The Uganda National Examinations Board-UNEB has raised concern about the increasing use of slang during examinations.
According to UNEB, students are increasingly using jargon and can hardly express themselves without applying slang.
Dan Odongo, the Executive Director of UNEB, notes the use of slang is one of the factors affecting the performance of learners not only in English and Literature but also in other subjects that require constructing sentences.
Odongo adds that during marking some examiners could not tell what the learners meant. For instance, he points out that many learners are writing informal shorthand like “b4” to mean “before.
Odongo says that the use of slang in examinations can have negative effects on a student’s results and can be misinterpreted by examiners leading to poor scores.
Dr. Grace Baguma, the Executive Director at the National Curriculum Development Centre, attributes the spread of slang to social media.
However, Dr. Baguma believes that this can be addressed by emphasizing the use of formal language in reading, writing, and speaking activities in the classroom. She also suggests that schools should consider promoting the use of formal language at school.
Dr. Baguma says it is important for parents, teachers, and other adult role models to educate children about the importance of using proper language and communication skills. Additionally, she says there is a need to set guidelines and boundaries around the use of technology, including smartphones and social media.
Alex Okwaput, a teacher at Kololo Secondary School also says the use of phones by children has a profound effect on their way of life and directly influences their response to questions. Okwaput says it is common to see children as young as four years using WhatsApp, which can lead to the adoption of an abbreviated and informal language style as they grow up.
“Language is learned in a number of ways, we study it in books, we practice speaking, and then practice writing, but many schools and English teachers put more emphasis on mastering speaking and do not empower children with the art of writing correct words,” says Okwaput.
Robert Mayemba, the Headteacher for Namakwa Senior Secondary School in Nakisunga Sub County Mukono District advises that to counter this trend, teachers should place an emphasis on functional writing and encourages them to participate in report writing and debating competitions.
He says that this can help students to develop strong writing and communication skills that will serve them well in their future academic and professional careers.
Francis Kyasa, the head teacher of Midland High School, and Fahad Mabiriizi, the Director of Studies at Bilal Islamic Secondary School, noted the difficulties they face in teaching and communicating with students who have been influenced by social media.
Zainab Maka Kakeeto, the head teacher of Mbogo High School in Kawempe, also reported that students are not motivated to practice speaking English outside the classroom. She also noted that the extended period of lockdown has negatively impacted the ability of many learners to speak English.
In addition to the use of slang, the UNEB has identified that students also struggle with understanding keywords in exam questions and have a general weakness in language expression.