Uganda English policy being implemented by the Ministry of Education is failing the students it is meant to help. Factors such as resources available, dedicated teachers available and the time and attention allocated to students have not been fully considered. This has resulted in an imbalanced form of the education system.
English language policy is placing student in rural areas at a disadvantage when compared to urban areas. The English policy requires students in rural areas to use the dominant language in their community as the language of learning and teaching whereas English is taught as a subject in the first three years. After three years, the rural schools are then expected to switch to English as the language of learning and teaching.
These transitioning of languages in these areas is not working as intended, and although the policy may have been well-intentioned, it has negative effects.
Schools with no specific dormant local languages such as the ones in urban and suburban areas do not have to switch languages and by default they use English as the learning and teaching language from the first year they go to school.
Impact of the Uganda English policy
Research done in central Uganda’s rural Rakai district was able to examine the differences in the teaching practices of English. The research focused on the difficulties being faced by these students, the differences in mode of teaching of English in both the private schools and public schools and the opportunities available for English learners in rural schools.
The research was able to determine that learners in rural areas had difficulties in reaching the required vocabulary levels set out by the ministry and curriculum, English learning was also a difficult language to learn when the schools were under-resourced and understaffed.
There was also the problem of how private and public schools approached the teaching of the language.
Private schools were dedicating more time to teaching the English language than public schools. An example is a fact that for private schools, a normal English period lasted for around 40 minutes to an hour. This was not the case in public schools, which only lasted to about 30 minutes.
Teachers in public schools also were more likely to be late while attending classes and absent compared to teachers in private schools. This means that the quality of learning in rural public schools, therefore, was not up to par with the set standards by the curriculum.
Solutions to the Uganda English policy
The Ugandan government, therefore, has to reconsider how it approaches the education system especially its languages. The policy of teaching a local language, though well-intentioned has had consequences in the efficiency of how learning is done.
The government also needs to hire qualified teachers to implement the Uganda English policy, provide materials for learning, ensure that schools are not understaffed or under-resourced and also make sure that the new curriculum will be pupil-centered where student needs are given the first priority.