Blog Details

  • 12 Jan
  • 2022

What to expect in the New O-Level Curriculum

The government rolled out the new lower secondary education curriculum in February 2020 with the aim of creating meeting the learners’ needs especially in regard to skills training and enhancement. The Minister for Education, Hon. Janet Museveni, in her statement to Parliament, said that the need to review the curriculum was overdue since it had not been revisited since the colonial education system was introduced. The Minister revealed that the old curriculum was channelling out graduates with no practical skills to meet the demands in the labour market.

It has, however, been a long drawn out process as discussions on the new curriculum blueprint and how it can be operationalised, have lasted close to 14 years.

In the last four years, more earnest discussions have taken place, with the net effect being, formal endorsements from several educationists and a February 2020 commencement in its rollout, despite objections from some Members of Parliament. In 2018, MPs on Parliament's education and sports committee had also expressed reservations about the budget for the proposed new curriculum implementation.

This was after deliberations with officials from the National Curriculum Development Centre (NCDC) in Kyambogo, Kampala. As a plus for the government and the education ministry, the Government at length, allocated sh29b in the financial year 2019/2020 to fund the new curriculum rollout.



The foremost amendment in the new curriculum is the reduction in the number of subjects offered by students to 21 from 44. Another is the introduction of continuous assessment, which is an on-going system of monitoring and assessing the learner's progress with an aim of enhancing learning outcomes.

Educationists contend that the implementation of a formative assessment system, as envisioned in the new curriculum, will incrementally and sustainably contribute to better learning outcomes for learners than the traditional pen and paper summative tests and exams.

Upon resumption of schooling, continuous assessment will account for 20% of the learner's score, while summative work will account for 80% of the final score at the end of the cycle (O'level national examinations). Experts say had it not been for COVID-19, the process of implementing the new curriculum would be in a steady stride.


James Droti, a curriculum expert and NCDC head of departmentsecondary curriculum, says besides refining learning opportunities and learner outcomes across the board, the new curriculum will combine approaches that will augment on learners' motivation to pursue careers in (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) STEM.

"With this new curriculum; emphasis is laid on assessment for learning, which hitherto has not been taken seriously in our schools."

NCDC director Grace Baguma said the new syllabus would favour consolidation in a few subjects to encourage teachers and students to use multi subject approaches to teaching and learning.

"There will be seven compulsory core subjects — science and biology, chemistry, physics, physical education, general science and mathematics. The elective subjects will be chosen by schools to enable them to specialise in specific subject profiles, while achieving proficiency," Baguma said.

"The emphasis with the new curriculum is going to be on classroom competence-based assessment where learners are given opportunity to give an analysis of issues than just recalling. Schools and teachers in primary and lower secondary will have to check on their learner's progress throughout the year," she added.

"It will not just be about waiting for exams. With this curriculum, teachers will be empowered to establish learning goals and to keep track of individual learner progress on these goals," Baguma said.


NCDC assistant commissioner in charge of reforms Christopher Muganga says the strategy is to substitute pass-fail grading with a learner-based model.

"This model supports learning and empowers learners with a broad range of competencies, skills and creativity. It lays focus on how best a learner can do what they are taught. It is a more appropriate form of evaluation and the hope is that it will be incorporated into the national assessment system," Muganga says.

Assistant commissioner communication and information management at the education ministry Patrick Muinda says it would be against the ministry's best judgement not to implement the new curriculum.

"There are demands in terms of relevance to the labour market, needs of the learner, needs of the society in which the learner will live after formal education and the fact that there are technological advancements. All these realities call for a new curriculum," he says.

"The services industry today is highly automated. We, therefore, need a project-based/ competence-based curriculum to keep up with global trends," Muinda adds.

"The country needs more of its learners graduating with competencies, rather than degrees alone. Tests alone cannot assess the extent to which a person learns, how they live with other people in society or how they execute a skill," he says.

The new curriculum also seeks to promote entrepreneurship as a means of equipping learners with skills as a means of eliminating the job seeking syndrome.


The new curriculum represents significant progress and achievement for the education ministry. With its competence-based set of courses, learners will acquire and apply requisite knowledge, skills and attitudes to situations they encounter every day.

Scholars — Reg Allen, Phil Elks, Rachel Outhred and Pierre Varly — in a 2016 report: Uganda's assessment system-a roadmap for enhancing assessment in Education say much of the knowledge and skills Ugandan learners needed for the future had little or no role in formal tests and examinations.

The scholars added that public discourse about education in Uganda invariably focuses on scores than on what is being learned and its alignment with the needs of individual and community success now and in the future.