MAY 3, 2010: Ministry of Education Not Inspecting Schools - New Report

Ministry of Education Not Inspecting Schools - New Report
SOURCE: The Monitor
By Benon Herbert Oluka
Kampala — The Education Ministry is not carrying out adequate inspections of primary schools to ensure quality learning delivery. This was the conclusion of the Auditor General's office in its latest value for money report on inspection of primary schools, which covers three financial years (2005/06 to 2007/08).

According to the report titled 'Inspection of Primary Schools' by the Ministry of Education and Sports, inconsistent visits by inspectors to schools is one of the leading contributors to the increasingly high failure rates in primary schools because institutions are not regularly assessed on whether they are sticking to the guidelines issued by the ministry.

Results released by the Uganda National Examinations Board (Uneb) during the three years reviewed by the AG indicate that the national failure rate in Primary leaving examinations increased from 17 per cent in 2006 to 22 per cent in 2008. Such failure rates are an indictment on the Ministry of Education, which is mandated by the law to develop the standards used to measure performance in all schools countrywide.

ESA problem

The Auditor General says the problems that have plagued school inspection stem from the formation of the Education Standards Agency (ESA) in July 2001 as an independent body responsible for carrying out school inspections activities. It says ESA was not given adequate mandate to perform its duties.

"The agency was expected to operate as an autonomous body, but the enabling legislation was never presented to Parliament for approval. In July 2008, following the enactment of the Education Act 2008, ESA was transformed into the Directorate of Education Standards (DES) in the Ministry of Education and Sports (MOES)," says the report.

"In the absence of an Act of Parliament, the enabling laws and regulations to help the operationalisation of the entity were not developed thus weakening its performance as an independent Inspectorate arm of government."

The report points at poor staffing levels, which it says were caused by the inability of ESA to motivate and retain its staff. The auditors noted that while ESA had an authorised establishment of 68 inspectors, at the time of audit in 2008, 37 posts (54 per cent) were vacant. "The resultant high inspector-school ratio at the national and regional levels made it practically impossible for ESA inspectors to regularly inspect all the schools, monitor and coordinate the district inspections," explains the report.

Funding constraints

Mr Aggrey Kibenge, the Education Ministry spokesman, told Education Guide in an interview that all the problems that dogged inspection of primary schools when the audit was carried out revolved around the legal framework and funding constraints, which restricted the operations of ESA.

"At the time of the audit, ESA was in transition," explained Mr Kibenge. "The ministry wanted to establish ESA as an independent agency of government but that was not possible because there had been a directive from the Ministry of Public Service putting a cap on the establishment of independent agencies. So for sometime ESA operated without an enabling law.

"That meant that the decisions of ESA could be contested. Its relationship with the district authorities was also not clear; it could not monitor the activities at local government level."

The report notes that funding for school inspection activities declined in the three financial years reviewed from 4 per cent to 1.6 per cent of the total education ministry budget.

Mr Kibenge said under DES, the government will, starting next year, begin sending the funds direct to the district authorities in order to avoid previous bureaucratic delays that resulted from sending the money through the standards agency.

One of the problems that the money is expected to help solve include regularity of inspections. The value for money audit revealed that no full or follow-up inspections were carried out in all the nine districts they visited. It also shows that short inspections were carried out in only 11 per cent of the 49 schools visited.

Yet the education monitoring and support policy mandates inspectors to carry out a full inspection once every year in every school, requires district inspectors to develop a plan of action to ensure that every school receives one short inspection per term, and that inspectors conduct follow-up visits within 18 months to assist schools in implementing the recommendations and monitor their progress.

In addition, according to the report, the auditors found that inspection reports were not presented for verification in most of the districts visited by the auditors. "Irregular inspections were attributed to low staffing levels of inspectors, inadequate supervision and monitoring of inspectors and also inadequate provision of logistics to carry out the inspections," the report added.

Relaxed teachers

According to the report, respondents from the interviews conducted indicated that inadequate inspections resulted into laxity in attendance by both teachers and pupils resulting in high levels of absenteeism among the teachers and pupils, conflicts in schools, teachers' underperformance and low syllabus coverage hence poor performance.

Another requirement that the auditors found to be poorly implemented is that of inspectors making a summary of observation immediately after inspecting a school and leaving a copy at the school.

According to the Framework for School Inspectors developed by ESA, inspections are supposed to culminate into the production of a School Improvement Plan (SIP) that is implemented with the help of district authorities. However, the report says none of the schools visited had prepared a SIP.

Other issues raised by the report include absence of proper monitoring and evaluation of inspectors that results in failures to detect weaknesses in the inspection process, failure by inspectors to prepare comprehensive work plans that lead to inspections not being carried out in a planned manner, and limited monitoring by ESA of district inspectors.