Coronavirus has changed the way things work. Leaders must embrace the needs of the new times and implement innovative solutions that meet the emerging needs of the clientele. As the government pushes for the online learning delivery, as well as partial schools opening, UNEB has the challenge to provide leadership by leveraging on digital to win.
One of the challenges of homeschooling is the inability to track progress and test the candidates to enable progression to the next class or level. The absence of a formal learning structure and termly tests is affecting the full realization of the benefits of self-paced learning.
Thus far, home learning has been a great development. And indeed, this #COVID-19 induced lockdown has demonstrated that the future of education is a hybrid of practical hands-on training to the children at home – where they are involved in house choirs, learning of their mother tongues, and deeper relationships with parents and siblings.
Each day one realizes that much as it may be relieving to have children at schools in boarding, board school does not impart some skills which are critical for the life exam. You have children who cannot greet people well. Cannot make a snack for the family, let alone a complete meal. They are selfish and recluse. Lack of attention to details even concerning personal hygiene. Some children tend to think that cooking and general cleaning of public spaces like compound is work for the maid alone since at the boarding school someone makes the meals. The children are argumentative even in the face of facts to the contrary and most worrisome the children always find ways to avoid taking responsibility. Such developments are not good.
Much as schools have matrons and teachers, I think many children play low, and miss mentorship and key lessons. You realize children are not taking proactive decisions and planning. This is where home learning comes in handy. The mother is around to guide on how to run a family and home management. The house help is there to show how to keep one’s personal space neat like the bedroom, toilets, and the kitchen. And the father is there to provide insights on how to survive in life and personal discipline. This on-going interaction at any contact point is essential for the good upbringing of children. Once in a while, the children are sent to fetch water and they get to learn how challenging it is. They are then able to use water cautiously. Going to the family garden or the market to see how farming, trade, and commerce is conducted is a great eye-opener.
The recommended way forward:
- The government must fast track the Education Digital Transformation Agenda, where the Ministry of Education works with all stakeholders to identify the building blocks for hybrid learning and self-paced studies. Physical and virtual classrooms should be optional.
- A secure National Examinations Portal, operated by the Uganda National Examinations Board (UNEB) the national body responsible for setting national examinations, must be established and made accessible to all subscribing schools and or individuals (in case they prefer self-paced learning). Anyone should be allowed to pay and attempt the exam at any level of their choice, regardless of age. The focus should be outcome-based learning NOT input-based learning. That way, some children shall not be constrained to slow down in their careers due to age. Some people did not perform well in exams and would love the opportunity to re-attempt the exams, online examinations would help such people a lot while earning UNEB more money. The online examinations platform shall make the on-going costs of exam management cheaper.
- No country can lead if they only do things which other countries have already done. I hope our copy and paste technocrats do not read these proposals and start asking “which other country has implemented what you recommend?” When will you stop copying and being an innovator? If your competitive advantage is derived from copy and paste, you will always stay two or 100 years behind the rest. The leaders at the Ministry of Education should form a steering committee to champion this with a consultation with all sector players and private sector leaders in digitalization to fast track progress.
The online examinations portal could be extended to cater to all various levels of studies to improve standard grading and self-study. That is the future of education. We better embrace it. Other schools can then provide online portals to prepare students to gain skills to pass the UNEB exams. And anyone has the choice to subscribe to any school of their choice and remove the traditional boundaries that have led to biases based on the schools they attended.
The future is indeed here. Let us plan to win with it.
Copyright Mustapha B Mugisa, 2020. All rights reserved.