Philosophical assumptions of educational assessment in primary schools in Uganda: Case of Kampala and Kabale Districts
Mitana, John Mary Vianney
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The study set out to analyse the philosophical assumptions underpinning educational assessment in Uganda at the primary school level. Specifically, the study sought to; analyse how assessment is handled at the primary school level in Uganda and; explore essentialist, existentialist and pragmatic epistemological assumptions underpinning educational assessment in primary schools. A descriptive case study design was used in which both deductive and inductive techniques were employed to analyse philosophical assumptions behind educational assessment in Uganda. The study employed self-administered questionnaires, interviews, Focus Group Discussion (FGDs), observation and documentary analysis. The study sample included 540 pupils and 124 teachers, 10 parents drawn from 18 primary schools within the districts of Kabale and Kampala, two District Education Officers (DEOs), one participant from MoES, one participant from Uganda National Examinations Board (UNEB), one participant from Uwezo-Uganda, and one participant from Research Triangle Institute (RTI). The study findings reveal that the current educational assessment in Ugandan primary schools is mainly in the form of the traditional pen and paper tests, measuring rote learning of few bits of intelligence at the expense of high order thinking skills. It was further established that the current assessments are highly influenced by essentialist epistemological notions such as platonic dualism of mind and body, mind and world; Cartesian intellectualism of logical reasoning and; Kantian abstract intellectualism. The study demonstrates that the current assessment used in primary schools does not meet the current and future social, economic and political needs of Uganda – it is not pragmatic. This study recommends the use of alternative forms of assessments such as observations, group projects, journal reports, peer rating and multi-teacher rating at the school level and the inclusion of continuous assessment within the Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE). These in addition to the traditional pen-and-paper assessments would measure learner-intelligences which would otherwise be difficult to measure using a single form of assessment. Pupil-friendly assessment tools and processes which clearly differentiate among learner differences, skills and experiences need to be employed. Finally, the study suggests that more proportions of Higher Order Thinking skills (HOTs) questions are included in the PLE as a motivation for teachers to adjust the classroom practices to focus on the acquisition of such skills instead of superficial learning.