Two education experts from Finland have been invited by the Ministry of Education and Sports to provide assistance and guidance in the current reforms being made by the education policy review commission.
The invitation of the two experts comes at the backdrop of the commission’s benchmarking visit to Finland, a country with one of the best education systems in the world.
Based on available information, it seems that the experts will be arriving as part of a partnership between Uganda and Finn Church Aid (FCA). FCA is the largest non-governmental organization in Finland that specializes in international aid and development.
Pauliina Kemppainen, a senior education advisor at FCA, says they have collaborated with the Finnish Centre for Experts in Education and Development to identify two education experts who have a track record of assisting countries in enhancing their education systems.
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The two individuals are Raisa Venäläinen, an expert in education system evaluation, and Professor Hannele Niemi, a research director at the University of Helsinki and UNESCO Chair on Educational Ecosystems for Equity and Quality of Learning.
Kemppainen adds that the first expert is expected to arrive in the country soon and will work with the commission until May. The second expert is expected to join the commission and work with them until December 2023.
URN understands that during the week, Education Minister Janet Kataha Museveni held a meeting with official Finn Church Aid and a few selected members of the education policy review commission to discuss, among other things, how the said experts would be of help.
However, it should be noted that some individuals in Uganda have over time expressed skepticism regarding the Ministry of Education’s decision to base the country’s education system on suggestions from European powers whose influence still pervades several policies.
The skeptics have been arguing that officials in Uganda’s education sector have a tendency to blindly adopt policies from European countries without tailoring them to suit Uganda’s particular circumstances.
They point out that there may be various factors contributing to the policies’ effectiveness in Europe that are not yet feasible in Uganda. From that point of view, they have been cautioning against thoughtlessly copying and pasting policies without taking into account Uganda’s unique situation and making necessary adjustments.
Finn Church Aid, which has been working in Uganda’s education sector, mainly in refugee settlements as the primary education implementing partner for UNHCR, partially agrees with the arguments made by the skeptical Ugandans.
But, Katri Suomi, the director of stakeholder relations at FCA, clarified that these experts are not coming to transform Uganda’s education system to look like Finland’s. Instead, their role is to assist Uganda in developing reforms that will be effective and meet high standards of quality.
Suomi, and Finn Church Aid as a whole, however, acknowledge that it’s possible that there will be a nugget of Finnish expertise in the Ugandan school system in the future.
As the commission waits for the arrival of the experts, the Finn Church Aid, as one of the education development partners, have also presented its memorandum to the commission detailing proposals on reforms.
One of the notable proposals presented by the Finn Church Aid for improving the education system in Uganda is to train the best students as teachers.
“Government should establish a selection criterion where best performers are recruited into the teaching profession,” their proposal reads in part re-echoing Andreas Schleicher’s famed saying that ‘the quality of an education system can never exceed the quality of its teachers’.
FCA, however,emphasizes that this can only be achieved through a competitive and rewarding remuneration package that would attract top-performing students to the teaching profession and enable them to carry out their duties effectively.
Historically, the teaching profession was known for recruiting only the most talented candidates. However, this trend appears to have shifted as the profession has become less financially rewarding and it has been a matter of concern that teachers’ colleges and universities are currently admitting individuals who demonstrate poor performance or mediocrity in their studies to train as teachers.
The Fin Church also proposes that the reformed education system should limit summative assessments such as those offered by UNEB, and instead focus on a continuum of assessments that transcend all levels in multiple ways.
“Assessment should also look at internal (school based) efforts as opposed to end of school level exams which are UNEB based; this gives focus to teachers to monitor skills and competence acquisitions. Consider peer assessment which promotes peer to peer learning and builds several soft skills,” they added.
In addition, the organisation expresses support for the strengthening of mother tongue education and language-aware teaching, recognizing that this approach could improve learning outcomes, particularly in early childhood development and lower grades. They highlight that this could lead to stronger foundations for learning.
In 2020, Ms Museveni appointed the Commission with a primary function of drafting a new policy framework for education and sport in Uganda that would replace the current Government White Paper on Education of 1992.
The commission has been holding public hearings and conducting field visits, engaging with various individuals and groups to gather ideas and perspectives. These inputs will inform the commission’s recommendations, which may offer solutions to the many challenges facing Uganda’s education system.