Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?
The Ugandan education system has failed to produce the type of leadership needed to solve persistent social problems of poverty; high youth unemployment; and rising rates of crime, HIV/AIDS transmissions and environmental degradation. With 50% of the population under the age of 25, Uganda’s youth must be equipped with the skills and experiences needed to recognize, create and lead solutions to these intractable problems, or they will only contribute to them in the future.
While it is easy to understand the importance of education in resolving these problems, Ugandan leadership does not recognize that the education system itself is flawed. A recent report by BRAC Uganda argues that completion of Advanced Level Education in high school has no positive economic outcomes for the individual and therefore, no impact on quality of life. Despite this, the government has focused on increasing access to education through universal primary and secondary schooling, rather than resolving problems within the system first. Eric equates this strategy to an attempt to make a broken vehicle work by loading more and more people on to it. It is important to fix the vehicle, and ensure that it is moving in the right direction, before loading people onto it. This is the step that the Ugandan government has missed, and that Educate focuses on. Without this key insight, billions of government and international aid dollars are directed towards increasing access to an education system that doesn’t work. If the education system could be transformed, these wasted financial resources could be leveraged to great effect.
With a curriculum based on repetition and memorization, the education system cannot groom new generations of creative leaders. Developed in 1962, the curriculum is based on a colonial era that sought to train civil servants who would maintain, and not question, the status quo. The exam score is the primary measure of performance across the system, which further reinforces rote memorization-based teaching practices. Entrepreneurship teachers in particular, lack practical experience and training in the field. By 2009, the government had only trained 20 out of 2000 entrepreneurship teachers nationwide- leaving most ill-equipped to develop young, problem-solving entrepreneurs. While repetition was relevant and worked fifty years ago, the world has changed to one in which the only constant is change. Thus, the current curriculum is not only taught inappropriately, but it is also grossly inadequate at preparing young people to address the challenges of current times and is locked in by the schools’ focus on scores earned on standardized exams.
Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!
Eric is dedicated to transforming the education system of Uganda so that it equips young people with the leadership skills necessary to become change-makers in their communities. His organization, Educate, addresses the core problem of an outdated education system that has not produced the leadership needed to resolve social ills in Ugandan society.
Educate works to transform the system from within, rather than creating alternative schools or simply increasing access to education. It partners with schools to provide a two-year social entrepreneurship program that shifts the educational focus from rote-memorization to leadership development. This program transforms the educational experience of students (16 to 18 years old) with an opportunity to develop and lead their own enterprises, along with long-term opportunities to receive and give mentorship. By strategically working from within the education system, he has shown how it can be transformed without an entirely new one being created.
Eric is using the life-changing impact that his work is having on ordinary secondary school students to generate reform of the education system as a whole. To this end, he has successfully advocated for the addition of his experiential, social entrepreneurship program to the national curriculum. Additionally, in a country which puts heavy emphasis on standardized examination at the end of secondary schools, Educate is now introducing a practice-based exam that recognizes student entrepreneurship rather than repetition, with the support of the Ugandan government. Eric hopes to use the results of an ongoing impact evaluation to help spread the Educate model across the continent, and beyond.