Government-owned and aided schools are still playing second fiddle to private schools, according to the recently released Primary Leaving Examination results. But a Weekly Observer analysis shows that government secondary schools compete favourably with their private counterparts.
Although the government insists that schools under the tuition-free Universal Primary Education are performing well, results show that most of them can’t match private schools.
National primary school results published exclusively by The Weekly Observer on February 1 show that out of the top 10 schools – ranked by the percentage of candidates in Grade I – seven are private. The three government schools in the top 10 are Gayaza Junior, Namagunga Boarding Primary School, and Kabale Preparatory School.
Out of the top 100 schools, 21 are government while the rest are privately owned. Government schools also comprise only 18 percent (73) of the top 400 schools.
The gap between the mostly private, well-performing schools and the poor performers should raise concern. For instance, out of 288 schools ranked in Kampala, Green Hill Academy, City Parents and Kampala Parents, scored 549 first grades out of a possible 613, which is 89.5 percent. By contrast, the last 100 schools got only 254 first grades from 5,251 (4.8 percent) candidates.
In Masaka, the best school, Bright Grammar (private) got all its 116 candidates in First Grade. But the last 95 of the 164 schools sampled totalled only 109 first grades from 4521 (2.4 percent) candidates.
Asked why private schools were performing better, Educational consultant Fagil Mandy of Fame-Con Ltd. first sought to disagree with the conclusion. He argued that private schools only make up barely 20 percent of all schools in the country.
Still, Mandy explained that private schools could be performing better because they take the cream of pupils from the government schools. Others, he said, make pupils repeat once they realise that they may not pass in Grade One, a luxury government schools cannot afford. Government schools are barred from making pupils repeat since UPE aims to have children complete seven years of primary school.
“Private owners also manage their teachers better and concentrate on the schools, which sometimes you don’t get in government,” said Mandy, a former deputy commissioner for Education.
Asked what could be done to improve performance in government schools, the consultant called for better control and supervision of teachers by head teachers, increase of learning materials and use of more learner-based methods of teaching as opposed to lecture-methods.
Mandy also suggests that the programmes in schools must emphasise co-curricular activities and that teachers should use their immediate environment as a teaching aid. These would improve the pupils’ attitude and in turn the learning ability.
Shining UPE schools
While many UPE schools, especially upcountry are struggling, some are doing very well. Schools like Gayaza Junior, Kisubi Savio, Namagunga Boarding, Iganga Boys, Kabojja, Uganda Martyrs Katwe (Masaka), Nakasero and Buganda Road continue to perform well.
Interestingly, many of these schools are either boarding or urban schools. On top of having a reputation for excellence, these schools are also allowed to charge higher fees than rural and day government schools, and afford a better learning environment.
Mandy praised schools like Nakasero and Buganda Road. These, he said, have made a big contribution to education, even if they may not top rankings like ones made by this newspaper.
Govt O-level schools shine
Last week we published Senior Four results of nearly 2,000 schools. Unlike the primary results, however, government schools featured more prominently in the top 300. For instance, out of the first 50, at least half are government schools. Although the first three schools, Namugongo and Kisubi and Bukalasa seminaries are private, they are followed by five government-aided schools in Kibuli, Kitovu, Namagunga, Ntare and Namilyango College.
The good performance of government schools compared to private ones is reflected further in the fact that of the worst performing 100 schools on The Weekly Observer ranking, 75 are private.
Explaining the change in trend, Consultant Mandy suggested that many of the top government secondary schools had built their reputations over several decades and always worked hard to protect their names.
Schools like Kisubi, Namagunga or Budo, tend to attract some of the best candidates after P.7 which aids their push to remain tops.
Because of the high expectations in these schools, Mandy says, they have built a culture of parental involvement in the affairs of the schools, hence enhancing good performance.
Our analysis also shows that most of the top performing schools are boarding schools. Out of 26 government schools in the top 50, only Makerere College School is day – and even then, it has both day and boarding scholars. According to Mandy, these schools have greater control over their students regarding the amount of time spent on the task of creating good grades. On the other hand, parents of day scholars may not be able to ensure their children spend more time on their studies.
While warning that day students can perform as well or even better than boarders, Mandy also notes that not all classes can attend boarding schools. Generally, children from fairly richer family backgrounds go to boarding; this also means they are generally better-placed to afford facilitation necessary to improve grades.
In our issue last week, we reported that West End Modern S.S. in Ntungamo district had zero first grades. We have since established that West End scored five (5) first grades, 25 second grades, 31 third grades and 47 fourth grades. We regret the error.