Education sector headed for radical shake-up

Education Cabinet Secretary (CS) Amina Mohamed greeting students during the launch of Kenya skills show TVET 2019 at KICC on 8th February 2019. [Edward Kiplimo,Standard]
The Government has drawn up a raft of proposals aimed at shaking up the education sector.

A policy document to be presented before the National Assembly, which re-opens today, outlines measures to reform pre-primary, primary, secondary and tertiary levels of education with an emphasis on the use of information, communication and technology (ICT) to prepare learners to respond to job market demands.

The document titled Sessional Paper on Reforming Education and Training for Sustainable Development 2018, and which was prepared by the Ministry of Education, also seeks to address issues of education quality, service delivery, and teacher development at all learning levels.

To improve enrollment of children from disadvantaged backgrounds and vulnerable groups, the Government plans to offer incentives such as conditional cash transfers.

Also planned is Government sponsorship for learners in private schools in marginalised and slum areas, with the policy proposing the establishment of modalities to provide capitation. The document observes that children in informal settlements are served by few formal schools.

Exorbitant fees

To protect parents from exorbitant fees charged by secondary schools that have routinely violated Government fee guidelines, a new legislation will be passed to enforce caps with heavy penalties for the non-compliant.

Another proposal to control fees is to “regularly review and rationalise fees in secondary schools in order to reduce the cost burden on parents and communities.”

To improve access to university education, the document proposes establishment of specialised universities to train undergraduate students only and increase enrollment.

It calls for expansion of facilities in newly created university colleges through low-cost loans to public institutions for capital development as well as requiring varsities to diversify their sources of income.

The shift to a competence-based curriculum will necessitate reforming the secondary school curriculum, with emphasis shifting from knowledge reproduction to knowledge production, with ICT at the centre of the changes.

These are among steps to ensure students who go through the system acquire technical, industrial, vocational and entrepreneurship training to better their chances of securing jobs.

“As universities decide the right balance of courses to offer, there should be an overarching concern to promote the life chances and employability of graduates,” reads the document.

“In the CBET programme, the trainee earns a competency by completing a determined number of courses in a module where each module comprises a complete employable skill and a certificate of competence is awarded,” the document states, referring to Competency Based Education and Training (CBET).

The document is also meant to “offer direction in modernising and re-branding the country’s education and training sector.”

Marginalised communities

In primary schools reform, the Ministry of Education will lay special focus on marginalised communities that have long suffered from poor quality education.

The ministry proposes the expansion of school meals (feeding) programmes so that all children in pre-primary and primary schools get a midday meal through the Government and community-supported initiatives.

The Government also seeks to expand and allocate more resources to mobile and low-cost boarding primary schools in the hard-to-reach arid and semi-arid lands.

The document notes that 50 per cent of students who should be in secondary schools are not enrolled, with completion rates in North Eastern and Coast regions about three times less than those in Central and Nairobi.

In the North Eastern and Coast regions, more than seven of every 10 teens do not get a secondary school education, according to the document.

It cites various challenges affecting pupils countrywide, including a high pupil-teacher ratio, high repetition rates, weak management of teachers, increased number of orphans due to diseases such as HIV/Aids, gender and regional disparities, among others.

“The most pronounced disparities exist in arid and semi-arid areas, and pockets of poverty in rural and urban areas,” the document states.

“It is notable that in some schools, parents have employed untrained teachers to ameliorate the shortage of teachers, thus negatively affecting the quality of teaching and learning.

“There are other challenges in providing an education that takes account of spiritual, social, security, moral and cultural practices that impede access, equity and relevance,” the document reads.

The ministry proposes the integration of the madrassa/duksi system into the formal education system in predominantly Muslim areas to improve learner access and retention.

Primary education, the ministry says, is the highest consumer of the sect or’s budget. The ministry proposes that the Government floats bonds to complement regular financing. The Government, it says, should also review unit costs after every five years “to take into account emerging issues in the sector and inflationary tendencies.”

The Government also aims to “develop and standardise diagnostic assessment tools to facilitate the early identification, assessment and placement of learners with special needs.”

Vocational curriculum

“To address these issues, the Government provides policy direction for reforms in education service delivery through introduction of vocational, technical, talent and academic curriculum pathways. ICT will be used as a teaching-learning tool.”

The Government is committed to ensuring 100 per cent transition from primary schools despite the huge cost of running public secondary schools.

“Due to the high cost of funding public secondary education in Kenya, which accounts for 23 per cent of the total education budget, sustainable financing investment strategies, including for the delivery of technical subjects, will need to be pursued to allow the sub-sector to expand to meet demand,” reads the document.

The document proposes to explore other cost-effective modes of secondary education delivery, including distance learning and use of ICT, to attain quality education.

Other strategies include the adoption of a harmonised bursary kitty to support needy students in boarding schools and the regular review and rationalisation of fees.

The Government also proposes to establish “a basic maximum number of non-teaching staff for all schools, and the employment or outsourcing of essential skilled non-teaching staff either on permanent and pensionable or contractual basis to reduce costs.”

Expensive education

The document also cites challenges facing Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) institutions, with focus on low enrollment of females in science, engineering and technology courses as well as an unfriendly environment for learners with special needs and disabilities. Furthermore, admission to TVETs is uncoordinated, technical training is expensive and students lack awareness of vital programmes.

“The result is that most trainees end up in cheap alternative programmes, whose graduates do not acquire the skills necessary for the world of work,” reads the document.

The ministry proposes to establish a baseline on the status of TVETs and strengthen the centralised admissions service for students.

For universities, the policy proposes to increase the number of female students taking science-based courses by at least 40 per cent. The document also observes that public and private universities attract more boys than girls.

Challenges such as skills mismatch, an imbalance between the number of students studying science and arts-based courses, and lack of policies on credit transfers among universities have been cited as impediments to quality education.

The Government has proposed to establish the “Open University”, expand distance education learning in existing universities by leveraging on ICT, and progressively reduce scholarships for loans and bursaries.

The document also criticises the high cost of university education, saying: “The average spending per student at the university level was 31 times, six times, and twice as expensive in relation to primary, secondary and TVET education, respectively.”

It proposes that the Government increases incentives to encourage the growth of private universities and also encourage public-private-partnerships in funding university education.

The document further proposes to “empower public university councils to determine their own individual terms and conditions of service for their staff.”

Teacher training is also scheduled for a shake-up, according to the document.

It proposes to standardise the teacher-training curriculum, including teaching practice, and develop mechanisms for re-branding the teaching profession.

In teacher management, challenges have been cited as disparities in teacher distribution and utilisation, non-alignment of the teacher curriculum to the competence-based curriculum, teacher absenteeism, poor performance in teaching subjects, and the quality of teacher educators.

Some of the suggested policies to solve these challenges include ensuring efficient and cost-effective utilisation of teachers by regularly reviewing and establishing appropriate staffing norms, as well as reviewing the current teacher-training programmes with a view to establishing diploma level as the minimum level qualification for teachers.

The document also proposes a policy meant to “institutionalise the teacher performance appraisal system.”

One of the strategies to be used is development of a national policy and guidelines for teacher education, development and management.

The Government also proposes to harmonise all providers of adult education and alternative basic education and training.

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