Uganda has the highest proportion of children under 16, in relation to its population, in the world.
Universal Primary Education (UPE) was introduced in 1997 which succeeded in dramatically increasing the number of children attending school.
- Primary School 7 years (P1 – P7)
- Secondary School 6 years (S1 – S6)
A very small proportion of pupils attend Pre-Primary although this is now a Government focus, with every Government Primary School required to open a Pre-Primary nursery class.
The academic year runs from the end of January until the beginning of December, and a school day runs from 08:00 – 15:30 for P4 through to Secondary and 08:00 – 13:00 for P1 to P3.
From P1 to P3 pupils are taught a thematic curriculum, which is based around themes of daily life and the human body etc. P4 is seen as a transitional year with pupils moving from the thematic curriculum into a subject based curriculum. At the end of P7 students take the high-stakes Primary Leaving Examination (PLE), which determines whether or not they can progress into Secondary education.
The languages of instruction used in the Ugandan education system:
- From P1 to P3, pupils are, according to Government policy, taught in the local language, of which there are many.
- From P4 onward, pupils are taught in English.
The local language policy presents a challenge as classes often contain children who speak many different languages, and sometimes the teacher may not speak any of these. Additionally, there is some pressure from parents for their children to be taught in English rather than the local language. This is due to the misplaced historical association of English with success and status.
There are a number of other challenges within Uganda’s education system:
- Class sizes are frequently large (200+ students at times)
- High levels of primary drop out
- Teaching methods are didactic and teacher centred
- Teachers have limited opportunities for professional development activities
- Insufficient or inadequate infrastructure and learning materials.
The Ugandan Government recognises the need to improve the quality of teaching and learning and are working with various organisations to assist in developing the capacity of teachers, head-teachers, and District officials to lead the improvements that are needed.
There is also a recognition of the importance of early years education as demonstrated by the Ministry’s recent decision to ask all government primary schools to develop a nursery provision.