OP-ED

Make UNEB marking process more inclusive

By Jude Sebuliba

Uganda National Examination Board (UNEB) examiners are teachers who are recruited and trained by the examining body to mark and assess students’ responses in national exams. They are recruited from schools and educational institutions across Uganda and undergo training on marking schemes, assessment criteria, and standards to ensure consistency and accuracy in marking. They then mark students’ scripts according to the marking scheme and guidelines provided.

During the training and marking periods, teachers receive professional development opportunities to enhance their assessment skills and knowledge. This enables them to improve teaching, apply subject knowledge, expand, and deepen it, and get the opportunity to learn how to design marking schemes. It also increases experience with the practical application of the marking scheme to a wide variety of responses, allowing them to identify common errors made by candidates.

Additionally, it improves the ways a teacher supports pupils in their development of exam technique, enables easier development of exam-style questions and the creation of model answers, helps train learners to become more focused on the specific requirements, and makes teachers marking more efficient. Finally, it improves the setting of appropriate questions.

According to 2023 UNEB statistics, the Board used 13 centres for marking Primary Leaving Examination (PLE) scripts, with almost all these centres located within the central districts of Wakiso, Kampala, and Mukono. Based on the Education Abstract 2017, Uganda has a total of about 189,135 primary school teachers.

However, out of these numbers, only a small number about 6,000 teachers were trained and used for marking as of 2023. This leaves a swarm of teachers untrained, with limited knowledge on how to make good marking schemes, assessment criteria, and other standards necessary to ensure consistency and accuracy in preparing learners for the final exams.

There is, therefore, a need for a more inclusive approach that allows most teachers to acquire the needed skills on how to design good marking schemes, assessment criteria, and other standards. This can be achieved through the following proposed methods:

Firstly, UNEB needs to organise workshops and train teachers of candidates at district levels on a regular basis. All teachers need to be fully trained on UNEB marking requirements, how to design good marking guides, the marking points, and all other relevant requirements.

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Secondly, since marking is highly physically and mentally demanding, it needs to be rotational. Examiners need to work for a short period and retire. The board can make it rotational by issuing short-term contracts of about two years to different cohorts of teachers for training and marking. Then, recruit and train a new set of examiners. This process of training and using new examiners every two years will allow capacity building and ensure that all are fully trained.

Thirdly, the Board can decentralise training and marking to districts. Currently, marking takes place in the three districts: Mukono, Wakiso, and Kampala, with just a small fraction of teachers who proudly call themselves “facilitators” or “resources.” UNEB needs to train all teachers, especially those teaching in candidate classes in every district, and allow them to participate in the real practical marking sessions in each district for two consecutive years.

Notably, all those suggestions have cost implications, especially the financial cost of training and paying all these teachers on a regular basis. For cost-minimization, the Ministry of Education and Sports can make it a policy for all teachers on government payroll to consider the marking of national exams as one of the reasons for their salary payments. This is especially because marking takes place during the holidays when they are currently paid while not teaching. Teachers need to be reminded that assessment is one of their roles, so taking on additional tasks and responsibilities should be viewed positively.

For teachers on private schemes, the Board can continue using the current budget or payment system. However, for quality control, payments may be a fixed fee rather than per script.

In conclusion, there is therefore a need for all teachers to be trained and get well acquainted with the marking techniques. This will minimise the panic and costs in the schools of hiring relatively expensive examiners who proudly call themselves “facilitators” to guide candidates through UNEB dos and don’ts. As the exam period approaches, most schools impose a specific fee called the “facilitation fee.”

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This fee worsens the already strained parents, and hence most rural schools end up failing to hire facilitators, leading to poor performance. Facilitators typically charge schools-based facilitated hours or a maximum of one day at a fee between UgSh. 500,000 and UgSh. 1,000,000.

Sebuliba Jude is a researcher at the Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC), Makerere University.

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