2023 UCE Results: 95% pass O’level as UNEB addresses selective grading concerns

UNEB Board Secretary, Mr Dan Odongo, Education Minister Hon Janet Museveni and Board Chairperson Prof Celestino Obua at the official release of the 2023 Uganda Certificate of Education (UCE) Examination Results on Thursday, February 15, 2024 (Photo/@Uneb_Ug)

Kampala, (UG):– The Uganda National Examinations Board (UNEB) has revealed that performance for the 2023 Uganda Certificate of Education (UCE) increased drastically last year with the passing rate at 95% countrywide and only 5% of the candidates failing the O’Level exams.

This was revealed by Mr Dan Odongo, the UNEB Executive Director during the release of 2023 UCE results on Thursday, February 15, 2024, at State House Nakasero in Kampala.

According to Mr Odongo, the number of candidates who registered for the 2023 UCE increased by 15,008 (4.3%) from 349,459, in 2022 to 364,469 in 2023, all of whom sat across the 3,808 examination centres countrywide.

Of these candidates, Odongo told the Education Minister that 118,633 (32.5%) were beneficiaries of government’s USE. He also noted that the number of male candidates registered was 180,471 (49.5%) and that of females was 183,998 (50.5%).

“Candidature increased by 15,008 (4.3%) from 349,459, in 2022 to 364,469 in 2023 The candidates sat from 3,808 examination centres. Of these candidates, 118,633 (32.5%) were USE beneficiaries. The number of male candidates registered was 180,471 (49.5%) and that of females was 183,998 (50.5%),” Mr Odongo explained before the education stakeholders on Thursday.

95% passing rate

He added that performance in the 2023 examination is significantly better than that of 2022 with the failure rate dropping by 0.5 per cent.

“This means that 329,939 (95.9%) of the learners who presented themselves for the 2023 examination can progress to the post-UCE level,” said Odongo.

Best done subjects

In terms of best subjects performed in, Odongo said; “There is a significant improvement in the English Language, Religious Education, Mathematics and Biology. Noticeable drops were recorded in History, Agriculture and Physics. Performance in the other subjects has remained comparable.”

According to Odongo, in the English language, the presentation of crammed passages from texts in response to the question on original composition writing has greatly reduced, which may explain the significant improvement in the candidate.

“Performance in the sciences continues to be a cause for concern, with less than 20 per cent of the candidates obtaining Credit pass levels in Physics and Chemistry, and 40 per cent or more unable to pass. It is worth noting, however, the upturn in performance in Biology, which has been recording a steady decline.”

Odongo observed that as per the 2023 UCE, Examiners have attributed the low achievement levels in science subjects to several factors, the main among which are inadequate teaching, manifesting in the inability of the learners to master the basic scientific concepts; lack of practical teaching, manifesting in the learners’ inability to manipulate science apparatus.

He said some schools have been reported to have no science teachers, which exacerbates the problem. Most of the examination malpractice cases at this level are in the practical papers.

“Female candidates performed better than males in the English Language. In the other subjects, males perform better, with the differences being very significant in History, Geography, the Sciences and Commerce.

“In Chemistry, however, the male candidates show better performance in the higher grades but, overall, a slightly higher percentage of females obtained at least a Pass. This trend in the disparity in the performance of male and female candidates has been observed over the years.”

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Exam Malpractice

On the issue of malpractice, Mr Odongo stated that cases of examination malpractice have continued to reduce, with the rampant cases in the 2023 UCE being in mostly Physica and Chemistry Practicals.

“Most of the ones reported in this examination were external assistance given in the examination rooms and affecting mostly Physics and Chemistry practical examination, and Mathematics, he stated, before advising affected schools whose results are withheld to check through their UNEB portals for further guidance.

“Affected schools whose results are withheld will be notified through their Portals. They will also be notified of the dates of the hearings,” Odongo emphasized.

New Curriculum Assessment in 2024

Speaking at the release of the results, UNEB Board Chairperson, Prof Celestino Obua revealed that the 2023 UCE was the last examination to be administered under the old curriculum with the new curriculum set to come into force this year 2024.

“This is the last examination administered under the old curriculum. From the 2024 October/November examination, the UCE will be administered in accordance with the New Lower Secondary Curriculum,” Prof Obua stated.

According to the UNEB Chairperson, “In the past, candidates who would not have made it in an examination such as this one would repeat the examination in the following examination season. However, this will not be possible this time; as the examination format and other conditions will be drastically different.”

He added that the Board has completed work on the sample papers for the examination under the new curriculum, and arrangements are being made to upload the papers on the school portals.

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Hard copies will also be availed to all examination centres,” Prof Obua said.

Grading issues

While addressing the minister on the grading issues that alarmed the country against the backdrop of the PLE Results Release, Prof Obua debunked the claims as misinformation and disinformation, for which even the circulating results were of 2018 and not 2023 as claimed.

“Hon Minister, the release of the 2023 PLE results was followed by a frenzy of misinformation and disinformation. The crux of this was that UNEB grading is selective and disadvantages learners from schools in and around Kampala in favour of upcountry schools. Some of the misinformation even indicated that the grading system used by UNEB selected particular parts of the country for better results. A debunked set of marks allegedly obtained by a parent from UNEB was circulated to lend credence to these wild allegations. Incidentally, this is the same set of marks which was first circulated in 2018!”

“The Board embarked on stakeholder engagements to increase awareness of these key stakeholders on the New Lower Secondary Curriculum and what changes to expect in areas such as reporting of results and certification,” he added.

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