Do not be rigid, embrace hybrid system of learning, Universities told

The Director-General and CEO of the Kenya National Qualifications Authority Dr Juma Mukhwana. [File, Standard] 

Universities have been urged to move away from their conservative minds and embrace change.

In addition, the heads of institutions of higher learning have been advised to harmonize their structures and adopt a hybrid system in order to have smooth inter-university transfers to harness skills.

The Director-General and CEO of the Kenya National Qualifications Authority Dr Juma Mukhwana said the sector has grown rapidly over time.

However, Mukhwana noted that even with the great milestone, there are several challenges that still face the education sector from basic to higher learning institutions.

‘‘It is noteworthy that the University sector in Kenya is facing some challenges. I do hope that as we address the issues of sustainable and lifelong, holistic learning we are able as universities and scholars to provide some solutions to the challenges we face as a sector,’’ Mukhwana stated.

He was speaking during the 8th international annual conference on education and lifelong learning, organized by Kenyatta University.

The conference, under the theme 'Optimizing Holistic Education for Sustainable Development,' comes as the government tries to initiate various education reforms for the betterment of the sector.

Mukhwana reiterated that despite the shortfalls, the country is able to seed quality graduates.

‘‘What is encouraging is how resilient our education system has remained to be solid and very steadfast in addressing the issues that we faced as a country and as a region despite the challenges,’’ Mukhwana said.

Mukhwana noted that many universities in the country continue to be rigid to reform, urging them to embrace change in order to meet the demands of its clients.

‘‘We tend to keep a rigid kind of system in our universities and think that the learners can fit in. Whenever you try to introduce a new idea, they will tell you that are not the way we do things. This is the reason we are left behind,’’ he said.

 He said, for a long time, learning has been associated with informal learning and the broader spectrum of the role of formal education.

He however said several roadblocks have been erected that have hindered much-needed change. 

‘‘Lifelong learning experiences must start to shape the way we think, plan and execute university programs. The world now has provided many opportunities for people to learn. Our way cannot be the only way. To do this we must start to address our institutional cultures that bind us to the things of the past,’’ said Mukhwana.

Mukhwana further stated that universities in the country have complicated their structures which makes it difficult for learners when transferring.

He urged institutions to harmonize their structures in order to have smoothed inter-university transfers and to make good of the skills acquired formally or informally.

‘‘When you move to another university you find they have a different setup. In the end, we have ended up with many islands of success in this area that do not speak to each other,’’ said Mukhwana.

He said a comprehensive national system of recognizing skills, knowledge and competencies that have been acquired in many different ways; should be made part of the learning culture in the country.

He pointed out that, with technology, universities have to change their approach in order to meet learners' needs. 

‘‘The culture of our target learning audience is also radically different from the majority of us. We know this from home, but somehow ignore it when we get to our places of work and ignore and think we can do things our ways,’’ he said.

‘‘Let’s face it, in this era of social media and Google, does a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology still need to take 4 years at the University; when the student can pretty much teach themselves in all aspects of this course in one to two years?’’

Mukhwana said many learners try to quench their natural curiosity in different ways and should be given the opportunity to prove their ability.

‘‘How do we as a society appreciate these efforts; how do we assess, certify and even award qualifications for this kind of learning? Are we ready with the assessment methods?’’ he said.

 He urged universities to embrace technology as a way of learning in order to make education accessible to all, anywhere and anytime.

‘‘As a teaching community, how are we reforming our systems of teaching and thinking? People should be able to learn anything from anywhere, and still be assessed and certified as long as you can prove you have competencies and skills, and it doesn't matter how you acquired it,’’ he said.