BTVET in Uganda

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This study attempts to conduct an investigation of the factors affecting enrolment and completion rates within the Business, Technical & Vocational Education and Training (BTVET) institutions in Uganda. The study covers a period of ten years (between 1999 to 2009), rationally decided upon as it was during this time when the government Implemented major reforms within the education system of the country, as a result of the Education Review Commission (1989). It will be noted that 1999 falls two years short of the actual time (1997) when the government implemented Universal Primary Education (UPE) free to four children of every Ugandan family in the country a step towards meeting Education for all (EFA) by the year 2012 as one of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) in the country. The study takes place more than ten years down the line since the inception of UPE and three years after Universal Secondary Education (USE) programmes. Whilst many primary schools are still struggling with the influx of pupils who would otherwise have had no chance of getting a formal elementary education if it were not for UPE and USE, this author seeks to investigate whether the implementation of these programmes has in any way made a difference to people's attitudes towards education in general and vocational education in particular. The study seeks to investigate the trend of enrolment and completion in institutions of higher learning and in particular those in the Business, Technical, Vocational Education and Training (BTVET) sector during the time when Education For All (EFA) by the year 2012, has been on top of the agenda as one of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG) for developing countries.

The UPE programme took off amidst a barrage of problems including widespread public criticism resulting from the initially poor performance of typical UPE schools in the country. Among the problems that pledged this programme from the very start was the issue of congestion of the available classrooms. Because of the UPE programme many schools reported overwhelming enrolments leading to an influx of the hitherto non school going children. This became a cause for concern as a result of the overstretched existing facilities within schools. In spite of the inadequate conditions under which some of the schools operated, and whilst some schools were still lamenting the lack of space and inadequate facilities, it was about this time that the government made good its second promise regarding free education and introduced the Universal Secondary Education, (USE) free for all. The programme, which started in 2007, was introduced in a similar way to UPE ten years earlier. Similar in a sense that the programme was ill prepared for as it was started within the existing school infrastructure and with the same manpower. Three years down the line however, reports from the media and evidence from schools seem to suggest that the USE programme has produced increased rates of enrolment in secondary schools by the year since it was started. It is the assumption of this author that if these reforms in the education sector have so far been a success story they could have a similar impact on people's attitudes regarding education in general and vocational education in particular, and it is from the results of this study that this fact will be fully established. It is on this basis among other factors that this author is to conduct a study of the rates at which students enroll and complete their courses paying particular attention to such factors as cause them to drop out and what to do about it.

It is important to note at this point however that in as much as both primary and secondary education have been made universal there are still many children of school going age that are not in school, leaving us with questions demanding answers as to why this is so. There are many children seen hanging about on streets whilst others resort to early marriages and/or childhood labour. A lot of children who don't go to school are found in the villages which are the centre of activity for most families who live on subsistence farming. Causes for this can be numerous, however let it suffice to say at this point that this kind of situation is at the centre of this study's investigation. Whereas there is no legislation on school going age in the country universal education has so far not been made compulsory. This has not only given some parents the freedom but also has to a great extent contributed to keeping many children away from schools since there is no accountability to any local authority for not sending children to school. With so many children growing up in an environment where a good part of the population either disregard the importance of education or considers it to be beyond their reach, it is important to investigate whether this carries any significance in terms of influence to the students who opt to continue with education in institutions of higher learning. Whilst the tendency of dropping out of schools can be traced in all sectors of education in the country, it is important to investigate the rate at which it is happening. Since the government set up the Special Educational Policy Review Commission (1989), some of its results have been realized in the government white paper on education, in addition to UPE and USE. There is need therefore to investigate further the reforms on educational programmes brought about as a result of the action of this commission and how these impact on enrolment and completion rates.


1. To establish factors that influence students to join institutions of higher learning.

2. To investigate how the programmes on offer within the institutions of higher learning particularly in the BTVET sector meet employment needs of young people

3. The study will seek to establish the trend of performance in the BTVET institutions by comparing the number of students that initially enroll and the number that finish their two or three year courses, noting any disparities if any, over a period of ten years.

4. A cross section of school drop outs will be located and interviewed to establish reasons why they failed to complete their courses.

5. A cross section of students in the final year of their courses will also be interviewed to establish factors that motivate them to complete their courses.

6. To study and draw examples from developing countries as well as developed European countries for purposes of comparing and contrasting the BTVET situation on ground in Uganda. It is the view of this author that comparing and contrasting systems will provide a wider perspective about how BTVET courses are taught elsewhere in relationship to what is on the ground.

