Accreditation system necessary to enhance quality of education

Graduands during Kabarak University's 19th graduation ceremony on December 15, 2023. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard] 

In the vibrant landscape of Kenya's education sector, ensuring quality and relevance is paramount to the nation's development agenda.

However, amidst the diversity of educational institutions and programmes, a crucial mechanism stands out as essential for maintaining standards and driving improvement: An accreditation system.

The main focus of the accreditation system on qualifications is upholding quality, uniformity, alignment, and transparency in the education and training sector. 

Globally, National Qualifications Frameworks (NQFs) are regarded as all-encompassing tools for guiding a systematic approach to human resource development.

Qualifications frameworks are also designed to serve as useful instruments for guiding education and training institutions in curriculum development, delivery, assessment, and articulation in line with the needs of the labour market.

Kenya is transforming its education sector to enhance access, equity, relevance, and quality of education and training.

The country has realised several milestones towards this goal. Nevertheless, Kenya is experiencing increasing unemployment among the youths, and this is attributed to the present qualifications awarding system, which is so fragmented that it has resulted to ill-prepared graduates who are unable to respond to employers’ expectations.

Further, skills mismatch has led to unemployment in a country that at the same time has jobs without skilled people.

Kenya Vision 2030 and the Constitution of Kenya 2010 underscore the accessibility, relevance, and global competitiveness of education in Kenya, emphasising alignment with international standards and a comprehensive system encompassing recognition of prior learning.

To materialise this vision, the government enacted the Kenya National Qualification Framework (KNQF) Act No.22 of 2014.

Its purpose was to establish the Kenya National Qualifications Authority (KNQA) whose main mandate is to implement the KNQF by coordinating and harmonising education, training, and assessment and quality assurance of all qualifications awarded in the country, to improve quality and international comparability and realise lifelong learning.

Moreover, the Sessional Paper No. 1 of 2019 underscores the need to strengthen the KNQF by encompassing a wide array of qualifications from diverse education systems and curriculum designs.

It emphasises inclusivity and recognition of academic and technical qualifications obtained through various paths and seeks to standardise assessments and certifications while expanding formal and diverse educational provisions. 

In this ecosystem, the KNQA plays an important role as the chief accreditation and qualifications body for all Qualification Awarding institutions (QAIs).

The QAIs cut across three sectors; those that offer qualifications at university, TVET, and basic education levels. In harmonising qualifications, KNQA seeks to facilitate easy mobility of learners and labour through the establishment of a policy framework for the accreditation system to enable mutual recognition of academic and professional qualifications within and the country.

In essence, KNQA will serve as a convergence platform for harmonisation of qualifications levels and types, entry requirements, progression and articulation hence transforming Kenya into an education and training destination of choice, not only in the region, but across the continent.

The accreditation system on qualification guarantees compliance with specific quality benchmarks and conformity with NQFs.

This alignment facilitates the registration of qualifications on the NQF, promoting comparability, recognition, and a structured system for categorising qualifications. 

In a nutshell, the accreditation system will help to comprehensively assess the design, delivery, and assessment of qualifications, including criteria for curriculum design, delivery methods, assessment strategies, and learning outcomes and ensure that QAI’s align with national and international standards and regulations for comprehensive coverage.

It will also establish a framework for continuous improvement based on accreditation findings and feedback, ensure consistency and standardisation in the accreditation process to maintain objectivity and fairness, involve relevant stakeholders in the development and validation of the accreditation tool to enhance its effectiveness and acceptance.

The authority will rely on the policy to enhance credibility to the qualifications registered by KNQA.

Employers, educational institutions, and other stakeholders will have confidence in the quality and relevance of these qualifications; promote transparency and accountability in the accreditation process by establishing clear standards and criteria for evaluating qualifications and implement mechanisms to identify and mitigate risks associated with the quality of qualifications.

In conclusion, the national accreditation system is not just a bureaucratic procedure; it is a critical tool for enhancing the quality, credibility, international recognition, transparency, and accountability in the education sector.

It will also promote continuous improvement and contribute to the socio-economic development of the nation.