Excellent O-level results at Isaac Newton

Newspaper showing high ranking among all Uganda Schools

The Uganda Certificate of Education (O-level) results were released last week. Isaac Newton High School had their best results ever – a huge leap in performance on last year.

50 candidates were entered for the exams. There are 9 grades overall and Isaac Newton’s results were stellar:

  • 13 (26%) gained Grade 1
  • 23 (46%) gained Grade 2
  • 13 (26%) gained Grade 3

Isaac Newton High School was ranked 181st countrywide out of 3620 schools that presented candidates. In science subjects they did even better, being ranked 45th out of all the schools in Uganda.

In their home district of Kalungu Isaac Newton was the 5th highest of all the schools in the district.

O-level in Uganda is like the old Matriculation in the UK, which preceded O-levels. The overall grade is based on performance in 7 subjects. For a grade 1 students must have an aggregate below 32 across 7 subjects. However, if students gain less than a grade 5 in English Language they are prevented from being awarded a grade 1 overall. Fewer than 7% of students in the whole of Uganda gain a Grade 1 grade – so the students that do are rather special.
According to Peter Kisirinya, the school’s Director, “The failure of quite a number of students to achieve a grade 5 in English Language destroyed some of the 1st grades, and otherwise excellent students received 2nd grades.”
English has been a problem for these students. Although all lessons are in English, they come from an impoverished rural area where they speak Luganda at home and among themselves. UHST has made a concerted effort with the school to raise attainment in English. We are trying to flood the school with books. In 2016 we started a Reading for Pleasure Programme and each of our schools nominated a Reading Coordinator. We bought many general reading books and ran a very successful Reading for Pleasure Competition in June and July 2017. However, as Peter says, the children need even more English story books, but they need to include many stories that are set in an African (or Caribbean) setting that students can relate to their own daily lives. The school shows the students Films in English from DVDs at the weekends. These greatly improve English listening comprehension.


This years results will be life transforming for most of these students. Many of the students are the first to be educated in their families. Most will now be able to go on with their studies, in academic and vocational fields. They will gain good jobs in the


formal sector of the economy and the money they earn will help to transform the lives of their families. In Uganda there is a strong sense of responsibility to the family and children who do well send money home, even when they now have good jobs in the towns.

One such student is Ellen. She was the second best student in school and passed all 10 subjects and was awarded an overall grade 1. Her best subjects were History, Geography and Agriculture. She is 15 years old and has received a scholarship from a UHST supporter throughout her schooling. Her parents died and she lives with her aunt who has a restaurant. She has 2 brothers and 1 sister. Ellen is now well on the way to achieving her dream of becoming a nurse. Though with these outstanding results she may want to raise her sights towards becoming a doctor.

The best performing student in the school was Robert Semagula. Robert joined the school on a scholarship after completing his primary leaving certificate at Kasese Humanist Primary School. He has had a Humanist education throughout his schooling. Robert was entered for and passed in 10 subjects. He gained an excellent aggregate mark and was awarded an overall a grade 1. His best subjects were Maths, Computer Studies and History. Robert is 16 years old and comes from Kasese District in Western Uganda. His parents are both alive, but very poor, and he has 2 brothers and 3 sisters. He lives with his aunt in the holidays. She makes a living by selling coffee beans grown on her plot of land. Robert’s wish since joining the school has been to become a doctor. With excellent performance in science and plans to study Maths, Physics, Chemistry and Biology at A-level, he is well on his way to achieving his ambition. This will be another life completely transformed by education.

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