7. To conduct a review of the literature that explores education as practiced in the history of the African traditional society the context in which formal education can be appreciated and practiced for the benefit of communities (ref).

8. To conduct a brief study of the current reforms within the British system of education as an example of a system that is constantly transforming in an attempt to match needs of young people in a developed country.

Political/Economic background to the Problem

Uganda is a land-locked country, which lies across the equator in the heart of Africa, covering 241,139 square kilometers, 17% of which is water. Most of the country lies between 900-2000 meters above sea level, which makes it enjoy a generally mild tropical climate with temperatures ranging between 17ºc and 28ºc with the average rainfall of about 1500 mm p.a. The same altitudinal variations enable Uganda grow a wide range of subsistence and cash crops for the country. With a population, which is now estimated to be 24.4 Million, Uganda has an annual growth rate of 3.3% and a density of 124 persons per square kilometer. Females constitute about 51.2% of the population according to the 2002 National Population and Housing Census.

A decade after Uganda attained independence in 1962 a period of political instability was experienced, (1970-1979) which led to serious economic and political decline. During this period skilled manpower including a large number of professionals fled the country seeking political and economic refuge. As a result of this most of the infrastructure for industries, education, transport and other service sectors were hardly repaired or maintained with many consequently falling into decline. The country's growth in all sectors including that of the vocational education and training was adversely affected and the need for economic and social renewal both in terms of infrastructure as well as public attitudes towards education programmes was stronger than ever. Studies within the ministry of education and the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS), indicate that this situation appears to have improved in the past twenty years during which time a lot of changes have been brought about by the present regime.

The present system of education in Uganda is patterned after the model of the British system of education inherited after the country attained her political independence in 1962(ref). This system of education was originally designed to produce graduates with a bias towards secretarial and administrative jobs(ibid). This is because the main purpose of education during the colonial days was to provide personnel for service to the colonial master (ref). The system had no inclination towards rural development although government policy emphasized transformation of the country side(ibid). The educational system continued to over-supply youngsters with purely academic type of education while shortages of specialised practical training persisted. As a result of this trend when the Ministry of Planning and Economic Development conducted a survey in 1997 it was revealed that there was an acute shortage of professionals and technicians in the manufacturing industry. The time elapsed since then calls for yet another study to help find out the present state of affairs regarding the job market in Uganda.

Documentary evidence from the ministry of education and sports seems to suggest that enrolment in institutions of technical and higher education does not correspond to the country's manpower needs. Moreover, earlier research within the ministry has shown that the enrolment mechanism used is one where each institution has an enrolment target set depending on the previous year's enrolment as well as available resources and training capacity of the institution(ref). In setting targets, there is no evidence to suggest that the government gives priority to the country's job market needs or to the needs of the young people in a particular geographical area. Most of the institutions whether government or private often attract students nationwide regardless of geographical boundaries, who apply for admission to the already established courses. Admission to these courses is on merit and certain courses are highly competitive. A comprehensive study of Uganda's National Manpower which was carried out in 1988 by the Ministry of Education and Sports revealed that countrywide, there were at that time 21 vocational schools, 77 technical schools and institutes and 37 business schools and institutes with a total annual output of about 5000. Of the total number of institutions, 5 vocational centres, 52 technical schools and institutes were government-aided. The survey also revealed that from 1983 to 1987 (inclusive), vocational schools graduated 3795; technical institutions graduated 6011 while commercial institutions graduated 11,831. The survey showed that the manufacturing sector alone employed 3.6 per cent of the administrative, managerial and professionals enumerated; 6.6 per cent of the technicians and associate professional personnel and 12.7 per cent of the skilled workers. It was projected that the number of 5000 artisans, technicians and craftsmen who were at the time produced by Ugandan institutions would hardly satisfy the demand by the economy especially during the period of rehabilitation and reconstruction programmes to be undertaken under the new regime.

Despite the fact that vocational education and training institutions are supposed to produce graduates whose skills will be readily utilised in the job market, it has been observed that there are many graduates of the vocational sector that suffer from joblessness. As to whether this is a result of students taking the wrong courses, or whether it is the inadequacy of the infrastructure within the industrial economy making it unable to absorb all graduates, is a fact yet to be established. On the matter of joblessness however, Dewey (1998) asserts that education serves a far greater purpose, suggesting that it is a means by which members of the society preserve their own identity and values. Nevertheless, this problem of joblessness and economic backwardness resulting from systems of education which produce unemployable graduates remains a subject of investigation. Hence the necessity of this study to investigate and analyse all factors underlying the enrolment and completion rates within the very institutions concerned with the supply of manpower for the industrial economy of the country.

