Telling the exam results story with context and insight

The release of national examination results in Uganda often leads to media coverage focused on high-scoring schools and underperforming ones, creating a simplified narrative of successes and failures. However, this can obscure the complexities underlying exam results. While accurate reporting on data trends and statistical highlights remains important, journalists can go beyond superficial headlines and contribute to a deeper understanding of the human elements influencing educational outcomes in Uganda. this guide encourages journalists to explore beyond these basic findings.

This resource provides suggestions for you to dig deeper into the stories and contexts that contribute to student performance. It suggests reporting pathways  beyond the binary of top and bottom performers, such as assessment practices, diverse student experiences, and national education priorities.

Tips on reporting on exam results beyond the headlines

Avoid oversimplification: Resist the temptation to solely focus on high-scoring and underperforming schools, as this oversimplifies the complex dynamics of educational outcomes. Challenge the binary narrative by exploring factors contributing to performance across a spectrum of schools and contexts.

Look beyond the numbers: Don’t just reproduce statistics. Investigate underlying reasons beyond trends and patterns. Consider factors like assessment practices, teaching methods, school resources, and the impact of social and economic conditions on student learning. Investigate how these multifaceted elements intersect to influence educational achievements and setbacks.

Humanise the story: Prioritise narratives that showcase the human side of educational outcomes, including personal stories, challenges, and triumphs. Remember, exam results are about more than just numbers. Give voice to the individual experiences and challenges faced by students. Profile students who have overcome obstacles to achieve success, or those struggling against disadvantage. Highlight the dedication of teachers and the efforts of communities supporting education.

Offer insightful analysis: Don’t just report the news; analyse and interpret it. Source experts to suggest potential solutions and reforms based on your observations. Contribute to a broader conversation about improving educational outcomes for all students in Uganda.

Fresh angles for reporting exam results

  1. Teaching-to-the-test – Examine the influence of national examinations on classroom practices and teaching methodologies. Investigate the consequences of examination-focused teaching methods on students’ overall learning experiences and skill development. Analyse how a curriculum driven primarily by exam content affects students’ ability to acquire essential skills for their future.
  2. Curriculum coverage and examination pressures – Explore the effects of high-stakes examination pressures on teaching methodologies and curriculum coverage. Investigate how the focus on passing exams affects the depth and breadth of curriculum delivery.
  3. Transition to learner-centred pedagogy – Explore recommendations to reform teacher training institutions towards adopting learner-centred teaching methods. Highlight success stories or case studies of institutions implementing innovative teaching approaches.
  4. Assessment system reforms – Investigate the implementation of past recommendations on the assessment system’s improvement and explore why effective changes have not been implemented. Interview stakeholders to understand the challenges in translating recommendations into actionable policies.
  5. Regional and social disparities in education – Use the exam results to analyse regional trends. Explore the reasons behind disparities in participation and attainment between different regions and social groups. Investigate the impact of these disparities on access to quality education and potential solutions for greater equity.
  6. Implementation of continuous assessment – Investigate the feasibility and potential challenges of introducing continuous assessment in Ugandan schools. Report on the benefits and drawbacks of continuous assessment compared to traditional end-of-cycle examinations.
  7. Inclusive assessment programmes – Investigate the introduction of inclusive assessment programmes covering all subjects and catering to diverse learner abilities. Interview key stakeholders to assess how such programmes can address disparities and provide a holistic evaluation of students’ capabilities.
  8. Learning outcomes and employment needs – Investigate how the current assessment system’s focus on exams affects students’ preparedness for employment and the country’s economic needs. Unpack public discourse about education, focusing on the emphasis on scores rather than holistic learning outcomes.
  9. Language disparity – Investigate the impact of language differences between thematic curriculum instruction in local languages and examination assessments conducted in English at lower primary levels. Analyse the implications of this disparity on students’ learning outcomes and educational equity.
  10. Parental engagement and informed choices – Investigate strategies to increase parental awareness of assessment practices and their role in students’ education. Analyse how informed parental decisions can positively impact students’ educational choices and outcomes.
ACME Mwalimu

The African Centre for Media Excellence's training unit, known as ACME Mwalimu, scours news platforms and online resources to curate the best training tips and resources for journalists and media organisations, empowering them to become impactful contributors to public debate and development. If you have a training tip or question, you can reach out to ACME Mwalimu at training[at]acme-ug.org.

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