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Ruto's proposed education sector reform timely

By | September 27th 2010

By Bethuel Kaino

The assurances by Higher Education, Science and Technology Minister William Ruto that the Government will vet institutions offering sub-standard training is a bold step in setting up high education standards in the country.

It has become clear that most tertiary institutions have been fleecing parents by offering sub-standard training, denying the country skilled manpower needed for development. It is high time the Government closely monitors all public institutions to set up high training standards to meet market challenges.

It is along these lines that the institutional reforms being spearheaded by the minister aim to promote knowledge-based economy to improve national prosperity and global competitiveness is a move that can lead to the realisation of Vision 2030. To achieve this, policies and institutions must be put in place to facilitate the contribution of science, technology and innovation to Vision 2030 if the country has to achieve the objectives.

Education is key to success in life, and reforms in higher education need to be supported.

The proposal by Mr Ruto for the Government to review funding of university courses needs support.

According to Ruto, the plan aims to give priority to students pursuing science-related courses considering they are mostly involved in research work.

This does not mean students pursuing arts-related courses, will be denied the opportunity to get funding, as claimed by some leaders and educationists who have already criticised the minister’s plans.

To the minister, priority for funding will be based on the actual cost of mounting the course, and how it contributes to the attainment of Vision 2030, and it is unfair for some leaders to take the issue out of context.

Government needs to increase funding for public universities, especially in research, in order to produce highly qualified professionals into the job market.

The truth is that realisation of Vision 2030 invites entrenchment of a culture of science, technology and innovation, which entails strengthening the Nnational system for innovation.

It also involves interaction of learning institutions and processes to enable generation and conversion of knowledge into goods, processes and services.

The Science and Technology Act Cap 250 provides legal framework for science and technology co-ordination and development.

Since 1977, there was no guideline on the conduct of national science, technology and innovation. This made it difficult for public institutions of higher learning to produce manpower to champion a knowledge-based economy, as the technical education sector had no proper regulation measures.

For this reason, the ministry is reviewing Cap 250 of the laws of Kenya to facilitate formulation of a comprehensive science and technology policy, establish a science and technology fund and revamp technical and university education.

The Commission on Higher Education has extensive powers over private universities regarding accreditation and quality assurance. It also has limited legal authority to exercise the power over public universities.

The move by the minister will exempt public universities from paying taxes on building materials and enable them to put up more facilities to cope with rising student numbers seeking admission to the institutions.

But what is shocking is that about 600 tertiary institutions have not been registered and offer bogus courses.

Furthermore, plans by Mr Ruto to ensure secondary school leavers are spared the agony of waiting for two years before being admitted to public universities is an indication that the minister is committed to transforming the education sector, which is the key to development.

When implemented, public universities will conduct double intake to clear backlog of admission to the institutions.

This means, Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education candidates can join a public university as early as September, barely six months after Kenya National Examination Council results are released early in the year.

Other reforms announced by the minister include establishment of an open university — one which open doors to Kenyans seeking higher education and boost the academic standards.

The move by Ruto to triple universities admission within the next year through distant learning will decongest public universities, considering students who take humanity courses do not require physical contact with lecturers.

The writer works with Vice President’s Press Service (VPPS). His comments are not necessarily those of VPPS.

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