The government has said a holder of a pass degree in Education will, starting next year, not be employed to teach in both public and private schools.
The policy drew immediate contrasting responses from human resource experts, who said it treats a symptom rather than competence deficit, while educationists described it as overdue.
In a June 27 circular, Education ministry Permanent Secretary (PS) Ketty Lamaro noted that the directive was in line with a 2004 Public Service Commission.
Guidelines No 9.3.2(c) of the amendment provides that all applicants for the teaching profession should be in possession of honours degrees from recognised universities and other tertiary institutions.
“The Ministry of Education and Sports studied the amended guidelines and has noted the public’s views about the pass degree graduate teachers,” Ms Lamaro wrote in the policy guide to academic registrars of universities and tertiary institutions.
A person who has studied Education is not eligible to teach in Uganda until the Ministry of Education formally registers, and issues, them a certificate to practice as teachers upon submission and verification of their qualifications.
We were unable to establish the number of prospective teachers who hold pass degrees, and the PS noted that a “good number are not yet appointed in public service”.
“The purpose of this communication, therefore, is to inform the public that the Ministry of Education and Sports will start implementing this amendment of guideline … with effect from January 2023,” she noted, adding, “This means only graduates with honours degrees will be registered as teachers.”
The PS was unavailable last evening to confirm the authenticity of the letter, and the possible wider implications of the decision on the education and job sectors, but a senior officials at the ministry, as well as some of the addressees, said they received the correspondence.
Insiders said the policy shift resurrects a practice by the Idi Amin government in the 1970s under which students who performed best in Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education (UACE) examinations were admitted to undergraduate Education programmes.
The idea, according to one man who became a teacher due to the policy but declined to be identified because he no longer likes the teaching profession, was that high-flying students most understood academic subjects and were better placed to transmit the knowledge than average students.
It is a practice which subsists in most Ugandan and foreign universities and institutions of higher learning that retain best-performing undergraduate or diploma students as junior lecturers, paving the way for their eventual academic upgrade and specialisation as scholars.
In comments to this newspaper yesterday, Mr Herbert Zaake, a human resource management consultant, said there is no data showing that teachers who hold honours degrees are better at knowledge delivery to learners than those with pass degrees
“The banning of the ‘pass degree’ teachers assumes that qualification or quality of the degree is equal to competence, which is not necessarily the case. What they are doing is perpetuating the practice of emphasising academic performance over actual teaching competence,” he noted.
Mr Zaake said students who excel in Education seek employment in other sectors such as banking, journalism, non-govermental organisation, telecoms and health.
“…the impact of [the policy shift], coupled with the low pay that the government provides to teachers in public schools, will further worsen the education system,” he added.
But not all agree.
Mr Paul Etiang, the chairperson of the National Private Teachers’ Association, welcomed the directive, arguing that it has been overdue.
“The ministry of Education took a long time to implement this decision. In primary level, when one gets a U grade, he or she cannot proceed to the next level. So, if one gets a pass degree, it is equivalent to someone who has failed,” he said.
Mr Etiang did not appear to address himself to undergraduate students who fail a course and are not awarded a degree, just the same way a U student at Primary Leaving Examinations would not get a certificate.
Nonetheless, he added “we have been registering failures in the teaching profession and this has been compromising the quality of education”.
“Now that the ministry has moved in, we shall be having only quality and cream teachers,” he said.
The chairperson of National Private Education Institutions Association, Mr Hasadu Kirabira, however, read from a different script, arguing that the government should instead scrap a pass degree if it deems it “irrelevant”.
“If the Ministry of Education wants to come in, it should then define those qualifications in the national teachers’ policy, which was already passed,” he said.
The chairperson of National Secondary School Headteachers’ Association, Mr Martin Okiria, said it was “unfortunate” that such a major policy had been passed without their input.
“However, this will encourage teachers to work hard in class to get better results,” he said.
It remained unclear if the application of the new rules for teachers enlisting in government service could prompt elimination of pass degree holders in other public service jobs.
A pass degree is the lowest classification awarded to pass a student in a university course, and such students, according to rankings by Makerere University, Uganda’s oldest and largest public university, score a cumulative grade point average (CGPA) of between 2.0 and 2.79.
The institution classifies its degrees in four categories: First-Class (CGPA 4.4-5.0), Second Upper (CGPA 3.6-4.39), Second-Lower (CGPA 2.8-3.59) and Pass.