Study questions

In some of the rural areas of Uganda, TVET has in the past been generally considered as a second-class education in both the perceptions and expectations of pupils and parents. Likewise low prestige is attached to technical training as it is often associated with failure to achieve higher academic aspirations. This suspicion of a second-class education supposedly leads some parents to opt for a general type of education that is likely to help improve quality of everyday life by providing access to white collar employment for their sons and daughters. It is one of the aims of this study to investigate whether the attitude of both parents and their children has had any effect on the enrolment and completion rates in TVET institutions. A review of the Uganda Education Policy Review Report (1989) reveals an observation made regarding Uganda's educational curriculum of the late 80s, as outdated and irrelevant to the needs of the economy. Among other things it was recommended that the curriculum be revised and updated for it to suit the country's needs. With over two decades down the line since the establishment of this review commission there is a need to investigate whether this recommendation was ever put into effect, and to establish whether there is a difference between the present provision of educational programmes and those of twenty years ago.

The study therefore seeks to find answers to the following questions:

a) What are the factors affecting the rates of enrolments into VET programmes.

b) What are the factors affecting completion rates in TVET institutions.

c) What is the trend of enrolment in relationship to completion rates in the BTVET institutions over the past ten years?

Focus of the Study

From the Uganda Bureau of statistics (2002) we find that the rural population represents 70 percent of the world's poor and 72 percent of the population of the least developed countries. Many African governments are doing their best to harness development through urbanisation and education of masses in a bid to uplift the population's standards of living. However, despite the urbanization, the situation of poverty and underdevelopment is likely to stay with us for the foreseeable future. The present campaign to ‘make poverty history' in the developing countries might yield no results and poverty will continue to exist for as long as the world's rural populations remain living in such conditions such as those that exist today. While African countries are likely to benefit from the global fight to try and assist in making poverty history, the real solution is not in ‘the provision of the fish', but in teaching the African young people ‘the fishing techniques' (ref). In this respect, education which is the process by which people learn and acquire skills (ref) need to focus on imparting the right kind of skills, those which will promote a holistic type of education. Likewise, the government's policies and resources need to be redirected to providing a type of education that will produce the skills of a kind that the country needs for its social and economic development. Studies by the World Bank reveal that in Africa today vocational skills are particularly important at an early stage in the education of an individual because circumstances such as wars and pestilences have made many a young person become the sole provider for the family. For this reason among others, this study will focus on the young people and the factors that have in the past ten years influenced their enrolments, drop outs and those that motivated completion in various courses offered in the BTVET institutions.

A review of the Literature on Uganda's current Education system

According to the Uganda National Curriculum, formal education in Uganda takes seven years at the primary level, followed by four to six years for both ‘O' and ‘A' level. Students completing this level join the technical schools which take three years at the lower level and 2 years at the advanced level. As would be the case in many countries the choice to join a technical school at the lower primary school level is not a very popular one as to many it would reflect academic failure, and to some a poor economic background. Another considerable factor is the poor output for those joining at this level, as it gives poor yields both in skill and standards of living. Grubb, (1995) emphasizes this fact by asserting that the training programmes for the low educated and less skilled have in the past not been particularly successful in getting them jobs and higher incomes. There have been in the past great opportunities for ‘O' level leavers to join the Primary Teachers Colleges (PTC), this is also reducing as the demand for standards in institutions becomes higher and higher in the country. Those who join ‘A' level eventually join either university or an institute of higher learning such as a National Teachers College (NTC), and possibly a technical/vocational college or farm school.

The Uganda Vocational Curriculum is represented in an overlapping three-tier system with level one, the craftsman level offered by technical schools as the lowest. This level is for the primary school leavers who for various reasons could not make it to secondary schools. Such students go to technical schools for three-year full time courses leading to the award of Uganda Junior Technical Certificate (UJTC) in courses such as Carpentry and Joinery, Block laying and Concrete Practice, Tailoring, and Agriculture. Level two is also known as the Technician level offered through technical colleges and Uganda Polytechnic normally admits ‘O' level with high passes in Science and Mathematics and in certain cases ‘A' level graduates not absorbed into university. These technical Institutes offer two-year full time courses in various vocational courses such as Carpentry and Joinery, Mechanics, Plumbing, etc. Due to rising academic standards however, many students who would benefit from these courses are kept out as a result of high pass grades in Mathematics, Physics and English at O'level.

Level three, the graduate engineer level is offered through Universities, Technical Colleges and the Uganda Polytechnics. These recruit ‘A' level graduates who passed examinations in Physics and Mathematics. Courses are of a two-year duration leading to the award of ordinary diploma in Civil, Mechanical and Electrical Engineering among others. Graduate level engineers are currently trained only at Makerere University. However, according to a report by Wirak, et al, (2003), the Uganda Polytechnic Kyambogo aspiring for university status, in 2001/2002 academic year through a merger with the Institute of Teacher Education Kyambogo (ITEK) sought to upgrade into a degree awarding institution known as Kyambogo University. In addition to Makerere University this institution might also be in position to offer similar degree programmes in engineering. Vocational training on the other hand, is offered through the Directorate of Industrial Training with various Centres and programmes within the country. The directorate is responsible for industrial training, apprenticeship training, trade testing and certification and skills up-grading.

Uganda's Education Curriculum

The National Curriculum Development Centre (NCDC) a body responsible for reviewing the needs and formulating the curriculum was set up in 1973, (Bennell & Sayed, 2002). This body has revised the curriculum and attempts made to implement it, covering a range of subjects at primary and secondary school levels. In spite of all the efforts towards formulating a practically oriented curriculum however, it is worth noting that the curriculum is still academically rigorous and irrelevant to the economical and industrial needs of the country. Reasons for this could be attributed to the inherent biasness within the education system where general education programmes are treated with higher priority and given preference by both parents and students over vocational education programmes. Past experience has shown that many school leavers do not have the skills needed by the employers in spite of successful completion of their general education courses. It is also evident that the Uganda Curriculum seems to promote the traditional trend of a high demand for an academic education which is the basis for white-collar employment notwithstanding the needs for the country's growing mixed economy. According to Bennell & Sayed, (2002) Uganda has been one of leading Sub-Sahara African countries to implement wide-ranging economic and social reforms to achieve sustainable growth. And it is for this reason that the country has in the recent past been mentioned as a success story for the African continent by several UNESCO and World Bank reports (UNESCO, 2001). Progress is particularly prominent in primary education due to the decision taken in 1996 to implement universal primary education free to four children in every family. This removed what had been an important economic impediment for families to enroll and maintain their children at school. According to a ministerial report (Bitamazire, 2005) by 2001, about 65 percent of the total education budget was devoted to primary education and the gross enrolment ratio for this level increased from about 75 percent in 1995 to about 135 percent in 2002, (ibid). Late 2005, the prospect of Universal Secondary Education (USE) was announced, (Newvision, Nov. 2005). It was predicted that the scheme would benefit an estimated 300,000 pioneers to the programme. This number would comprise of pupils who sat for Primary Leaving Examinations in 2005 and those who completed Primary 7 under Universal Primary Education (UPE) in 2004 and 2003 but were unable to continue due to lack of funds for school fees, (ibid). The successful implementation of this programme would make Uganda the first country in Africa to introduce universal and free secondary education, (ibid). According to UNESCO, (2005) by the year 2004, only a fifth (20%) of the then Uganda's population of 25 million had a chance to enroll for secondary education, and the beneficiaries were mainly from the higher income groups and urban families. The new USE scheme would aim at enhancing access to secondary education, particularly for low-income groups and children from rural families.

As one of the ways of advancing towards the millennium development goals, (MDG), Vocational Education and Training is of particular importance in today's globalized, information and knowledge-based economy. In order for any society to successfully integrate its young people and have them ‘benefit from the economy' a well-educated workforce is inevitable (Bennell & Sayed, 2002). In Uganda's predominantly rural economies where many primary school leavers do not have any chance of further formal education, a vocational training is most needed. With the introduction of USE the problem of unemployment will probably be exacerbated by an influx of unemployable and unskilled school leavers into the job market. By solving the problem of secondary school accessibility for many rural young people, the process of universal and free secondary education will be creating another one as the rural communities will be filled with frustrated school leavers who will not be able to cope with the rural lifestyles, and yet do not have the capacity to live the desirable urban lifestyles due to lack of employable skills.

