Are we reforming education or militarising it?

Students ready for K.C.P.E mathematics paper at Kapsoya Primary School, Uasin Gishu County on Monday, March 22, 2021 [Christopher Kipsang, Standard]

As we celebrate the release of the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examination results with those who excelled, we need to keep in mind and plan for those who scored below average. They are our children and their fate should not be sealed out of the results of a single examination. With 100 per cent transition, a new categorisation is beginning to happen in secondary schools – learners are grouped in streams according to their KCPE scores and those with the lowest scores get very little quality contact and investment since they are expected to fail anyway!

If we continue with investing and celebrating only those who score highly, then our education system shall cease being an equaliser and remain a wedge that draws the community asunder. The Covid-19 pandemic significantly showed that the fault lines in our education system are structural and if we are not careful, the poor who need education the most are forever being driven to the periphery where the system thrives in exclusion and is non-functional.

In a bid to record results, we have made schools drilling places with paramilitary routines where dialogue is scorned at and learners have no voice but are treated akin to pieces of furniture. Our learners are leaving primary school with very low self-esteem because the whole education architecture is managed by barking orders. School managers are quickly taking after the current and the immediate former Cabinet Secretaries who believe the panacea to what ails the education sector is management by walking around and issuing roadside declarations that are not grounded on any data or logic.

To illustrate this better, look at the practice guidelines announced by the CS during the KCPE and KCSE examination windows. Some guidelines like leaving school gates wide open have no logic in managing examination malpractices other than entrenching the big-man policing syndrome. The CS has failed to move the nation from premium investment on examinations to learning and every move he makes takes the nation a decade back on the reform path.

Our collective desire is in ensuring the basic education years at whatever level end with learning that is transformative in both character, deeds and values and not the passing of an exam within an environment that is artificially manipulated. Why is it easier for us as a nation to form a multi-sectoral agency to monitor and police examinations but we cannot have a similar outfit to ensure resources allocated to education are to the correct use and our children are learning?

Education and health are crumbling because the guarantors of the right to quality access care less since their children and immediate family do not partake of the services as public goods.

It is time we redefined corruption and included the making of unsound public policy or practice guidelines to reign on the boisterous policymakers and guarantors like Prof George Magoha and the ilk. We cannot purport to be initiating reform towards value-driven education and expect the learners to come out better when the examination administrators, who are adults, are engaged in exam malpractices in which we end up by blaming the learners who in essence are victims.

The writer is an education and policy expert.