Government should explore more creative ways of funding education

Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Kenya yearns to upscale the standards of education to march developed countries like the USA, UK, Canada and Australia. This is a good thing because some of our graduates end up in these countries' job markets.

However, the 6.6 per cent of the GDP allocated to the education sector, although commendable, cannot sustain the desire to elevate our standards of education. Notably, the Abidjan Principles underscore the need for states to prioritise the funding and provision of free, quality, public education.

As the government engages the public over the proposed review of the competency-based curriculum (CBC) under the Presidential Working Party on Education Review (PWPER), stakeholders are marking key areas that need more funding. They include building of more classrooms to accommodate the 100 per cent transition policy from one stage of learning to another, building and equipping more laboratories, more libraries, dormitories and other buildings that may help accord learners a better and conducive environment.

There are also requests for employment of more teachers so as to bridge the teacher-learners' ratio gap as the new curriculum envisions more interaction between teachers and learners. And finally, improvement of digital tools such as laptops, computers and any other gadget that can spur digital learning is also key.

Parents and other stakeholders in the town hall meetings have cited content development for the new curriculum as a challenge. Production of (one-time-use) textbooks makes the books irrelevant as they cannot be re-used by any other members of the family. It has also been noted that in practical subjects, teachers require learners to provide different samples for learning, which to parents, is expensive thing. These things are, however, important for the implementation of CBC which is here to stay.

This therefore calls for the government and other players in the sector to find means and ways of generating and directing more funds to the education sector. Continued and successful implementation of the new curriculum requires adequate and predictable, sustainable funding. However under existing arrangements, the Ministry of Education's budget continues to be underfunded by both the Treasury and other development partners.

In the search for a viable, equitable, sustainable and predictable source of financing for education to attain and realise SDG 4, other countrieshave introduced Education Levy. In the USA, the 2017 Legislature passed Engrossed House Bill (EHB) 2242 to meet its obligation to fully fund basic education for public schools. In addition to other education-related requirements, this bill made changes to property taxes imposed by the state, certain voter-approved property taxes imposed by school districts, state funding for certain school districts.

In the UK, the Apprenticeship Levy was introduced by the government in April 2017 in order to boost the country's productivity and competitiveness by investing in skills development. If an organisation has a payroll of over PS3 million, they will pay a levy of 0.5 per cent on their pay bill.

The levy is collected at the same time as PAYE payments are made and can be used to purchase apprenticeship education through the Government Gateway's Digital Apprenticeship Service. This money can then be used to fund apprenticeship training, for new or existing staff, from Loughborough University or other government-approved providers. Kenya should consider taking this approach and introduce the education levy so as to be able to run the sector.

Levies have been introduced in Kenya to improve roads, and cushion road users from high fuel prices. Education is one of the most expensive investments in Kenya. If well-handled, this investment is capable of solving many other social, economic and political challenges that pose a threat to the existence of human kind.

Kenya is endowed with various natural resources. Tourism, for instance, earns our country colossal amounts of money. Mining is also a very promising sector and already earns our country a lot of money. Some of the monies from these and other areas if channeled to education to the system can greatly improve the sector.

The sector needs more money for employment of more teachers and to pay them well. It needs money to build better infrastructure, develop instructional materials and for research and curriculum development.

Kenya could be having enough resources if it were not for runaway corruption. Our leaders should wake up and fight corruption aggresively. We have the potential to make education better and admirable. Let's do it through the education levy.