Don’t change education system ‘for sake of it’

Friday, January 20th, 2023 19:01 | By
A class in session. PHOTO/Courtesy.

Schools open next week and children from all classes will be trooping again to their classrooms. 

For the first time in a long time, children will have rested from the school routine. The disruption of coronavirus on school calendar will finally be behind us.

What will not be behind us is the disruption brought about by the change of curriculum. The 8-4-4 curriculum is not completely retired while the Competency Based One has not been fully birthed. In fact, it is not clear what a section of the pupils will be going back. It is almost as if time stands still for those who completed Grade Six last year as the second last cohort of 8-4-4 join high school. Why does Kenya change her curriculum so often? The CBC change when completely rolled out will be the third time in about 60 years that the country will be shifting to a new education format. When the Raphael Munavu led Presidential Working Party on Education Reform reports its findings, it will be yet one more report on education over the same period.

The first commission on education after independence was the 1964 Ominde Commission. It was followed almost two decades later by Mackay Commission. Since then, there have been other commissions: Kamunge and Koech Commissions among others. It was following the Mackay Commission that Kenya changed the education systems from the 7-4-2-3 to the 8-4-4 and the other commissions have led to a tinkering with the education system one way or the other. What really is the purpose of education? Simply put, it is to produce manpower for a nation’s workforce. Education should build the capacity of citizens to enable them better cope with their reality. If a nation’s education system is working then it should be reflected in the character of her citizens. To effectively do this then education cannot happen in a vacuum. The design of an educational system should have at its very core an undergirding national philosophy. It is, however, in this area that we tend to come short. What exactly is Kenya’s national philosophy?

This has appeared to change over the years. Under the first President Jomo Kenyatta, the rallying call was Harambee – pulling together. But when President Daniel arap Moi took over, much as he emphasised continuity – Fuata Nyayo, he came up with his own philosophy of love, peace and unity. But whether Harambee or Nyayo, it was difficult to define what these terms meant. The presidency of Mwai Kibaki seems to have given up on a national philosophy all together, the closest being “Kazi Iendelee”. We have continued to evolve in this space of national philosophy, and it is not any wonder that our efforts, as a country to examine ourselves usually seem to fall short. There is no better evidence of this than the near comical attempt by the former Vice President Moody Awori to come up with a national address. There was no commanding framework at the core of it to make citizens rally around the idea. Our claim to Africanity is not sufficient, for very few of us can even articulate what “africanness” is in the first place. It is in this morass that education finds itself. What framework of national thinking informs our quest for education? Majority of us would probably have no idea and that could be at the core of our incessant experiments with education. Our neighbors within the East African Community have remained steadfast with what they inherited from the colonialists. This has secured them stability in their education system and even if Tanzanian now shifts to emphasise English at the expense of Kiswahili, the core of their approach to education remains constant.

If we can’t figure out what the national philosophy at the core of our education is, then there is no need trying to change because we have no idea what we are looking for, and therefore we should stay put.

—  The writer is dean, School of Communication, Daystar University

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