TVET and Industrial Training

Industrial training is an integral part of all the courses in technical/vocational education, in each of the technical and vocational education and training institutions, including university. In Uganda students would spend a minimum of three months each year on job placement, while doing the practical training. During this time they are supervised by the industry and would normally be visited by their lecturers to assess and discuss their training and progress in their programs. Other forms of training involve field trips, regional workshops, study tours and seminars organized by the various training institutions. It is usually through such workshops and seminars that vocational students are made aware of and given the chance to discuss the experiences and opportunities provided by the world of work. According to Lugujjo, (1998) such seminars were by then limited and depended on different training institutions and their ability to finance them (the seminars). Lugujjo, (1998) further asserted that the government of Uganda ought to have adopted a coherent policy with financial provision to ‘link technical and vocational education and training to industry' in order to produce proficient workers and make education more responsive to the social and economic requirements of the country. This study also investigates to what extent the Ugandan policy has supported the link between the training institutions and the real world of work (or the industry).

Challenges facing the Vocational sector

The structure of Uganda's education system appears to be well organized and appealing to the needs of all levels of students including those with the lowest level of formal education. Yet promising as it appears, the system still faces numerous problems and as a result it yields limited and controversial outputs as its would-be beneficiaries turn out to be its very critics. As the case would be in most countries the Uganda government as well as the general public see TVET as expensive, and difficult to implement due to the high costs of infrastructure, provision of machinery and equipment, and well trained staff to handle the programme, (Kasozi, 2005). Besides it also carries with it the stigma of being patronized by intellectually inferior students and associated with non-prestigious blue-collar employment. After completing primary school, a child who failed to go to secondary school would join a technical school. Similarly, a child who failed to go to university would have a vocational institution as a last option to keep him in school. In the past the situation was made worse by the fact that technical and vocational education had no vertical mobility and access to higher education, (ibid). This was compounded by lack of adequate facilities and infrastructure in some vocational institutions resulting in the fact that many of the students completing technical/vocational courses in such institutions were ill equipped for both industry and self-employment. For some young people this constituted a reason for choosing rather to stay at home than join a technical school as it was not worth the expensive effort. For others, the feeling that a technical school was the last alternative for those students who could not make it to the next stage caused a dislike for the system. For many young people however, VET seems to be the best option as evidence from the numerous informal sector (Jua Kali) workshops in Nairobi, Kenya seems to suggest. When given the opportunity and the right environment, many of these academically downgraded students often turn out to be among the most successful craftsmen and entrepreneurs of the country after putting to use the practical skills gained from technical and vocational institutions.

Numerous examples of these are seen in the informal sector workshops in the country. Most of the informal sector in the sub-Saharan Africa is dominated by craftsmen who never saw the inside of a university classroom. Handelman, (1996) pointed out that many of the low-income workers in developing countries who find jobs, will under favourable conditions achieve upward mobility. He cites an example in Owens, (1991:235) who carried out a study of West Bengal's industrial city of Howrah, where he found that “several hundred men who started with almost nothing now own factories large enough to employ twenty five or more workers, placing them among the richest people of the community.” (Handelman, 1996, pp.135-136). This example further demonstrates the fact that the acquisition of technical skills leading to industrial success does not have to depend only on one's performance in general education.

a) Accessibility to Vocational Education

A survey of the socio-economic needs of local communities in Uganda done by the World Bank (2002) reveal that it is the wish of most school going children and their parents that they pursue their education to the highest level and attain a university degree. However this would not be possible given the variable capabilities ranging from academic to social and economic demands. As a result a lot of students are forced to look up to other institutions of higher learning other than the Universities. This is necessary so that all students can be catered for even if they may not have academic requirements or the financial means to acquire a University education. Another factor to consider is that state universities do not have the capacity to absorb all applicants with minimum entry requirements. As a result many join private universities, vocational/technical institutions and other institutions of higher learning. The question however still to be discussed later in this study is what motivates students to join the institutions of higher learning, and particularly those in the Business, Technical or Vocational training sector?

