Address teacher supply and quality for junior secondary

Teacher Virginiah Wangui takes pupils through CBC assesment at City Primary School, September 27, 2019. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

The government has made positive attempts to implement the competency- based curriculum (CBC) since it came to power.

Through the KICD, the curriculum designs are sound and ship-shape, resource materials, especially books have been addressed, teachers, even though a drop in the ocean for the JSS, have been hired and where to domicile the JSS has equally been settled.

However, three thorny issues still plague the JSS. These are teacher supply and quality, and infrastructure such as laboratories and libraries.

At least, the infrastructural demands can be improvised. This makes teacher supply and quality a sore thumb in curriculum implementation at the JSS level.

The teacher is an integral cog in the wheel of curriculum implementation. Poorly catered for, it renders the whole process nugatory or less effective.

Every effort should be made to ensure teacher supply and quality is above board. Unfortunately, anecdotal evidence points to a lackluster performance in this area.

For the one year in JSS that we have coursed, no significant learning has issued in both public and private schools. The situation has been worse in the former.

In public schools, we have tended to equate significant learning with teacher attendance of the class. This is notwithstanding the quality of instruction. Teacher quality is a product of good content and pedagogical orientation. This has been ignored.

Attention should be directed to quality instruction as opposed to seeing a teacher attend class and purporting to teach. Teaching should be a well-thought and meticulous venture.

We need to increase the number of teachers at JSS. The current establishment at about 40,000 is a mockery of the recommended teacher-learner ratio.

With an enrolment of a million per grade, JSS in this year will require at worst a teacher-learner ratio of nearly 1:40. Your guess is as good as mine on the number of teachers we need.

We should take cognizance of the fact that these are secondary school learners and Kenya being a member of the UN, should be guided by suggestions of the organisation as far as teacher-learner distribution is concerned.

How do we get there? Recruit more teachers and re-distribute the ‘surplus’ in primary schools now that class eight is no longer in existence.

With the current challenges the government is facing such as heavy taxation, employing more teachers should be the regime’s low-hanging fruit.

Teacher employment in public schools will bring the sheen to the faces of a disgusted citizenry which had great expectations following the electoral promises that have been swept under the carpet.

Let the government make us unite in a paean of good deed for the poor and down-trodden. The majority are chapfallen. Uplift our spirit. Help the children of hustlers get quality education.

Apart from direct teacher recruitment, we should re-distribute the ‘surplus’ teachers in primary schools. This should begin by carrying out a forensic audit of the teachers who have the qualifications to teach at the secondary school level.

An analysis should be done on their subject scores at the secondary school level and the mean grades each got.

Once this has been done, the chosen should be re-tooled on specific subject pedagogy to make them comfortably teach the two subjects at the JSS level.

As this is being done, the teachers should be exposed to the pedagogical principles and practices of competence-based education too.

Once we have addressed the issue of teacher supply, the next port of call should be teacher quality. This is a different kettle of fish altogether.

First, we should let a teacher facilitate the learner in a subject he or she is competent in. At the secondary school level, teachers can only handle two subjects.

While for those who were educated in English and Literature, they should only teach one subject because of integration of the two disciplines at the secondary school level. Either way, it behooves the government to respect this educationally accepted practice.

In teacher education, student teachers are exposed first to general pedagogy then specific pedagogy in the two teaching subjects if they are taking a course in secondary education.

This is crucial because every subject has its unique philosophical underpinnings that guides how it is taught and assessed. The one hat- fits- all has no place in teaching at the secondary school level.

Let’s assume we have addressed the issue of subject allocation to our satisfaction. This however does still not address the issue of teacher quality cogently.

One is that the teachers need to be re-tooled adequately on the CBC philosophical principles and practices. Two, is that adequate supervision of teaching must be commenced.

Three, the school leadership must be conversant with curriculum and other aspects of leadership as pertains the CBC and finally is that the community, represented by parents, guardians and other members, must also be empowered to help keep track of what the teachers are doing in school.

These are the bare minimums to enable implementation of CBC at the JSS in 2024.The government has shown political will. It can go the whole hog.