Education Reforms: Ruto's task force paves way for radical changes in education sector

"I am proud that finally, we have a report that speaks to the most important component that defines Kenya," said the President.

He termed the report as "greater, worthier than any other resource and that is human capital."

The presidential endorsement means that the CBC is here to stay, but with major changes.

Subjects burden

The subjects' burden on learners will be made lighter as the team proposed that the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) reviews the learning areas.

This means that at the pre-primary (PP1 and PP2), the learning areas will not exceed five.

At the lower primary (Grades 1 to 3), the learning areas will not exceed seven, whereas, in the upper primary (Grades 4 to 6), there will be no more than eight areas of study.

The team also suggests that subjects in junior school (Grades 7 to 9) should not exceed nine while learning areas in senior school (Grades 10 to 12) should not be more than seven.

The proposal is a reprieve to parents, who complained of too much workload for their children under the CBC.

School structures

The team also proposes a redefinition of basic education with an expanded lower primary to be known as a comprehensive school comprising a 2-6-6-3 system; nursery, primary and junior school.

Then, there shall also be the upper school, which shall be called the senior school.

The comprehensive school shall fall under one overall leadership, known as a principal. However, nursery, primary and junior schools will each have a head (deputy principal) who will work under the principal.

All nursery schools presently fall under the management of county governments. However, in the structure, the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) will hire and remunerate the tutors.

The changes make primary schools the new academic powerhouse. The move expands the current primary schools in terms of population of learners, teachers, infrastructure and resources.

Presently, according to the Education Ministry data, the institutions accommodate at least 10 million learners from Class One to Class Eight.

The changes will see the number of classes in the institutions grow from eight to 11; that is two for pre-primary, six for primary schools and three for junior school.

President William Ruto and DP Rigathi Gachagua pose for a photo with the team after receiving the Presidential Working Party on Education Reform report on Tuesday. [PCS]

In the first six months, the report proposes that the Ministry of Education discontinues the categorisation of schools under national, extra county, county and sub-county.

The task force also wants senior schools to be classified as day, boarding, mixed (day/ boarding), mixed (boys/girls), and according to career pathways of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), social science, and arts and sports.

The team argues that the current categorisation of schools brings about discrimination in resource allocation.

The team also recommends the establishment of low-cost boarding primary schools in marginalised areas, with a focus on infrastructural and resource support.

Teacher training

Teachers who wish to continue working in primary and secondary schools will have to undergo a one-year mandatory retraining to align them with the demand of the new curriculum.

The team argues that retraining will provide teachers with the know-how of handling the CBC that has been in implementation for seven years.

The task force, however, proposes that the training be conducted by the Ministry of Education, a shift from the previous arrangement where the CBC training was conducted by the TSC.

Weakened TSC

The teachers' employer is headed for a major shake-up that will limit its powers in the management of over 350,000 teachers under its payroll. TSC may no longer exclusively perform its functions as employer and regulator.

The team gives the ministry a big say in TSC's operations, and even fully takes over some roles.

In six months, the report suggests disbanding the TSC quality assurance department and transferring the function to the ministry.

In the next year, the report also seeks the creation of a teachers' professional body - Kenya Professional Teaching Standards.

TSC will also be required to consult the ministry before transferring, deploying and even promoting a teacher.

Also, headteachers and principals will now by extension be under the control of the ministry.

Universities and colleges funding

Part of the proposals made by the task force are already being rolled out. In its report, the team wants immediate changes in the implementation of a new funding formula for university entrants.

The team has affirmed that funding of students be based on their level of need under four categories namely; vulnerable, extremely needy, needy and less needy.

A student from a vulnerable home will have fully paid their tuition fees. For students classified as extremely needy, the government will pay 70 per cent in scholarships and loans pegged at 30 per cent. And Students from needy households joining the university will receive government scholarships of up to 53 per cent and loans of up to 40 per cent.

President William Ruto signs performance contracts for Cabinet Secretaries, Principal Secretaries and heads of parastatals at State House, Nairobi. [PCS]

For Students categorised as less needy, they will be funded through a government scholarship of up to 38 per cent of the cost of the programme and 55 per cent in the form of loans. Their parents will pay only 7 per cent as fees. Students enrolled in private universities will benefit from government loans.

Merger of funding boards

The many universities and colleges' funding boards will also be collapsed into one unit called Tertiary Education Placement and Funding Board (TEPFB).

This means that the Higher Education Loans Board (Helb), the Universities Fund and the Technical and Vocational Education Funding Board (TVETFB) will merge.

The new body will also take over the role of placement of students, a function presently undertaken by the Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service (KUCCPS).

Under the body, all the funding and placement bodies will be directorates.

The proposed new body will be composed of 11 persons with a chairperson appointed by the President and a holder of a master's degree in finance-related course with 10 year's experience.

Others are Principal Secretaries or representatives from Higher Education and that of TVET (Ministry of Education), and The National Treasury, with the director general as an ex-officio.

Also on the board will be a representative of vice-chancellors or principals of colleges, and private universities, the secretary of the commission, chief executive of TVETA and two persons with finance knowledge; one from colleges not under the Ministry of Education.

The six will be appointees of the Education Cabinet Secretary.

University diplomas and certificates

Universities will in the next three years be required to teach all certificate and diploma courses as they will no longer be allowed to take in new students.

The reforms team notes that teaching of diploma and certificate courses by universities has weakened colleges' ability to attract students.

This team further argues that this has also led to duplication, ambiguity, efficiency constraints and weak linkage between universities and technical colleges.

It means thousands of teaching staff handling the courses in universities who do not have qualifications to handle degree programmes will be axed.

The team has, however, proposed that the institutions create a seamless transition for those seeking to upgrade their qualifications.

Merger of universities

The task force wants the government to develop guidelines for the merging of universities. The team argues that the guidelines will help in identifying institutions that will be deemed not viable.

The proposal awakens an earlier debate started by the immediate former Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha to address recurring financial woes.

The move will also affect campuses as well oversee a review of academic courses.

Transfer of teaching staff

Another radical change that will see a number of institutions lose some of its teaching staff is the proposal to have universities that were upgraded from TVET to progressively transfer services of academic staff.

This means that academic staff who do not meet the requisite qualifications to teach in the universities will either be sacked or moved to institutions they fit.

Such institutions include the Technical University of Kenya, which was known as the Kenya Polytechnic, and the Technical University of Mombasa, previously referred to as Mombasa Polytechnic.

Others include Kiriri Women University College, which was a teacher training college, and the Multimedia University of Kenya.

This should be done in three years.

Elevation of polytechnics

The reforms team has proposed that all seven national polytechnics be rechartered and elevated to technical universities.

Further, the team proposes that the existing universities - with the exemption of technical universities - be referred to as "specialised degree awarding institutions".

This points to a possible push to have the institutions of higher learning focus on specific courses.

VCs and DVCs recruitment

Under the proposal to be implemented within a year, the appointment of top university management will be done by university councils.

This is a shift from the current arrangement guided by the Public Service Commission.

Open and county universities

The operationalisation of open university should be done within one year. In fact, President Ruto will today grant a charter to the institution to be based at the Konza Technopolis

The team also proposes to overturn the law requiring the establishment of at least one public university in each county

Since the law does not allow for such a mechanism to close universities or merge the institutions at the moment, the first order of business, the team proposes, is to formulate laws to allow for that.

Parliament passed the University Act in 2012, mandating that every county should have at least one public university.