When a parent picks a primary school for their child, all they care about are the chances of the child performing well in primary leaving examinations.
Increasingly, that means not only passing in first grade, but also scoring highly while doing so. In PLE terms, that mean aiming for a first distinction in each subject, or getting aggregate 4. That is the only way a child can get in the top-ranked secondary school.
In last week’s selection of pupils for senior one, King’s College Buddo, St Mary’s Kitende and Uganda Martyrs Namugugongo only took boys who had scored aggregate 4. The situation was only slightly better for girls, with the likes of King’s College Buddo, St Mary’s College Namagunga and Gayaza High School only taking girls who got at least aggregate 5.
So parents will usually take their children to the schools where the children will stand the highest chance of passing highly, to the extent that they can afford such schools. The fact that the Uganda Nation Examinations Board considers candidates up to division 4 to have passed is not much consolation to candidates who don’t make it to division one, their parents, or even their teachers
Meanwhile, competition among primary schools has been getting stiffer, with private schools leading the way. Schools want to have as many of their candidates as possible in first grade. It’s more than reputation and bragging rights at stake. Especially for private schools, it is about the bottom line, as they remain competitive and can charge a king’s ransom for fees without risk of losing pupils.
Taking the above into consideration, we analysed the 2017 PLE results and ranked all the 12723 schools that sponsored candidates for PLE. The schools were ranked first on the chances of a candidate getting a first grade. Where the schools were tied on this criterion (i.e schools that had all their candidates in first grade), we then considered the quality of first grade, by looking at the aggregate average. The same was done for division 2 up to division 4, as per UNEB’s definition of passing.
The good news is that all the 12,723 schools managed to get someone to pass, at least in division 4. Also, the top ranked schools were widely distributed across the country, with Kabale, Mbale, Wakiso, Kampala, Lwengo, Hoima, Kumi, Mityana and Nakasongola all having a school in the top 10. Only Wakiso had two schools in the top 10. The only exception was the northern region, which doesn’t have a school in the top 10. In fact, you have to go all the way down to 67th position before finding the top-ranked school from northern Uganda, the aptly named Saving Grace Primary School in Lira.
The bad news, if not surprising, is that the best schools are concentrated in urban centres (municipalities and the highly urbanized Kampala and Wakiso). Most of the top schools are also private schools, which typically charge exorbitant fees, meaning the average Ugandan can’t afford them, which, ultimately, can only increase the gap between the rich and the poor.
Under our criteria, the top ranked school is Bishop Asili Memorial Nursery Primary School, based in Kabale municipality. All its 50 candidates passed in first grade. Across the country, 38 schools managed to get all their candidates in first grade. However, Bishop Asili had the highest aggregate average of 5.6.
It should be noted that many schools, particularly private schools, play all sorts of tricks to make sure that they get as many first grades as possible. Some schools “sell” their candidates to other PLE centres, while others have more than one centre: a centre that registers only those likely to pass highly, and a centre for the rest. In some schools, candidates unlikely to pass in first grade are prevented from registering.
At the other end of the scale, Kagogwa Primary School from Jinja is ranked last. With 20 candidates, one passed in Division 3 (and the rest in Division 4).
With the above qualifications, below is the ranking for all the 12,723 schools, from best to worst. Click on a school for more data: