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Lower and Upper Secondary Should Be Merged - Prof Nyeko :: Uganda Radionetwork

Lower and Upper Secondary Should Be Merged - Prof Nyeko

Prof. Nyeko, a renowned veterinarian, and academic administrator says his recommendation is part of broader efforts to streamline the education system and alleviate the burden of national examinations on students.
01 Dec 2023 10:47
Professor Nyeko Pen-Mogi

Audio 3

Professor Nyeko Pen-Mogi, former chairperson of the National Council for Higher Education-NCHE has proposed a significant educational reform, urging the government to consolidate lower and upper secondary levels.

Prof. Nyeko, a renowned veterinarian, and academic administrator says his recommendation is part of broader efforts to streamline the education system and alleviate the burden of national examinations on students.

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Nyeko tabled the recommendations to the Education Policy Review Commission on Thursday. Leveraging his considerable experience in the field, which includes roles on the boards of NCHE and UNEB, as well as serving as the inaugural Vice Chancellor of Gulu University, he raised inquiries about the reasoning behind the division of secondary education into two distinct levels.

Currently, secondary education is compartmentalized into Ordinary Level (O'Level) spanning from S.1 to S.4 and Advanced Level covering S.5 to S.6. Each level concludes with a national examination, namely the Uganda Certificate of Education at S.4 and the Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education at S.6.


At the Ordinary Level, students are expected to study approximately 12 subjects from S.1 to S.2 and then narrow down their focus to eight subjects, including seven compulsory ones and two electives of their choice. Conversely, at the Advanced Level, learners specialize in either art or sciences with a combination of four subjects and General paper.


Prof. Nyeko Pen-Mogi contends that the current education system lacks a clear purpose, raising fundamental questions about the capabilities of graduates at each level. He emphasized that the system has deviated from its intended objectives, primarily due to its emphasis on preparing students to pass national examinations, neglecting the essential aspects of skills development and co-curricular activities.  

In advocating for the merger of secondary levels, Prof. Nyeko Pen-Mogi aims to redirect the focus of the education system towards holistic development, fostering skills and competencies beyond exam-oriented success.  

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Prof. Nyeko contended that in the event of merging secondary levels, it is imperative to create a meticulously designed curriculum. This is to guarantee that learners acquire not only essential life skills but also skills pertinent to their chosen fields of work.

He also challenged the concept of early specialization in arts or science at the A-level. 

Emphasizing the need to eliminate this premature specialization, he advocated for students to be exposed to a diverse array of subjects throughout their secondary education.

According to Nyeko, removing the specialization in arts and science at this “early stage” would empower students to make well-informed and comprehensive decisions when choosing between arts and science upon entering Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) institutions or universities.

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Prof. Nyeko’s proposal stands out as a unique perspective, diverging from previous suggestions made during the three-year existence of the commission more so on the issue of education structure and national examinations.


Previous submissions from organizations such as Uwezo, an organization known for researching the effectiveness and quality of education, and the National Planning Authority hinted at the possibility of eliminating the Primary Leaving Examination (PLE), which is perceived as a barrier preventing thousands of students from progressing to the secondary level.  

An additional argument raised questioned the necessity of the PLE, considering that from P.1 to S.4, this period is considered basic education in the Ugandan education system. This raised concerns about the need for an examination at the learning level.


During Prof. Nyeko’s submission, Commissioner Abenakyo Monde asked him about his stance on scrapping the PLE, and Prof. Nyeko Pen-Mogi acknowledged the rationale behind the suggestion.  

“Those proposing this change aim to reduce the burden of national examinations in the education system. I think they also have a point. Now the commission should discuss the approach and make better recommendations on what they believe would be a more effective solution,” said Prof. Nyeko.

On the education structure, the academician noted Uganda should adopt a 3-7-6-3 format with three years of early childhood development, seven for primary and six for secondary, and maintaining the three years for undergraduate degree but also 2 years for TVET to attain diplomas.  

He added that education from nursery to secondary should be compulsory but secondary learners can be given a window to join TVET institutions at will even before completing the education cycle.  

Currently, the primary education cycle spans 7 years, followed by 4 years of lower secondary school, and 2 years of upper secondary school. In 1992, the Government White Paper on education proposed a structural change, advocating for eight years at the primary level (P.1 to P.8), a reduction to three years at the O’ Level (S.1 to S.3), and two years at A ‘level (S.4 and S.5) before progressing to higher education institutions.

The White Paper aimed to extend the duration of primary education, providing more time for learning vocational subjects introduced at that level. However, 35 years later, the introduction of P.8 never materialized.

Before the professor's input, two other groups had made compelling arguments for structural changes months ago. The Uganda National Teachers’ Union (UNATU) proposed a structure comprising 2 years of pre-primary, 8 years of primary, 3 years of lower post-primary, and 2 years at Junior College or Advanced Level before moving to higher learning institutions.

Another group, Uwezo, recommended reducing the primary years from seven to six, asserting that the current cycle wastes time revising previous courses. They suggested following Kenya's example, which recently shortened its primary education structure from eight to six years. Uwezo proposed adopting a similar approach and introducing mandatory 2 years of pre-primary education.          

Aside from discussions on the education structure and examinations, the professor also emphasized the need for government intervention to regulate what he referred to as "madness" occurring in pre-primary school sections. According to him, the practices, including early morning school hours and curriculum content, among other aspects, could significantly affect learners at later stages.

"The practice of having children taken to school by 6:00 a.m. should be scrapped, and regulations should dictate where a parent should enroll their child for nursery education. Pre-primary lessons should commence at 9 a.m., allowing learners to be taken to school at 8 a.m. However, it is essential that learners are enrolled in nearby schools to eliminate the practice of ferrying these toddlers in buses and boda bodas," he recommended.

Additionally, he advocated for the criminalization of boarding sections for pre-primary children. While acknowledging the challenges some households may face, he insisted that there is no excuse for a parent to have a pre-primary child in a boarding section.

Meanwhile, drawing on his extensive experience in higher education administration, Nyeko also made a recommendation at that level, urging the elimination of all pre-entry examinations for university courses and internship programs. He noted that, based on his years of experience, these examinations are not only highly corrupt but also deemed useless.

In his view, if the lower levels are effectively managed, and learners acquire the necessary competencies, the need for these pre-entry examinations would be unnecessary.

The Commission is currently conducting a public hearing, inviting various individuals, entities, and organizations to share their perspectives. This marks the initiation of the comprehensive overhaul of the entire education system. The Ministry of Education is particularly focused on reviewing and potentially revising policies related to curriculum, assessment, education structure, teacher-related matters, and the management of private entities, among other key aspects.      


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