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'Task force on 8-4-4 system failed'

Updated Wednesday, April 4th 2012 at 00:00 GMT +3
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By Laban Ayiro

The current public discourse on education in Kenya is healthy. The global "knowledge economy" demands marketable skills that our schools, institutes of technology and universities must adequately provide.

It is because of this focus that the Task Force Report on Education is turning out to be a disappointment.

To jump to obvious and populist recommendations such as re-structuring the education system without concrete evidence would plunge the country into more inefficient and unaffordable system. When they propose to change the structure for greater flexibility, for example, where is the evidence that 8-4-4 was not flexible? What is the scientific evidence that the 2-6-3-3-3 will not present the same encumbrances? The new system seems to have even more examinable levels. Does that reflect enhanced flexibility?

Any reforms in education should be linked to vision 2030 and not just the Constitution. Kenya is seeking to be an industrialized country driven by technology and the education system should lead us to that.

Great impact

The Task Force should, therefore, have targeted areas of greatest impact such Technical, Vocation Education and Training (Tivet) programmes. The future of Kenya lies in technology yet the team’s proposals show Tivet would have the least funding.

Innovation would not be realized if practical skills are not incorporated. We need to make polytechniques and universities productive sites for craftsmanship. Our university engineering and science students do not have serious regard for the way things get made.

Instead, they see themselves as designers divorced from the dirty work of making. We have this notion that Kenya would be an all ‘idea’ country! Thinking that you can dream something without really understanding what it takes to make it flies in the face of reality.

We need enough technicians to become a net exporter of technical personnel.

Tivet is the crucible for economic transformation and requires priority in funding. The taskforce had the mindset of the last century in this regard.

In Germany, 97 per cent of students graduate from high school, but only a third go to university. In Kenya, we graduate fewer students and yet we want the majority to go to university.

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