Some people have questioned why the government wants all Standard Eight pupils who sit for KCPE admitted to Form One.
The 100 per cent transition policy has all the logic. It is founded on the constitution, which provides for free and compulsory basic education for every child. Nearly all the pupils who complete the primary education cycle are aged between 13 and 14. That entitles them to 12 years basic education.
Kenya is a signatory to international treaties and protocols that commit it to abide by them. Among these commitments is the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), which obligates state parties to ensure all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education.
Underlying these provisions on education, the constitution and SDG, is a much deeper logic that structures the thinking that all citizens within a state must enjoy the rights and privileges of citizenship. Education, more than anything else, is the instrument by which people fully enjoy the rights and privileges of citizenship.
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Julius Gikonyo Kiano, a former Minister for Education noted in a speech in 1968 that general education which is what primary and secondary education is all about “embraces those bodies of knowledge in the curriculum which are judged by the nation as a whole to be important areas of knowledge which every child should possess. This would include the bodies of knowledge that encourage mental development, those which encourage physical development and those which encourage the development of the soul or if you like the mind.”
The 12 years of basic education provide two types of skills that give the ballast for other skills that one needs to earn a living and lead a life that is fully human. The first type of skills is foundational in nature.
These skills, which include basic literacy and numeracy skills, provide the foundation upon which learners receive further education to deepen their capacity for fulfilling, meaningful lives.
The second type of skills is called transferable skills. These include analysing problems and reaching appropriate solutions, communicating ideas and information effectively, being creative, showing leadership and conscientiousness, and demonstrating entrepreneurial capabilities. Young people who don’t have primary education or drop out without completing eight years of primary education lack foundation skills that they should acquire through primary. You can well imagine the burdens they carry with them into the harsh world that requires at the most minimum, literacy and numeracy skills.
With the free primary education, the government seeks to impart in the learners the 3Rs—reading, writing and arithmetic. As the name implies, primary education provides foundational skills. These skills are essential for engaging in further education and training. They are also essential for acquiring transferable skills and technical and vocational skills.
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Foundational skills are like a runway in an airport. It helps the students to take off, as it were, into the exciting realm of secondary education and later, technical and vocational education.
The eight years of primary education are not sufficient to develop and consolidate literacy and numeracy skills. Secondary education deepens and broadens literacy and numeracy skills. It provides opportunities for learners to cultivate the knowledge, skills, personality, character and all that they need to cope with and manage a rapidly complex and changing environment.
The reason the authorities want young people to secure secondary education before embarking on technical and vocational education is that they stand to maximise the benefits of technical and vocational training, foundation and transferable skills.
Those against children who got less than 200 marks in KCPE transiting to secondary education are mistaken. The quality and range of the secondary curriculum is such that it has capacity to transform all children, albeit in varying degrees. And all is for the good of the child and the country as a whole.
To deny children the opportunities to have secondary educational experience is serious dereliction of duty. Denial of the opportunity is to limit their potential, their ambitions and their aspirations.
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Employers want potential employees to have strong foundation skills. They also want them to have technical skills and crucially, problem solving skills, imagination, creativity, and tenacity.
Young people stand the chance to earn better income with secondary education. They also stand to venture into more sophisticated and rewarding enterprises than those denied to have secondary education. Government seeks to unleash the potential of young people by exposing them—all of them to secondary education.
Mr Buhere is communication officer, Ministry of Education