I harbour the thought we are not giving due attention to basic education. This, for good reason because we need to constantly improve quality, strive for excellence, and expand opportunities based on efficiency and equity, and ensure that disadvantaged children enroll.
Admittedly, good quality education helps children reach their full potential. But this kind of education must be planned well, including its execution. Education in Kenya today isn’t much different from what it was thirty years ago. We still have classrooms full of students, learning the same thing at the same pace from overworked, underpaid and under-appreciated teachers who spend atleast 25 years teaching more or less the same thing.
More than half the candidates who sat last year’s Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) failed to get a grade that can allow them to pursue a professional course. An analysis of the exam shows 147,918 students attained grade D, 165,139 scored D- while 30,840 candidates scored E, making a total of 343,897 who scored grade D and below. This is despite the Government spending close to Sh20 billion on the students in the past four years.
Without doubt, it is quite telling that in the 2018 group of KCSE students, only 13.77 per cent got university entry grades. This has been the case in the past three years which, in itself, raises questions on the Government’s plan to achieve a 100 per cent transition rate from primary to secondary school.
To imagine growth with a large chunk of the country almost bounded in illiteracy is impossible; more so in today’s information based society where education is the key to a whole world of opportunities. And this situation gets uglier and confusing when we seem not to have a clear roadmap on what education system the nation wants. It cannot get worse when, clearly, parents are not sure what curricula their children will follow as schools reopened. Both unbelievable and irresponsible, if you ask me.
Whatever happened to planning and ensuring that there is consensus on crucial education issues? Yet, we have been staring at serious concerns over the quality of learning in our school system with Kenya grappling with a skills shortage that is now being seen as one of the major obstacles to the realization of the country’s development blueprint Vision 2030.
There has been this misunderstanding between the teachers’ employer, TSC and teacher unions over transfers, pending promotions, disputed performance appraisals and lack of consultations over many of teacher issues. All this happening, yet teachers are at the centre of the implementation of the so called new curriculum and the issues which are at the centre of the dispute surround teachers, their welfare and delivery in class.
Clearly, the country must put itself together on basic education. Beyond the apology tendered by President Uhuru Kenyatta to parents over the confusion about the new education curriculum implementation, we must see real efforts at working for the Kenyan child.
For the success of this new education system, the national government, county government, education stakeholders, parents, communities and the general public must collate their efforts together to ensure, when implemented, the 2-6-3-3-3 education system works smoothly to achieve set objectives.
And this is true because the challenges which the new curriculum could face may end up being a continuation of the problems that the moribund 8-4-4 system seems to be crumbling under, if the lack of planning being witnessed is anything to go by. There are just too many sticky issues which seem to be outstanding every other time, making the situation look like a mockery of its own self. We just must wake up from slumber.
The Ministry of Education needs to build a strong research base to form the foundation for policy development in education and for effective professional management. Therefore, there is need to strengthen and sustain research activities as well as to undertake internal continuous reviews in education in order to modernize and feed on, and expand the school system in response to changing circumstances as well as to enhance the ideal of continuous quality improvement.
There is also needed to look afresh at the mandate of TSC which, in my view, should be unbundled to separate its roles of regulator and employer.
A separate body for the regulation of teachers like in registration, accreditation and licensing of teachers and enforcement of discipline should be created as is the case with other professions. The TSC should remain the government agency responsible for the employment and management of teachers and trainers in public and tertiary education and training institutions.
There is need to improve quality, strive for excellence, and expand opportunities, based on efficiency and equity. But this needs serious leadership and planning.
Prof. Mogambi, Communication and Social change expert, teaches at the University of Nairobi:hmogambi @ yahoo.co.uk