Rethink new entry qualification for primary education teachers

OPINION |

Teachers Service Commission CEO Dr. Nancy Macharia (left) confers with Director Quality Assurance Reuben Ndamburi during the launch of live streaming of lessons by TSC at Alliance Secondary School, on Wednesday, January 26, 2022. [Samson Wire, Standard]

The Teachers Service Commission (TSC) is not just a lone ranger, it is also adept at courting controversy. During the Kenya Primary School Headteachers Association (KEPSHA) meeting in Mombasa last year, Deputy Staffing Director Antonina Lentojioni told the heads that TSC will not change the new entry requirements for teaching in primary school.

Prospective teachers must now have a mean grade C in Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examination. Further, they should have a C plain in English, Kiswahili, Mathematics, and in any of the humanities.

Previously, the minimum entry requirement was simply a C. The upgrading of the Certificate of Primary to diploma in primary teacher education may have created the need to also upgrade the threshold to the diploma programme.

These changes, it seems, were not consultative and did not take into account the views of stakeholders, particularly those of KEPSHA and Kenya Private Schools Association going by their reactions. Proof that TSC had not considered all aspects before raising college entry qualifications lies in the fact that the matter was brought at the meeting in Mombasa.

Granted, the competence of teachers depends on the quality of those admitted into the teachers training programme. However, I am not persuaded that performance in KCSE is the ideal yardstick for predicting competence in teaching.

Indisputably, content is king, which is why competent teachers must be properly trained. Specificity about the type of teacher fit to teach any given curriculum is about strengthening the academic programmes; the subject matter that teachers are called upon to teach. What is important, besides the KCSE grades, is the depth of the subject matter preparation for the teachers.

My interpretation of the TSC position is that the professional aspect of teaching during training is all that teachers require to be adjudged competent. TSC should appreciate the fact that excellent grades in KCSE are not a measure of teacher competence in the delivery of the curriculum. What a mean grade of C  implies is that a student’s general intelligence is enough to enable him or her play with, handle and acquire knowledge and solve problems.

Primary school education aims at developing literacy, numeracy and life skills. This prepares learners for the more demanding secondary curriculum. Thus, a score of mean grade C demonstrates that a student has the intellectual capacity to prepare for a teaching career. It means they have the capacity to undertake professional and academic programmes in the TTTs.

Both the Education ministry and TSC should determine whether the new Diploma in Primary Education and Training programme offers all that learners at the primary education level require from a teacher.

What is important for the teacher is depth in the subject matter and an equally strong grounding in teaching from the TTC. It is not what prospective students got in KCSE. It is the quality of the education and training programme at the TTC. Clearly, the new entry requirement is way above what KCSE results can supply. It also means government might be forced to close some TTCs should TSC not reconsider its position.

Mr Chagema is a sub editor at The Standard

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