Amina should enlist educationists for better learning outcomes

The IQ test was invented by Alfred Binet, a Frenchman. The commonly held belief is that the IQ test was invented to measure the intelligence of children. That was not the purpose for which the IQ test was invented. It was invented to determine the children not benefiting from the public schools in Paris so that new education programmes could be designed to put these children back on track. The IQ test was never meant to apply as a permanent marker of ability or inability.

The statements by Fred Matiang’i before the Parliamentary Committee concerning the Judiciary may have come as a surprise to a cross-section of Kenyans. However, they are symptomatic of his stint in the Ministry of Education. During his tenure the failure of students in exams became touted as his success as Cabinet Secretary. His star shone by dimming the lights of the future of thousands of candidates and in shattering their parents’ dreams of a better future for their children.

Besides the fact that it is compulsory to do so under the law, many parents send their children to school with the hope that the education they receive will benefit them in future. How do you determine whether students have benefited from the 13 - 15 years of schooling? Is it good grades? Is it marking exams and releasing the results in supersonic speed? Is it in reducing the number of students who score “A” and increasing the number of students who score “D” and below?

Elimination system

Only 70,003 students scored C+ and above in KCSE in 2017. Over 350,000 students scored D and below. The KCSE class of 2016 performed just as poorly. If education is measured by the attainment of good grades, then a majority of the 2016 and 2017 candidates will, for the rest of their lives, be permanently marked in their own estimation and that of society, as uneducated and failures.

An education system that marks a majority of its candidates as “rejected” is not an education system. It is an elimination system.

According to Phillip Dow, in his book “Virtuous Minds,” education is more about the quality of character that children gain than about the quantity of facts that they memorise for purposes of passing their exams. Education is about intellectual character development. Students in education systems that encourage rote learning and test success by the ability to regurgitate facts develop poor thinking habits. They are limited in their ability to apply the knowledge they learn. They are also limited in the ability to acquire and evaluate new information that they confront in the real world.

Jason Baehr, a Philsopher who wrote the Forward in Phillip Dow’s book, shares a similar philosophy. According to Jason Baehr, the primary goal of education should be to develop a deep and abiding love of knowledge in students. That love of knowledge in students should give rise to curiosity and attentiveness to the world around them.  It should also develop a desire to continue learning about a broad range of subject matters.

It is no coincidence that as confidence in public schooling dwindles, the market for private education is growing. It is no coincidence that after 40 years, Mary Okello, an educationist, sold Makini Schools that offered the public schools curriculum. It is no coincidence that businesses are now heavily investing in schools offering private education.

As Dr Matiang’i takes the fight to opponents his size (or larger, time will tell), it is a sigh of relief for Kenya’s children. We can only hope that the new Education Cabinet Secretary, Ambassador Amina Mohamed, will enlist Mary Okello and other like educationists to her new course and cause, and adopt a more holistic and futuristic approach to the education of our young ones.

-The writer is an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya. [email protected]