessment and reviewing the Lower Secondary Curriculum with the National Curriculum Development Centre in Uganda (NCDC). The revised Syllabi and Assessment Guidelines were agreed and adopted by the Minister of Education in January 2019 and we continue to support NCDC as they approach the review of further curriculum materials and policies.
The Lower Secondary Curriculum review in Uganda resulted in a new curriculum that is based on clear values and principles and which includes a set of subject syllabuses and also a set of ‘generic skills’ and some ‘cross-cutting issues’. There is a shift from Learning Outcomes that focus mainly on knowledge to those that focus on skills and deeper understanding.
The review focused on:
- producing a secondary school graduate who has the competences that are required in the 21st century;
- promoting values and attitudes;
- effective learning and acquisition of skills in order to reduce unemployment among school graduates.
The review also aimed at reducing the content overload and contact hours in the classroom so as to create time for research, project work; talent development and creativity; allowing for emerging fields of knowledge across all subjects and doing away with obsolete information. There was need to address the social and economic needs of the country like the mining sector, tourism, services provision, science and technology development and to ensure rigorous career guidance programme to expose learners to the related subjects. This will enable learners to make informed choices as they transit and to equip them with knowledge and skills that will enhance their competitiveness in the global value chain. Examples of the curriculum and revised syllabuses are presented below.
The curriculum emphasises understanding, application and behavioural change. It is based on a clear set of values which will be imparted to learners during the learning process. At the heart of every subject there are generic skills that allow development into life-long learners. Besides, there are also cross cutting issues that are embedded across subjects to enable learners understand the connections between the subjects and complexities of life.
The reformed, outcomes-based, curriculum requires a revised, skill -oriented approach to assessment that will support learning and reward achievement at all levels. This will be criterion-referenced to ensure that standards can be maintained year by year. The new approach to assessment will support the changed emphasis in the nature of learning and teaching under the new curriculum by:
• Assessing the learners’ understanding, not just their knowledge, of key concepts in each subject;
• Focusing on the learner’s ability to apply their knowledge in a range of situations;
• Enabling the learner to demonstrate a selection of relevant generic skills;
• Using a diversified range of assessment techniques like oral, written, performance, practical skills demonstrations;
• Encouraging the development of learners’ abilities to reflect on their own learning and carry out self-assessment.
Knowledge can be fairly easily assessed through written tests, but the assessment of skills and deeper understanding is more difficult and often requires different approaches. Because of this, the role of the teacher in assessment becomes much more important. The teacher’s role is not to write tests for learners, but to make professional judgements about learners’ learning in the course of the normal teaching and learning process.
The new curriculum is based around a set of five Generic Skills. The very nature of “Generic Skills” means that they apply across the subjects. They are not found in one subject only. In the very nature of skills, they have to be acquired and deployed in a context. The subjects provide these contexts. They can therefore be assessed within the context of what is being taught; for example, was the learner able to “plan and carry out an investigation” in Science or “Write and present coherently” in Social Studies. Because the Generic Skills have already been built into the subject syllabuses, there is no need to assess them separately. They are already covered by the subject “Learning Outcomes”. Teachers should be aware of the Generic Skills and should promote their development within the learning activities and look for contexts in which they are deployed. Examples of the Progression of Generic Skills in context are presented below.
To help teachers make assessments as part of their ongoing work to support learners make progress towards Learning Outcomes, we developed materials to illustrate formative assessment in “Examples of Learners Work”. These materials illustrate the way in which teachers should analyse work produced in order to make judgements about what further support learners may need. Some of the Exemplar Assessment Materials are presented below.
To further support teachers to implement new approaches to assessment, we developed examples of assessment materials which show teachers how to triangulate observations, observations and a critical analysis of products. Examples of Triangulation Exemplars are presented below.
For further information about curriculum review and assessment activities, please contact NCDC or our team here.