I have written a number of articles expressing my views on what kind of education I would like Uganda as a country to have our children and grandchildren experience as they advance to adulthood and professional life, and what kind of products we should aspire for through education. Specifically, the articles were:

Uganda’s education, its leadership and its products – published in Ultimate News of May 25 2023

What education system should Uganda have – published by Watchdog of 3rd February 2022.

Uganda: Need for Education of new sciences for wholesome living – published by Watchdog of 2nd January 2023.

I also have an article in a book published in 2004 by the then Faculty of Social Science, Makerere University, under the title “Confronting Twenty-First Century Challenges: Analyses and Dedications by National and International Social Scientists and edited by Ruth Mukama and Murindwa-Rutanga. The title of my article is “Interdisciplinarity: The Sense and Nonsense of Academic Specialization”

In an effort to influence our education in a new direction I, together with two other scholars – Isaac Afunaduula and Mahir Balunywa – have recently written a document to help scholars in Uganda, Africa and elsewhere on the globe curriculum designers and education managers of higher education to appreciate the fact that the 21st Century is a century for new knowledge production and knowledge integration at our institutions of higher learning. The document is titled “The struggle for critical thinking, sustainability and future-ready professionals: An Unannotated Bibliography”. Professor Engineer Emeritus Robert Bakibinga, of Pennsylvania, USA, who encouraged us to prepare it is distributing it far and wide.

In view of the ideas enunciated in the above-mentioned articles and the background information to the unannotated bibliography, which is nothing but a reiteration of the need to take new knowledge production and knowledge integration for holistic knowledge and practice in the knowledge enterprise seriously, I want to critically think about and analyse Uganda’s recently designed secondary school curriculum.

My thesis statement is that Uganda’s new Secondary Curriculum Does not prepare young people for the 21st Century new knowledge production and future-ready professionals.

According to the curriculum designers

The new curriculum allows students to study only 12 subjects in Senior One and Two, with 11 of these being compulsory and one elective. The compulsory subjects are English, Mathematics, History, Geography, Physics, Biology, Chemistry, Physical Education, Religious Education, Entrepreneurship and Kiswahili.

The new curriculum will foster critical thinking skills, communication, cooperation and self-directing learning, mathematical computing and ICT proficiency.

Learners will appreciate the connection between subjects and the complexities of life such as environmental issues, health awareness and life skills.

The new curriculum seeks to ensure learners gain knowledge, understanding, skills, values and a positive attitude for the world of work.

A PDF paper of March 2020 by Prosper Muhanguzi, published on on 27 May 2020, assessed Uganda’s new Lower Secondary School Curriculum, in particular to establish the the value addition it brings to Uganda’s education system. He thought that the curriculum prepares the country to reap the benefits of a demographic dividend as espoused in Vision 2040. He also thought that it makes a case for a new curriculum as a window of opportunity as far as improving the education system is concerned, and saw it as a competency-based curriculum that will allow learners to acquire the knowledge and skills needed for success in the modern society and lay a firm foundation for being effective citizens in the world of work, self-employment and further education. As I show below, I am not as enthusiastic, and accordingly my thoughts about the curriculum differ from those of Prosper drastically.

According to the designers of the curriculum the value of the secondary school curriculum, if we are to go by the four statements above, is to be sought in the reduction of the number of subjects the students are to study (12 only), critical thinking skills, communication, cooperation, self-directing learning, ICT proficiency, appreciation of the connection between subjects studied and the complexities of life, and in gaining knowledge, understanding, skills, values and in a positive attitude to work. However, while it achieves making study issues based, it still retains subject-based focusing and strict separation between the subjects as of old, as if the aim is to feed into the strongly disciplinary university education in the country.  It does not convince how exactly critical thinking skills, which lacked emphasis in the old curriculum will be achieve in the subject and discipline focusing approach to education, which is still retained.

Communication and cooperation imply preparing children for teamwork and tolerance of the failures or successes of their colleagues and teachers, but where the education systems retains examination approach to assessing academic success, and still subordinates intellectual development to academic development, a critical thinker and critical analyst is not convinced without enhancing the intellectual capacity of students, communication and cooperation will be even more enhanced than in the past. How will understanding new understanding and skills be achieved by a strongly disciplinary curriculum, which highlights individualism, particularly individual success.

The failure of the secondary school curriculum to mention integration and an integrative and integrating approach to education still takes the country to the 20th century when education was highly compartmentalized as secondary school level to prepare students for the even more highly compartmentalized university education.

In the 21st century, true we need well developed critical thinking skills and critical analytical skills in our students at secondary school level, but we shall not get them using a curriculum that prepares for a strictly disciplinary university curriculum, which enslaves, de-democratizes and does not allow for meeting of minds, liberation (emancipation) and meaningful interaction and teamwork, and disconnects students and their teachers, lecturers and professors from the communities where they come from.  The best the curriculum can achieve in the long-term is to prepare students for an enslaving labour market. Once they leave school and do not enter University, they will bounce back in the community half-baked and good for nothing in a century that requires broadness of interconnected minds ever ready to learn even more outside the school system or university system.

To fit in a World Wide Web directed work world, students must indeed be far less individualistic than we were in the 20th century and ready to think and work outside boundaries between knowledges. However, this will not be possible if the secondary school curriculum is not integrative and integrating and, therefore, adequately not only issues-based and anti-subject based but also anti-disciplining of education. This is also true of university education, where academic specialization is still highly revered.

In my previous writing I have stressed the fact that we are miseducating and mis-training students for the 21st century and beyond. I want to restate in this article that we are doing disservice to the future generations of Ugandans in particular and humanity in general. We are not training them for a work market changed for teamwork by the new knowledge production strategies of interdisciplinarity, crossdisciplinarity, transdisciplinarity and nondisciplinarity. Already many Universities across the globe have embraced the new knowledge production, and are producing future-ready professionals for genuine interaction, communication and cooperation for sustainability.

Away from disciplinary professors, also called slow professors due to their resistance to new knowledge production, we now have professors of interdisciplinarity, crossdisciplinarity, transdisciplinarity and nondisciplinarity. Secondary schools have preadapted themselves to fit their students into integrated university curriculum by adopting an integrated secondary school curriculum.

Uganda stands to lose academically and intellectually if it continues to skirt the need to develop an integrated secondary school curriculum. Just playing around with words in a school curriculum, or sticking to a disciplinary university curriculum, is denying us a place in a more integrated world of knowledge, communication and practice. Our school and university education systems still remain firmly buried in the 20th Century of compartmentalization of knowledge into small pockets of knowledge with rigid walls to prevent intercommunication. There can be no meaningful communication and cooperation, let alone teamwork in the century of new knowledge production, communication and teamwork unlimited by academic tribes and academic territoriality.

One thing is true. If the status quo continues in our education system, we stand the unenviable situation of our school system and university system being the academic dinosaurs of the 21st century and beyond.

Dinosaurs were giant lizards that became extinct ostensibly because of change in climate caused by giant asteroid that fell in the Earth’s atmosphere, interfering with the Sun’s insolation, and reducing the hotness of the environment. They failed to adapt to the changed climate because they were cold-blooded. Our schools and universities are resisting change engendered by new knowledge production while others elsewhere have adapted to the change and opened up to it, if not fully, somehow.

No. There is need to rethink education altogether before it is too late.

For God and My Country.

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Written by Oweyegha Afunaduula (3)

I am a retired lecturer of zoological and environmental sciences at Makerere University. I love writing and sharing information.

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