The introduction of the Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC) to replace the 8-4-4 system has, as is usual with such wholesome changes, meant a complete overhaul of teacher recruitment and training, teaching and examination.
Because CBC is markedly different from 8-4-4, it comes as no surprise that the first point of call in enforcing the new policy is a thorough review of how the agents of the change (the teachers) are prepared to steer the ship.
This is why the planned phase-out of the almost five-decade-old Bachelors of Education programme has elicited such passionate debates within academia.
Yet according to Dr Anil Khamis, the phasing out of the BEd degree is not a big deal because many countries have adopted the system as a basic requirement to teaching.
“Teaching is not a profession like medicine, law, engineering, architecture and others, and that is why they do not have an accreditation body. To what extent do you want teachers educated to the level of a profession,” poses the senior Education lecturer at the University College London and the Aga Khan University in Nairobi.
Dr Khamis believes most teachers graduating with a BEd end up in schools clueless about how to each effectively.
“How much do we need universities to be at the centre of teacher training and how much of that can actually be done in school? I think the plan will work well for Kenya because we have to diversify entry into teaching to align it with the demands of the CBC,” he adds.
According to the plan mooted by the Teachers Service Commission, students wishing to pursue a career in teaching should study for an ordinary arts or science degree such as the Bachelors of Arts or Bachelors of Science and then top it up with a post-graduate degree in Education.
Currently, any prospective secondary school teacher or tutor in a teaching college has to have a basic degree in education.
The proposals in the TSC’s “Framework on entry requirements in the teaching service” have been prompted by the ongoing CBC reforms based on 21st Century principles and best practices of teacher education.
According to Dr Khamis, many countries offer a postgraduate diploma as a qualification to teaching following an ordinary degree.
In England, for example, one can study for a Bachelors of Education, which comes with Qualified Teachers Status certificate, or a BA or BSc that incorporates teacher training.
Other countries that offer BEd as a qualification to teaching include India, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Argentina, Australia, Israel, and New Zealand.
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According to Benjamin Sogomo, a former TSC Chief Executive, the phasing out of the bachelor’s course is unnecessary because no research has been carried out to show that it is ineffective or has become outdated.
“If the changes have been motivated by the need to align teacher training to CBC, the emphasis should be on methodology because that is where the change must happen. The CBC is more learner-centred compared to 8-4-4, and therefore teachers need the skills to give practical work to learners to help them discover and explore as CBC demands.”
Sogomo says that could still be achieved with a BEd rather than phase it out completely.
“What will be the fate of the more than 100,000 teachers already in service on the strength of the BEd? Would they need to go back to college for the diploma,” he asks.
Another emerging issue is that the phasing out of the degree course could mean the end of Master’s or doctorate in Education because one must have a first class or second upper BEd degree to qualify for a higher degree.
“Many senior positions across the education sector require a Master’s or PhD in Education as a basic qualification, so there definitely is an issue there,” says Sogomo
Most senior officials at the Kenya National Examinations Council, the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development, Jogoo House, Commission for University Education and the TSC have post-graduate qualifications.
Yet according to Dr Geoffrey Wango, a senior education lecturer at the University of Nairobi, the change is long overdue.
“Many people with Bed did not choose the programme because they wanted to be teachers. Many were just enrolled into the course with neither the passion nor the interest to teach. If the BEd is phased out, only those who love teaching will opt to go for the diploma and that makes a lot of sense, and has the potential of creating better and committed teachers,” he says.
Opposed to change
Dr Wango adds that universities are opposed to the change simply because they do not want to be left offering general degrees that do not lead to any profession.
He adds that the diploma will focus more on methodology, psychology, curriculum, management and trends and that one can still pursue master’s or a doctorate in these areas.
The Bachelor of Education programme is the ultimate qualification for teachers in secondary schools, primary teacher training colleges and those for diplomas. It is offered in Arts, Science, guidance and counselling, among others.
The most popular Bachelor of Education specialisation is Arts and Sciences and is divided into the subject component and the professional aspect, which includes psychology of education, communication, educational foundation and management and teaching practice.
It is instructive, however, that the proposal to phase out BEd was made by the CBC task-force that gave the road-map for the 2-6-3-3-3 education system. The task force was chaired by Prof Fatuma Chege, who is now the Principal Secretary in charge of the implementation of CBC reforms.
The measures were adopted after consultations with universities, curriculum experts and education stakeholders but no implementation date has been set.
Contrary to recent comments by various commentators on the proposed changes to the effect that TSC is overstepping its mandate, the TSC Act of 2012 gives it the power to ensure teachers comply with quality teaching standards, ensure career progression and professional development.
Previously, the commission was restricted to basic staffing and discipline issues, but its mandate has been widened to include training, appraisals and professional development of teachers. It is empowered to work with universities and colleges to constantly review the training of teachers to bring it into harmony with evolving trends, best global practice and education reforms.
The writer is a consulting editor