There has been a lot of crying for “education reform” in Kenya since Fred Matiang’i moved to the Education docket as Cabinet secretary last year. He has to an extent tried to shake up the rot that bedevils the country’s examination system. As to whether he has been successful, that is discussion for another day. Top of the agenda this term will be the unveiling of a new curriculum which is expected to replace the much maligned 8-4-4 system which has been in existence for the past three decades. The structure provided eight years of primary education, four years of secondary education and a minimum of four years of university education. Effectively, the 8-4-4 curriculum replaced the 7-4-2-3 system of education that was deemed to have cobwebs of colonial education and described as too theoretical and elitist in nature. The Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) report indicates that the new system has been organized into three levels: Early Years Education, Middle School Education and Senior School. Instead, it recommended a 2-6-3-3-3 system, which it says would ensure learners acquire competencies and skills to meet the human resource aspirations of Vision 2030. KICD Director Julius Jwan said “This curriculum will reduce the load and seek to modify the organization of learning and make the learners identify with the democratic foundation of this nation, something that the current curriculum does not address” (Daily Nation of 1st January 2017).
A lot of hue and cry was raised immediately after the release of the 2016 Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) results. This could be genuine from concerned quarters or a case of the criminal exam cartels hitting back. As reported in the Daily Nation of 3rd January 2017, Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (KUPPET) Secretary-General Akello Misori had faulted the KCSE examination results released in December. “A normal curve would show a few top performers and a similar number at the bottom, with the majority being in the middle. The abnormal curve indicates the 2016 results are not reliable,” he said. He added that teachers would demand an audit of the setting of the examination and conditions under which they were marked. This is after complaints were raised that the papers were marked in a hurry.
Another casualty of the results released is Parallel Degree Programmes undertaken by Universities. Fred Matiang’i announced public universities will directly absorb all the 88,929 candidates who scored a mean grade of C+ and above in the KCSE. More than 44,000 students who scored C plain and hoped to join universities either through Module II (parallel programme) or enroll in private institutions have been shut out of degree programmes after early indications that the cut-off points for selection into various courses will not be lowered. These programmes have been used by Universities to mint billions of shillings courtesy of the huge number of students that get locked out of public universities through the regular programme admissions. Universities have spent massive resources, most of it borrowed, to set up hundreds of satellite campuses to cater for the demand for higher education which has been surging each year with thousands registering especially for evening classes. For example, in the 2015 KCSE examination, 165,766 scored the minimum university entry qualification of a C+ and above. However, only 74,389 were selected to join public universities due to limited spaces leaving 91,377 to enroll privately. Most of the institutions of higher education, especially the so-called satellite campuses set up by some public and private universities, are pure con establishments as they are purely commercial ventures and never established as learning centers.
It is now clear that we have for long operated a flawed examination system where cheating was the norm. Schools, parents and teachers worked in cahoots with the officials of the Kenya National Examinations Council to steal exams. The end result was a case of over-supply of high grades which, unfortunately, could not stand the test. Evidence had started piling up, indicating that most of the candidates who had scored high grades failed at university. Only half of the more than 50,000 students who graduate annually are suitable for employment. And of these graduates, more than half are not suited to their career choice, the Inter University Council for East Africa (IUCEA) noted in a survey conducted in 2014. The IUCEA findings suggest that majority of those who graduate cannot land or will find it challenging to secure long-term employment in their fields of study. Prof Sam Kubasu, an educationist said “That is only one part of the problem. The whole university education system should be rethought. We are no longer motivated by the quest for knowledge but rather by a primitive urge to acquire pieces of paper to secure jobs. For the instructors, it is a matter of making as much money from as many universities as possible”. https://www.standardmedia.co.ke/article/2000123982/only-half-of-university-graduates-in-kenya-are-ready-for-job-market-study-says.
The major question for us to ask is are education objectives being met? Are we seeing reforms or are they just cosmetic changes meant to appease a restless public yearning for answers? A deep thought shows that no specific objectives are being met other than churning out half-baked graduates. Reforms can also not occur in a corrupt system until the system itself is reformed. Education reform in a Capitalist system is difficult to undertake because it is very hard to tie it to outcomes. You can invest in the best education for doctors but that will not give you a good health care system.
With regards to the Islamic State’s adopted education policy, Article 166 of the draft constitution states: “The purpose of education is to form the Islamic personality in thought and behaviour. Therefore all subjects in the curriculum must be chosen on this basis.”
Also, in the Education system, it is written “Education is the method to preserve the Ummah’s culture in the hearts of its children and the pages of its books, whether it is the prescribed or non-prescribed education curriculum. The education curriculum means education regulated by State adopted systems and canons, with the State responsible for implementing it e.g. setting the starting age, subjects of study and education method. Whereas non-prescribed education is left to Muslims to teach in homes, mosques, clubs, via media, periodical publications etc without being subjected to the organization and canons of the education curriculum. In both cases, however, the State is responsible to ensure that the thoughts and knowledge (being taught) either emanate from the Islamic intellectual doctrine or are built upon it.”
This is the most comprehensive reform that can be taken to change an education system away from the Capitalistic system that has no unified purpose or values and depends mostly on nationalistic sentiments of States. It is only when the ummah accepts such radical reforms that it will enjoy the fruits of real education that foremost teaches the recognition of our Creator. It then informs man of the purpose of his creation in terms of where he came from, where he is right now and lastly where he is headed to. This is the TRUE education reform that we should yearn for.
Kassim Aggessa – Member of the Central Contact Committee
Hizb ut-Tahrir Kenya
From UQAB Magazine Issue 1