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Standard Six pupils brighter than their teachers, new report shows

By MOSES MICHIRA | Jan 25th 2014 | 3 min read


An average Standard Six pupil in Kenya is likely to be brighter than his or her teacher, according to findings of a research on the quality of the country’s education system.

The report compiled by an arm of the United Nations, Unesco, found that primary school teachers scored on average only 61 per cent on tests of grade 6 maths material, which is below the mean mark for several city schools.

In all likelihood, the same teachers would perform more dismally in Class Seven and Eight tests due to the complexity of the courses.

Worse still, the survey established that “no teacher had a complete mastery of any subject” including the ones they taught, bringing into focus the capacity among teachers to impart the correct knowledge in their pupils.

“The extent of the learning crisis in the region has left a legacy of youth illiteracy… part of the reason for this crisis is that there is a huge shortage of qualified teachers,” reads the Unesco report.

Fresh training

The teachers’ score as reported by the UN agency is comparable to the performance of pupils at Elmi House of Grace Academy, a community-sponsored school in a slum in Nairobi’s Kawangware area. Kenneth Mugita, the headmaster at community school confirmed the scores.

Neither the size of sample of teachers nor the regions they came from were given in the Unesco survey that is likely cause a furore among schools administrators and concern among parents.

The yet-to-be released report points out the incompetence of teaching staff as among the key factors that have contributed to the illiteracy among primary school graduates, of whom 40 per cent are unable to read a single sentence.

Lack of competence at the lowest levels of the learning ladder has huge implications in their grasp of concepts higher up, with the ultimate result of diluting the quality of the country’s human resource base and competitiveness.

Already, employers and educationists have voiced serious concerns about the poor quality of graduates entering the job market, a situation that could be traced back to the focus of this survey - basic education.

Jacqueline Mugo, the executive director of the employers’ umbrella body says that the new entrants into the job market fall short of on skills, pushing companies to invest much more in fresh training.

While primary education does not directly prepare graduates for employment, the skill gap among jobseekers is only the face of the problems of the entire education system.

Another survey conducted last year by Uwezo, a civil society also identified major weaknesses in Kenya’s education system where only one in three pupils in class two could pass basic tests in maths, Kiswahili or English.

“… pupils are not learning core skills expected at their age and grade level,” reported Uwezo, whose findings are similar to Unesco’s.

KCSE failures

 Uwezo did not heap the blame on the quality of teachers, however.

“While access to education has expanded, the quality of education has stagnated and may in fact have deteriorated further,” Uwezo said in reference to the status of the education system after the introduction of the free primary education in 2003.

Unesco’s report would be the first to squarely place the responsibility of quality graduates on the teacher, even going further to suggest that Kenya needs to attract the right candidates to be trained as teachers.

“… without attracting and adequately training enough teachers the learning crisis will last for several generations and hit the disadvantaged hardest,” concludes the experts.

A typical primary school teacher in Kenya has either a certificate or diploma qualification and scored an average grade of a C in Secondary level examination, though it is no longer uncommon to find some who are university graduates.



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