Biometrics to monitor teacher and pupil attendance for improved learning outcomes in Uganda

By Lawrence Konge

Children in Uganda playing during the covid-19 lockdown

Financing is critical to the delivery of quality education services. But new research shows that although funding is a necessary factor affecting the performance of learners it should always be complemented by other factors. This includes non-fiscal interventions such as improved teacher and pupil attendance monitoring through biometrics and strict school level assessments.

Attendance monitoring through tablet-based biometric check-ins, disclosing school rankings and school-level assessments are some interventions that are being implemented under the Uganda Intergovernmental Fiscal Transfers (UgIFT) programme. Uganda’s government is running the project which is co-financed by the World Bank to enhance learning outcomes.

Uganda’s Ministry of Education and Sports is tasked with ensuring that underserved districts have enough money to improve school performance. Alex Kakooza, the Permanent Secretary says: “The ministry guarantees quality of learning in the country through provision of financing. Since the introduction of Universal Primary Education (UPE) , the number of children attending primary school has tripled. Attendance however, is insufficient to measure success as we need more learners completing their studies.”

A report by the international commission on financing global education opportunity, notes the need for increased funding in education budgets to achieve quality standards. For better access to quality education, the sector will require the total spending to rise steadily from $1.2 trillion per year in 2016, to $3 trillion by 2030 across all low and middle-income countries.

The commission recommends that countries prioritise tracking education financing from the central government to school level. This should include publishing per-pupil allocations at local level to highlight variations and inequities in funding. This will lead to proper linkages of information about resources with outcomes. Test scores will provide a direct measure of student learning outcomes.

The UgIFT programme has enabled the government to provide quality education through financing. The programme supported by the World Bank seeks to improve adequacy and equity in education services.

“It is important that we recover losses occasioned by covid-19 pandemic as students resume learning. We strive to ensure allocation of resources to schools. Under UgIFT, top performing districts are rewarded and this has been an incentive for schools to record better performance. An annual district assessments does these evaluations,” says Alex Kakooza.

In Uganda Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE) are the first major national examinations that learners undertake in public and private schools. These exams are significant as they are benchmarks for comparing learner’s abilities across the country for transition from primary school to secondary school. While several factors affect learner’s ability to perform well that range from type of school, community, household and national factors, public financing for education is believed to be one of the major factors affecting learner’s performance.

When you compare UPE per-capita financing for each district with the district PLE 2020 pass rate reveals that there is generally a relationship between per-capita spending and the pass rate.

Graphical comparison of percentage of PLE candidate who passed by district for the 10 top funded districts (Kampala not considered) and the 10 least funded districts per UPE learner in FY2020/21 is presented below.

Figure 1: Comparing least funded and the Top funded districts

There is generally a positive relationship between UPE financing by district and PLE performance. For instance, among the districts considered, Madi-Okollo had the least financing per UPE learner and was found to have the lowest pass-rate (51.8%).

Although among the considered districts at 92.6 per cent, Sheema had the largest proportion of learners who had passed it wasn`t the best funded district. It was however, still among the better funded districts.

Increasing public financing for education is necessary to enhance learning outcomes and reduce education inequality. Uganda’s inadequate budget allocation towards primary education is one of the critical factors that affect performance of learners at PLE. Financing should, however, be complemented by other enabling factors.

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