The minister of state for Primary Education, Rosemary Seninde, has appealed to schools to emphasize teaching rather than repeated tests to learners.
Seninde says assessment plays a key role in a country’s education system as well as in national development, thus the need for wholesome education.
“The teachers are more likely to teach what comes in the examinations. It is therefore essential that the tools used in assessment are professionally developed and of high quality, passing the test of validity, reliability and fairness,” she said.
Seninde’s call came as she addressed a three-day international conference of the Association of Educational Assessment in Africa (AEAA) at Silver Springs hotel in Kampala, yesterday.
Nine assessment bodies were represented at the meeting, including those from Cameroon, Kenya, Lesotho, Nigeria, Swaziland, South Africa, Tanzania and hosts Uganda.
According to the AEAA chair, Dan Odongo, the annual meeting was called to reflect on the changes in strategy by various members. Uganda hosted the last meeting at Speke Resort hotel in Munyonyo last year.
Seninde challenged the assessment bodies to consider the growing advance in technology in their examination setting. She also tasked the various bodies to continue training their staff to improve the quality of assessment and, by extension, learning.
Explaining the significance of the meeting, Odongo said the assessors were in the country to appreciate various changes in some of the established strategies, such as item capture theory (to learn how to better re-interpret subject material for exams), as well as equating tests (to ensure that every test was similar and thus able to obtain the same result).
“We are working to ensure that all examinations are of the highest quality and thus reliable as a benchmark of learning,” he said. “We are looking to ensure that exams are set according to similar standards across the countries, so that they are easy to equate.”
Asked about public concerns that a one-off national exam was not an accurate assessment of the candidate’s learning ability over the study cycle, Odongo said he had not seen any viable options.
“I have heard about continuous assessment in school, but the practical side of this has become too complicated to implement as we do not have well set and reliable tests in the various schools,” he said.
However, he revealed that there had been a consideration for more frequent exams, such as one in Primary Five and Senior Two in addition to Primary Seven and Senior Four exams, with an average of the two being used as a gauge of learning.
“Nobody has tried it yet; I have heard about it, but its main challenge is the cost of setting and administering this kind of examination.”
The meeting was called a week after the release of O-level results in Uganda, in which the minister for Higher Education, Dr John C Muyingo, raised a concern that the level of teaching in many schools was targeting examinations, rather learning.
“Our children are only reading what the teachers speculate will be in the exams instead of a wholesome education, that would enable learners improve their skills,” he said.