Studies by UNEVOC and UNESCO have established that some parents have a accepted technical and vocational education as a possible alternative for their children. This is the trend the present government seems to be following as in the process of introducing USE, there are plans to follow it up with free vocational education, (New Vision, March 29th 2006).

b) Aims and objectives of TVET in Uganda:

The ministry of education, listed among others the following as priorities for education of a rural community: listed among other priorities in the education for a rural community the following aims and objectives of technical and vocational education in Uganda:

“To stimulate the technical growth of students in order to make them productive members of the community; and to produce craftsmen, technicians and other skilled manpower to meet the demands of industry, agriculture, commerce and the general labour force”. The Uganda Education Sector Investment Plan, (ESIP, 1998-2003),

The ministry also established that ‘one of the biggest limiting factors to access entry to technical schools was the students' poor academic performance' in Mathematics and Science causing them to fail getting acceptance to the technical and vocational institutions. This has been a big problem because historically performance in these two disciplines has always been a problem especially in rural schools which lack basic science laboratory equipments, unlike the urban schools. The inequality in distribution of means and equipment has greatly contributed to the poor performance in mathematics and science which are hitherto essential for technical/vocational entry.

c) Lack of skilled workers

There is a lack of skilled workers in the country which seems to be increasing with the growing number of school leavers. In his research Wirak et al (2003) observed that this lack can also be attributed to the following factors among others:

i. Due to UPE enrolment there was an increase in demand on the post primary institutions which lack the facilities to accommodate the extra number of school leavers.

ii. Many young people who drop out of school try to do small scale businesses which often do not succeed due to lack of training in business skills.

iii. The retrenchment of employees of privatized government companies and the immobilized soldiers added to the increased number of unskilled jobseekers in the country.

iv. The professional brain drain has caused the labour market to experience a great loss of skilled professionals.

d) Vocational education enrolments

According to Uganda Bureau of Statistics, (2006) Vocational gross enrolment in Uganda remains around 2 per cent of the total high education sector. This indicates a low enrolment rate; implying that the system is inequitable and inefficient. It is feared that the situation will worsen due the success of UPE working its way through the education system. About 30,000 secondary school graduates passed the Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education (UACE) in 2005, according to the results released by the Uganda National Examinations Board (UNEB, 2005). This number is expected to increase as the government advances towards the improvement and expansion of secondary education. Secondly, because of Uganda's population growth rate there will be a larger vocational age group. Compared to the population, gross vocational enrolment ratio was only 2 percent in 2000; (UNEVOC supplement, (06).

Table 1: Schools, Enrollments, and Teachers by Type




Tertiary *

# of Schools










# of Teachers




Source: Education Statistical Abstract 2000, MOES.

The rationale for Vocational Education and Training

The job market in Uganda as already discussed earlier seems to be flooded by job seekers most of whom are high school graduates with no practical skills training. Different occupations in a developing economy require graduates with varied skills. Vocational education would promote equity with a rural bias and serve the needs of relatively poor people. As Grubb (1985) states,

“vocational education has been seen as the answer to an enrolment prob­lem: the tendency of some students (especially lower class students) to drop out of schools without occupational skills -- vocational education programmes would bear the prospects of resolving this problem by providing a more interesting and job-relevant curriculum”

(Grubb 1985, p.527).

Lillis and Hogan, (1983) further argued that “vocational education is specifically believed to be an effective answer to rural prob­lems, to alleviate unemployment; and reorient student attitudes towards rural society and as an important measure of develop­ment for disadvantaged youth”. Grubb, (1985) added that vocational education would help these youth by cultivating in them a skill oriented culture as opposed to the traditional pure academic culture.

Factors that affected TVET reforms in previous regimes

a) Economic factors

i. According to Becker, (1964) education of a general nature is significant in the creation of human capital as it possible to be applied in other areas of work, whilst vocational and technical education is responsible for the creation of specific human capital. It is on this basis that most scholars advocated general education as opposed to vocational education arguing that it was most suitable for a flexible labour force. However MALAK(9099) reiterates the value of vocational education as fundamental for economy of a developing country like Uganda.

ii. As the country experiences modern transformation of its societies in the social, political, and economic spheres their view of the traditional, functional type of education is bound to change. The success of formal education coupled with the expansion of the economic sector is likely to influence more young people to migrate to urban areas in search for white collar jobs, as they desire to match the modern lifestyle. Such economic factors will have a bearing to the young people's choices and decisions, and as a result, the social demand for academic education is likely to become strongest not only in Uganda, but in most Sub-Saharan Africa.

iii. The demand for general education was then as it is now spearheaded by the policy makers in the field of education as most of the jobs provided by the economic sector during the immediate post colonial years were administrative type of jobs, besides teachers and medical staff. These by their nature required that people needed skills of an academic education nature.

