Stakeholders’ dilemma over fate of education system

By Standard Team

It now seems evident stakeholders won’t agree on whether the 8-4-4 system should be replaced with 2-6-3-3-3 as proposed by a recent education taskforce or not.

The taskforce, which handed over its report to the Ministry of Education early this year, recommended among other things the scrapping of the nearly three-decade-old 8-4-4 system of education for allegedly failing to meet its ideals.

The Professor Douglas Odhiambo-led Taskforce on the Re-Alignment of the Education Sector to the Constitution of Kenya concluded that the current system has failed to deliver on practical skills and exploit learners’ talents.

It proposed a 2-6-3-3-3 system where learners would spend two years in pre-school, six in primary, three in junior secondary, three in senior secondary and another three at the university.

To address the apparent failure by 8-4-4 to exploit talents, the taskforce recommends teaching of sports and talents in junior secondary and career specialisation in senior secondary level.

However, education stakeholders are pulling in different directions on the need to scrap the system and install a new one.

Sources in the ministry say Minister Mutula Kilonzo favours retention of the 8-4-4 system, but advocates for adoption of some of the taskforce recommendations in reforming the sector.

Recently, Mutula said instead of changing the structure a stakeholders’ forum had decided to incorporate many of the taskforce’s recommendations in the Education Bill under process.

Education board

“The contents of the (taskforce) report are what will benefit learners but not necessarily the change of structures,” he said.

The Education Bill 2012 draws a lot from the taskforce report. The Bill proposes creation of a National Education Board to monitor and evaluate the implementation and effectiveness of all education policies and also to advise Education Cabinet Secretary on policy matters.

Sources say Mutula prefers to leave the decision on whether to scrap 8-4-4 or not to his successor, under the guidance of the board.

And just last week, Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers contradicted the Kenya National Union of Teachers’ stand on the need for structural change.

Knut has rejected the taskforce proposal to scrap 8-4-4, but Kuppet secretary-general Akello Misori told a two-day conference of the union’s national executive council that brought together representatives from all counties on Friday that the union supports the new system. He argued it promises to harmonise all levels of education from early childhood to university level.

More questions

“It will also bring coherence between the school curriculum and societal needs,” he said.

Knut opposed the proposal on grounds 8-4-4 could be made better by introducing changes to it.

The development leaves stakeholders with the question of whether the taskforce’s far-reaching recommendations will ever take off.

The proposed changes in the sector would require Sh1.4 trillion, but Misori says though the figure needed to anchor the system was high, it was necessary to use it as “it would jump-start development”.

Meanwhile, Mutula has invited stakeholders’ views on four key draft Bills, which he says aims at reforming the education sector. The four are the Teachers Service Commission Bill, Kenya National Examinations Council Bill, Education Bill and the Kenya Institute of Education Bill.

“The ministry is finalising these Bills and we need all stakeholders to add content and make recommendations before they are presented to Parliament for debate,” said Mutula.

The minister has also challenged stakeholders to study the Bills and provide input to enable him push them onto the floor of the House before August.