By Paul Edotu, Cadre and Public Policy Analyst
Inspite of the criticism which has come with the government’s affirmative action on science education by paying science teachers more lucrative monthly salary compared to their arts teaching counterparts, many should agree that this policy action is a step in the right direction.
This policy action is not only going to increase the supply of science qualifying workers but it will also increase the demand for science subjects and science courses at higher institutions of learning.
For a developing country like Uganda in Africa which aspires to attain middle income status by 2040, a lot of these reforms need to be operationalised by the state.
China and all these super powers we admire today had to take similar hard decisions to be where they are today. It must be noted that education remains the only tool through which a country can be transformed. For us social scientists and anthropologists, we say it’s a tool for socialization.
Now science and technology is what we are focusing here as a matter of fact, that our teachers must impart science knowledge, skills and technologies to our children so that the latter can put on the table tangible products or solutions to our day to day challenges.
Any education system which is devoid of this is not worth talking about. And for the case of Uganda, it has been said over and over that our graduates both scientists and arts after graduating cannot make a product in the line of their education, so therefore rolling out an affirmative science based education should in my view be welcomed by all patriotic Ugandans.
Suggested ingredients to make the policy shift more robust;
- Re-Train science teachers, targeting mindset change from knowledge based teaching to skills and technology transfer and this should be the major focus now. A bulk of our science teachers hail from the background of theoretical sciences (They know it all) But unable to anchor this knowledge to skills and technology which the country now needs badly. I want to cite a few examples here, a math teacher teaching sets and geometry but unable to link it with land survey skills and technology, let alone angles and their application in driving, or flight science.
Another example is physics teachers teaching pully systems and not linking it to civil Engineering among others, you could go on and on. This lack of connection between these subjects and the needs of society kills innovation in the science domain. In this case therefore do I need to say that we need to weed out real scientists from theoretical scientists, this is where we need to work on in order to make the loose ends tight.
- What science products are we looking at producing and by what period is another important question we need to tackle? A few experiments are going in the country right now, like making of solar automobiles, assembling of automobiles etc, etc. The Country should come out with the line of products we want our scientists to make and these should be backed by the existing market demand.
- English in my view is across cutting subject; I would urge the education policy makers to correct it to the nearest digit and consider English part of science. English is a medium of communication which our scientists need to be conversant with but more importantly, those in the teaching industry use it to pass knowledge. By the way for your information, real English teachers are even few in number and this is the reason we should create more demand in that area too. Of course, instruction in the Local Languages is already going on and the Minister of education recently emphasized it, English remains an international connector.
- In favour of my arts compatriots, the government should now find mechanism of rewarding qualifications and experience so that the arts and social science side complements, the science. I have heard and read a number of views suggesting that arts and science are just but two faces of the same coin and to some extent I do agree. So we could also set salary for PHD, Masters, Degree, Diploma and certificate in arts.
With the above additional ingredients, I really should think that we need to support the Ministry of education and the government to steer the country forward for transformation starting with reforming education system to make it more science and technology based.