Three PEAS schools have been recognised by the Ministry of Education in Uganda as some of the top performing secondary schools in the country.
In a list of the top 100 secondary schools in the country, published by the government this week, PEAS (Promoting Equality in African Schools) secured three places in the rankings which have been calculated using the value add metric. This shows the levels of academic improvement achieved by individual students from the time they start at school to when they complete their secondary education.
Toroma PEAS High School in Katakwi district appears 35th on the list, the highest of the PEAS schools, in what was the first year students sat their UCE exams. Elsewhere, Apeulai High School in Amuria was 66th and Kityerera High School in Mayuge District secured 88th place.
Until 2015, the districts of Amuria and Katakwi were two of the lowest performing with regards secondary school leaving exams in Uganda. Since PEAS launched the two new schools in the regions last year the exam results have raised the bar for the entire district sufficient to move them up the national rankings.
“This is a fantastic achievement for the staff and students at these schools”, said Francis Shanty, PEAS Uganda Country Director. “For new schools like Toroma and Apeulai to achieve such recognition within two years of opening their gates shows the level of performance PEAS’ students are achieving from the very beginning.”
It’s the first time the government have used the ‘value add’ methodology to determine school performance which shows the average number of marks achieved above or below the expected student grades. Rather than take final exam results as the key performance indicator, value add ensures those students that have made the most progress, and those the schools have helped to improve the most, are also factored in.
“It’s important to us that students are measured on their improvements rather than absolute attainment’, said PEAS Founder and CEO John Rendel. ‘Unlike many schools in Uganda, PEAS does not reject potential students due to low prior attainment so often we are working with students that are starting behind the national average. Value add shows how far these students progress academically during secondary school and, while they may not all go on to university, they will have the knowledge and skills to maximise their potential in whatever they go on to do.”
Independent research carried out earlier this year by the Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC) in Uganda found that, without imposing academic entry requirements, 60% of PEAS students are from the poorest households in the country. That compared to 39% in government schools and only 19% in private schools. Focusing on the holistic outcome for each student, PEAS uses the value add method, developed in partnership with Ark, to measure progress and not just performance.
PEAS Uganda Country Director, Francis, praised the work happening behind-the-scenes as being key to the academic success. “We have established an effective school management programme which involves school inspections, termly teacher observations and regular audits to ensure the standards we expect are being achieved. We’re seeing real benefits for students as a result and this report demonstrates the progress we’re making.”
Between 2014 and 2015, 65% of PEAS schools improved their average exam results and in the recent UCE examinations, over 50% of students achieve top Division 1-3 grades. At Toroma High School, nine in every 10 students achieved Division 1-3 with no students failing their exam.