iv. A global review of vocational skills development in Sub-Saharan Africa by Bennell and Sergerstrom, (1998) support conclusions that effective general education enhances trainability and maximises the opportunities for young people, and that general education is progressive, one can continue to learn formally since it is relatively cost efficient.

v. General education is more likely to show positive rates of return on investment than pre-career job specific technical and vocational training provided at the work place.

b) Social factors

Some critics of vocational education and training have pointed out that some of the failures in the respective reform attempts to the sector since colonial times were as a result of strong resistance by the target groups, parents, teachers and pupils alike. Another group of critics stressed that the basic function of schooling was to provide literacy and numeracy. And that any vocational training attempts in schools would compete with this function. Consequently, Psacharopoulos (1987) assumed that in one way, a general education curriculum at the primary school level, for example, emphasising the 3 Rs and basic science, may be the most vocational and relevant type of education one may provide. Eisemon and Nyamete, (1990) criticised this view after they conducted a field study in Kenya, which involved classroom observations as well as the observation of school leavers in agricultural activities. In his report Nyamete, concluded that

"…school acquired literacy may be necessary but it is certainly not a sufficient condition for increasing productive capacities. Literacy is often not a functional skill because the schooling farmers have received, has not equipped them to carry out knowledge based practical tasks involving modern production technologies. The social and economic changes with which literacy and schooling have been associated and that have provided the impetus for educational expansion are unlikely to occur in the absence of qualitative improvements in instruction in science and agriculture." (Eisemon and Nyamete, 1990, p. 34).

c) The Vocational school fallacy theory

One of the strongest support for the argument that general education is superior to vocational education as a preparation for work was the theory of the “vocational school fallacy” by Foster, (1968). In one of his research studies in Ghana, Foster (1968) emphasized the rationality of African students and their parents in rejecting vocational education. During the immediate post colonial era when the principal source of formal employment was the public sector, the people's choice would be a general academic education. Foster's argument was that employment opportunities and possibilities of the time determined what should be the students' aspirations. In the economical atmosphere such as what existed during the post colonial situation, Forster (1968) suggested that it was academic education that was more truly 'vocational' - in the sense that even a school leaver with a minimum level of education would be employable by the government. This argument initially found favour with the post-independence African governments who saw vocational education in the light of their colonial experience, characterised as inferior by the colonial governments.

Whilst Foster's theory largely influenced many African policy makers it cannot be totally rejected even in this twenty first century as we see the extent to which general education impacts on the people's social lifestyles. Nevertheless, it is important to note that the circumstances in today's world would dictate differently. As modern technologies permeate the economy, a demand for new skills rises with the level of technological advancement. As in many countries the levels of public-sector employment get reduced it is most unlikely that secondary school leavers will get employment in the modern sector of the economy. Due to current rising academic standards, it is most unlikely that primary school leavers would get the type of jobs such as clerk or primary school teacher without specialized vocational training in the particular field of work, which used to be the case during the time when Forster (1968) conducted his research in Ghana. Blaug (1970) commented on the distinction between academic and vocational education in this way:

“This distinction, which is actually grounded in the nature of the two curricula, is allowed to carry the implication that some education prepares students for the ‘world of work' and some does not. All too frequently, however, those who have taken courses of study generally called ‘academic' ... reap substantial financial returns from their education, thus producing the paradoxical conclusion that academic education has a greater ‘vocational' value than vocational education. The traditional distinction was developed by educators, but the labour market has its own way of appraising qualifications.” (Blaug, 1970, p. 247).

As it appears, the same argument continues to be upheld by the policy makers and those engaged in strategic planning. Priority is still given to the general education sector whose demand, apparently still dominates the developing world. In general education, on the one hand, the more years a person spends in school studying the “right course” the more likely he is to access a good job and in most cases the more money he is likely to earn. On the other hand Vocational Education calls for “specific skills” for one to succeed in the economic world of work (Blaug, 1970), regardless the number of years spent in schooling.

Chapter one presents the introduction and general overview to this study. A comprehensive description of the Uganda system of education has been given. The chapter has stated the study questions, the purpose and significance of this study, and has also highlighted on the methodology used in the collection and analysis of data. The next chapter concentrates on the comprehensive description of the British system of education from its historical setting to the present time. Reviews the education policies as they have evolved through the decades to make the British system of education what it is today and what makes it different from some systems in Europe. A focus is laid on those elements that can be desirable as developmental and could be borrowed by developing countries such as Uganda.


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