National Assessment For Certificate Courses,  A Panacea For Employable Skills

National Assessment For Certificate Courses,  A Panacea For Employable Skills

The National Examinations Boards in the Ugandan Business, Technical, Vocational Education and Training (BTVET) sub sector commenced to conduct examinations that embraces the Uganda Vocational Qualifications Framework (UVQF) and follows the principles of Competence Based Education and Training (CBET).  The boards have so far moved greater strides in assessment processes of both theory and practical training. Such assessment put today’s BTVET trainees in a better position to face a world that is constantly demanding new knowledge and abilities. The assessment system has been re-aligned to the content and strengthened along the continuum of 21st century assessment skills. There has been tremendous improvement in the participation of the employers especially the private sector that will not only enhance acquisition of market oriented skills through the formation of sector skills councils that are nationally coordinated but also individual productivity of BTVET graduates. The increased participation has been done through signing MOUs with employers umbrella bodies like UMA so that those in the world of work get more involved in the assessment process.

Suffice it to add that national assessment in the BTVET sub sector involves an array of stakeholders including employers, curriculum developers NCDC, training institutions and various technical staff at examination board’s secretariats. Each of the stakeholders has specific roles for a complete assessment exercise. For instance employers in the line industry of interest are offered with students for internships where hands-on training is conducted, assessed and graded. This then leads to standards that are harmonized nationally so as to ease labor mobility as employers engagement contributes towards the skills package which is completely absent when students are internally assessed by institutions.

Thus all players must abide with the existing laws especially the BTVET Act 2008 where section 9 clearly defines the BTVET programs. The programs at diploma and Artisan Certificate levels assessment is in line with the East African Common Treaty Article 5 and 102 where the treaty inter alia states that the partner states agree to undertake concerted measures to foster cooperation in education and training within the community through harmonization of educations systems, curricula, through the joint actions of the relevant national bodies charged with the preparation of such curricula and this will promote and support the mobility of students and teachers within the Community. So when national examination bords are assessing such a curricula and then some few institutions are violating this, then there will a problem with free free movement of Labor and Service, which requires mutual recognition of academic and professional qualifications. This can only be achieved where common quality assurance framework/System with common principles, standards, procedures and guidelines are applied which is only attained with national assessments. As such the national assessments and examinations follow certain key standard procedures and guidelines in all the processes and six of these are worth noting;

A common curriculum is developed and examination formats with assessment guidelines are provided. This ensures that the syllabus must be completed unlike situations where individual institutions carry their own assessments and staff is tempted to assess only chapters they have covered or are conversant in and after all there is no external verifier for quality assurance;

National assessment and examinations involve a rigorous process of setting questions for assessment. The item writers are nationally selected from senior Instructors and Lecturers who then undergo training following strict security guidelines but most important covering all aspects of expected competences under the Competence Based Education and Training (CBET) principles;

The set items undergo key important quality assurance stage of moderation where a team of professionals in the different trades in business, technical or vocational fields scrutinize to ensures that the questions set are scenario-based/problem solving and or are applicable in nature unlike the situation in any other institutions that could be violating the law by setting their own internal examinations;

There are also other stages of processing the examinations, delivering, Police security and other tight procedures in the supervision and general administration of the examinations with similar standards in the whole country;

The marking of these examinations involve elaborated quality assurance measures through centralized Conveyer Belt System marking where one candidate is marked by more than three trained assessors/examiners to avoid the hallo effect. The system involves a team leader, markers and checkers of scripts for any possible errors hence the final grading and certification is more authentic;

The national assessments like the ones under the Uganda Business and Technical Examinations Board (UBTEB) include real life projects are important in transferring real life skills to the TVET student. Monitoring of the projects is done nationally and the lecturers supervise the students.

Thus any assessment by institutions more so at technician diploma and at artisan Certificate levels without following such rigorous procedures of assessment will lead distortion in the world of work and the market/employers will continue blaming BTVET graduates when the problem is created by those violating the law and continue to offer their own examinations. Such graduates however, stand to lose credibility in terms of vertical academic progression and accessibility to world of work. Their certificates will become hard in terms of classification of qualifications according to a set of criteria for levels of learning and skills achieved by a learner. This will undermine efforts to integrate education and training into a unified structure of recognized qualifications. It will undermine efforts to ensure effective comparability of qualifications and credit across the national or regional education training systems so as to facilitate the recognition of those qualifications within and outside the country’s or regional’s borders.

National assessments of all students will result into market oriented skills that can close supply side bottleneck and increase productivity and or employability of the BTVET graduates. This will then be in line with assessments in other countries for instance in Germany, the starting point of TVET programs assessment involves establishing a training directive which is always a qualification need signaled by the labor market. The country has a dual system of training involving the company based training and the school based training that encompasses problem solving incorporating the knowledge and skill and ends with a certification unified and nationally acknowledged and exam offered by specialized body. Similar situations happen in China where the examination centers all over the country are controlled centrally and the evaluation criteria for each profession are issued centrally by government and the ministry of labor.

Today the BTVET Act 2008 serves as the most recent legal instrument that guides the policy formulation and reforms in TVET and through Statutory instruments led to the legal establishment of Uganda Business and Technical Examinations Board (UBTEB), with the mandate to streamline, regulate, coordinate and conduct credible examinations for BTVET and other specialized training professions, with a main objective of Promoting CBET. The CBET approach emphasizes competencies that are required of graduates in the World of Work with the focus being shifted to the learner with hands-on training intended to develop a competent workforce, escape poverty and marginalization for self-reliance and sustained economic growth in the global economy. The fundamental skills then imparted involve communication, managing information and problem solving.

Whereas the Universities and Other Tertiary Institutions Act 2001 (as amended 2006) gives tertiary institutions and universities autonomy in the award of certificates and diplomas, it should read alongside section 9 and 31 of the BTVET that emphasizes national assessment at diploma and certificate levels. The Act defines “a Tertiary Institution” as any public or Private Institution, School or center of Higher Education other than a University, one of the objectives of which is to provide post-secondary education offering courses of study leading to the award of certificates or diplomas and conducting and publishing of research. The Act also defines “University” as any Institution, School, Institute or center of Higher Education, other than a Tertiary Institution, one of the objectives is the provision of post-secondary education offering courses of study leading to the award of certificates, diplomas and degrees and conducting research and publishing.

Thus harmonization of the accreditation of certificate programs, streamlining of the existence of two year duration certificate programs and assessment of all diploma and certificate BTVET programs will remove confusion among employers on the quality of graduates. Wide variation in the standards is worrying as this may lead to the continuity of poor perception of BTVET education among public. The national examinations boards like UBTEB have now a comparative advantages in assessing all areas in the different trades at all levels of certificate and diploma ranging from community polytechnics certificates, craft national certificates and diplomas in all engineering fields, vocational/business, agriculture, lands and surveying, wildlife, meteorology,  hotel management to mention. There is a need for a streamlined qualification system that ensures that a minimum standard is met and strengthen the confidence of the employers and students in the BVET and support of national examination boards in enforcing the law so that all diploma and certificate programs are nationally examined the way it is currently with Nursing schools, Primary teachers colleges and national teachers colleges among others. The public and parents must be made aware therefore studying diploma and certificate courses without siting for national examinations is a risky venture for job acquisition and vertical academic progression.

Dr. Nahamya Wilfred: 0702588133

Deputy Executive Secretary Examination Management

Uganda Business and Technical Examinations Board (UBTEB)