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TSC’s proposal on graduate teachers will raise standards

EDUCATION
By Babere Chacha and John Wahome | June 1st 2021

An entrance to the Kenyatta University along Thika Road.[File, Standard]

In July 2020, Google made an astounding announcement: The company would soon offer a raft of fully online, low-cost ‘career certificates’ that would largely depart from traditional and conventional educational practice.

The company stated that these certifications in emerging technological fields would be offered fully online.

No prior experience would be needed, and only six months would be required to complete each certificate.

Additionally, a hiring consortium of 130 like-minded, big-name conglomerates including Wal-Mart and Infosys would consider these qualifications as equivalent to four-year college degrees.

Locally, the Teacher Service Commission (TSC), which has now proposed bold changes in the university curriculum, seems to have taken note.

Google’s declared motivation for going in this unconventional direction was quite compelling. The company cited the need to cushion Americans from the requirement of college qualifications for high-paying jobs.

A Google official summarised this concept by declaring that, “college degrees are out of reach for many Americans and you shouldn’t need a college diploma to have economic security.”

There was also the need to level the playing field in tech where minorities have been traditionally under-represented because of high training costs.

Other justifications included riding the unpredictable Covid-19 storm which has curtailed face-to-face learning, and the need to plug critical global manpower shortages in high-tech areas of automation, artificial intelligence, data analysis, project management, and user experience (UX) design.

The ensuing online buzz and the overwhelming enrollment by students from all over the world when the certifications were finally rolled out two months ago demonstrated the growing global appetite for emerging alternative educational trajectories.

This evoked Pink Floyd’s popular lyrics: “We don’t need no education anymore! Hey Teacher! leave them kids alone!”

The Google case is contemporaneous precedence that can help put into proper perspective the controversial proposal by the TSC to scrap off the longstanding Bachelor of Education degree (B.Ed) course by September this year

The symbiotic relationship between the TSC and local teacher-educators is mutually critical. On the one hand are the trainers-in-chief; on the other the principal employer and recruiter of all government teachers.

Most local universities routinely consult high school term dates before creating their own academic calendars with a view to synchronising their teaching practice placements with the opening and closures of the schools.

TSC expects universities to produce quality teachers capable of manning the nearly 10,000 (2016 basic education statistical booklet) secondary schools in the country.  In fact, majority of university lecturers–yours truly no exception- learned their ropes as one-time high school teachers!

As such, in order to respond better to the dynamics of modern labour markets, the TSC, just like those large American employers, has an incontestable right to demand tailor-made reskilling of its future employees, especially against the backdrop of the incoming Competency Based Curriculum (CBC).

After all, one of its explicitly stated core mandates is to ‘review the standards of education and training of persons entering the teaching service’.

Much of the counter-arguments against the proposal to replace B.Ed with B.Sc. and BA revolve around the allegation that the TSC largely ignored interested party participation, particularly university representatives, before coming up with those far-reaching decisions.

If this is true, the commission is losing out on two fronts. First, it will predictably run into the headwinds of stakeholder intransigence and lethargy at the implementation phase.

Second, learned and diversified viewpoints that could have helped TSC’s decision-making will lie idle on universities’ shelves. Here is one viewpoint: The problem of B.Ed programmes being too heavy on pedagogy and low on content (and therefore limiting to teachers seeking to specialise in core subjects) could have been equally solved by exploring the alternative of requiring their teachers to study for post-graduate qualifications (Masters and PhDs), instead of summarily discarding the B.Ed programme.

In sum, our considered position is that if well managed, the proposed system will raise Kenyan education a notch higher.

Simply put, today’s trends in higher education worldwide are seeing industry making serious incursions into the ‘citadels of knowledge’–a beloved synonym for universities- and acquiring greater say in the direction college curriculum should take.

Meanwhile, the fearsome Universities’ Academic Staff Union (UASU) brigade should now, like Chinua Achebe’s dreaded egwugwus, emerge from their collective bargaining trenches, lay down their armour, and offer the much-needed intellectual direction in this great education policy formulation debate.

 

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