1.1. Education System in Uganda Uganda’s education system has been in place since the early 1960’s. It consists of seven years of primary education following which students have a wide range of options for both public and private education institutions depending on their aptitude, ambitions and resources. The current education system is shown in Figure 1. It should be noted that although, the pre-primary level is not mentioned, some primary schools especially those in urban setting only admit children who have undergone 1-3 years of education at this level and the Ministry of Education and Sports is also beginning to regulate this level by standardizing its curriculum. Primary education, however, is still considered the first level of formal education in which pupils follow a common basic curriculum. This is followed by a secondary cycle of six years (four at lower secondary and two and higher secondary) before proceeding to university education for three to five years depending on the duration of the course offered.
On successful completion of primary school, the pupils can go either for secondary education; or take a three-year crafts course in technical schools. Those completing Uganda Certificate of Education have four possible outlets: successful candidates can either proceed for an advanced certificate of education; join a two-year advanced crafts course in technical institutes; join a two-year grade III primary teaching programme; or join any of the government's departmental programmes such as agriculture, health, veterinary, and cooperatives. After the completion of the advanced certificate of education the students can either: proceed to university; join a two-year course leading to ordinary diploma in teacher education, technical education; business studies or join departmental programmes. As at end of 2010, gross enrolment at primary was 8,645,583 pupils with girls accounting for more than 50 percent (i.e.4,326,013 pupils). During the same period, 519,246 candidates sat for Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE), an increase of 8% on the number who sat in 2009. The transition rate to senior one for 2010 was 64.5%, implying that not all who finished primary level of education in 2009 proceeded to secondary.
At the secondary level, the transition rate to senior 5 was even lower, i.e. at 50.7%. There were 264,635 candidates who sat their Uganda Certificate of Education (UCE) Examinations after four years of education at this level, over 46,000 students more than the number that sat in 2009. The next level in secondary is the Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education (also sometimes referred to as Higher School Certificate). In 2010, 98,219 candidates sat for the Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education, an increase of 10% over the number that sat in 2009. The transition rate at this level is about 35%, implying that only about 35,000 are able to join university education. There are currently, 32 universities in Uganda all accounting for a student population of about 110,000, turning out over 30,000 graduates annually. Makerere University alone accounts for over 30% of this total. There are also technical and commercial business colleges that enroll another 20,000 students studying various disciplines, some of these are of particular relevance to the needs and development of the private sector. For instance, Technical colleges enroll about 2,000 offering disciplines such as metal works/foundry; carpentry, ICT skills, hotel and tourism, agriculture, fisheries, and forestry; etc. There are efforts currently geared at fostering cooperation between the training institutions and the private sector which will ensure that courses and graduates are relevant to the need of the private sector.
1.2. Government Plans and Priorities in the Education Sector The government of Uganda attaches great importance to improvement of education services since education plays a vital role in promoting sustainable development through improving the people’s skills as well as raising awareness on various issues of national importance including improving general standards of living. There has been a remarkable change in this sector over the past years, especially since the inception of the Universal Education Programmes. More schools, institutions, colleges and universities have been established; and enrolments in all these institutions have exponentially increased. The private sector participation in the education sector has also been remarkable to the extent that education is increasingly being seen as an export sector. Current national priorities, as stipulated in policy documents issued by the Ministry of Education and Sports, include: - i) Provision of Universal Primary and Secondary Education (UPE and USE); ii) Sensitization of the population about UPE and USE in order that communities fully participate in their implementation; iii) Provision of construction materials for primary and secondary schools and tertiary institutions in a progressive manner; iv) Improvement of Teacher Training Programmes and rehabilitation of Teachers’ Colleges; v) Making the Teacher central in the education system by creating a well trained, facilitated and disciplined teacher; vi) Improving the teaching of science, mathematics, technical and technology education at all levels; vii) Vocationalisation of the curriculum through a systematic introduction at all levels staff development programmes; viii) Review and reform of the examination in order to incorporate continuous assessment; and ix) Implementation of strategies that will redress the existing imbalances i.e. gender, geographical, social, or otherwise as well as the disparities in education standards and performance throughout the education system in general and primary and secondary education in particular.
2. Products/Services in the education Sector The products or services offered/produced by the education system in Uganda are determined by its quality as seen by the various stakeholders. The ultimate aim is to equip the population with skills relevant for sustainable development. Currently, the minimum standards are set in the UN millennium development goals (MDGs) where government annual reports/statistics usually assess where Uganda is in terms of these MDGs. For the case of education, Uganda’s progress towards MDGs is as summarized Table 1 which shows that Uganda is on the path to attainment of the MDGs as targeted by year 2015. Some of the targets shall even be attained earlier than 2015. At each level of the education system, Uganda produces a number of graduates but the numbers are reducing as one goes up the formal system due to varied reasons. For instance at primary education level as of 2010, there were 8,645,583 pupils enrolled with about 520,000 sitting the Primary Leaving Examinations in that year. At the secondary level, the number of candidates who sat their senior four examinations out of a total enrolment of about 650,000 was about 137,000. As one goes higher the ladder the number of graduates decreases. Finally, at the tertiary level, the total enrolment is about 130,000 with university enrolment accounting for about 71 percent of this. The positive government policies are encouraging more participation of the private sector in the provision of education services, the above trends of enrolment will grow positively.