An overwhelming number of pupils from private schools beat their counterparts in government-aided schools in the just concluded Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE).
Although the Universal Primary Education (UPE) cohort had more than twice the number of students registered in comparison to those in private schools, the latter received twice the number of pupils in the First Division.
Statistics from the Uganda National Examination Board (Uneb) show that out of the total number of candidates who sat for the exams, only 37,578 UPE candidates passed in Division One, representing 6.6 percent, while 77,039 representing 31.4 percent of candidates registered under private schools passed in the same division.
A total of 832,654 candidates registered for PLE in 2022 compared to 749,761 in 2020, according to the results released by Education Minister Janet Museveni at State House Nakasero, in Kampala, on Friday. Out of this, 583,768 (70.1 percent) were UPE beneficiaries and 248,982 (29.9 percent of the candidates were from private schools.
Uneb executive director Dan Odongo explained that most of the non-UPE schools are in urban centres and urban schools tend to spend more time on tasks, and the learners spend more time in school. He also said that teachers in urban schools tend to adopt teaching methods that emphasise the preparation of candidates for test taking.
“There is a higher level of involvement by the urban parents in their children’s learning process, and urban areas generally have better access to facilities that supplement classroom teaching, so these are reasons that I think explain why there is a better performance (being) shown by urban candidates against the UPE candidates, who are mainly in our rural areas,” he said.
Much as the enrollment has risen over the years from 1997 when UPE was introduced, the schools have continued to lag behind in performance.
Mr Christopher Kiwanuuka Kaweesa, the spokesperson of Proprietors of Private Education Institutions Association Uganda, attributed the better performance posted by private schools to the verbal performance contract signed with parents.
“Because of the investment we undertake willingly and by choice with passion, parents give us their children in trust that we have the capacity to help them progress academically. Even in terms of skills, on our part, we have to protect our investment whether it’s for profit or not. That’s why private schools perform better even in other fields such as music, dance and drama, football and other co-curricular activities,” said Mr Kaweesa.
Mr Filbert Baguma, the Uganda National Teachers Union secretary general, said: “Whereas private individuals are strictly monitoring their schools because they know that better performance gives them money, in government-aided and public schools, you find inspectors have no vehicles at the district to move to the schools hence the huge gap.”
Other scholars including Mr Patrick Kaboyo, the technical advisor of Education Advocacy Network, underscored the need for cost-sharing among UPE schools.
“You hear the political leadership saying there should be no payment in government schools but we need to have an honest discussion to table issues of cost sharing, quality of education and financing. Education has to be financed and funded both in terms of teacher training and readiness of learners,” Mr Kaboyo said.
President Museveni, while officiating the 37th NRM Liberation Day anniversary, declared war on government-aided schools charging parents extra fees, warning that government is to make a pronouncement over the matter soon.