Ruto taskforce must get it right on education system
On a Thursday morning in April 2012, we waited on the steps of KICC for the then newly appointed Minister for Education Mutula Kilonzo to come and address the anxious delegates to the National Curriculum Conference.
It was a three days conference punctuated with flaring tempers as debate raged on the education reforms. As a young civil society leader, I got into this intricate conversation with the then abrasive KNUT Secretary General Wilson Sossion. The subject was the controversial recommendations on the shift from the 8-4-4 to 2-6-6-3 system of education.
As much as we could not agree conclusively on what Kenya needed, we all agreed that 2-6-6-3 was premature for Kenya. That is how the big recommendation in the over 120 recommendations from the Odhiambo Taskforce failed to see the light of the day for close to four years. This recommendation would later surface in 2016 clothed as a competency-based curriculum.
Instead of addressing the issues that had been raised, particularly the rationale for adopting the costly system, the debate started with placing the Basic Education Curriculum Framework on the table. Alas! The discussion shifted from the structure to the curriculum. And there started the long and arduous journey of misinformation and mismanagement of education reforms that have left the sector reeling from a series of mistakes.
For close to six years now, I have been in the trenches with colleagues, some of whom have thrown in the towel on the efficacy of CBC in addressing the systemic challenges that face us in our quest to provide quality education for all. In my view (which I have held since 2016), the hurried nature in which CBC was implemented was bound to escalate the design flaws that characterised the gaps in how the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development conceptualised and modeled the competency-based curriculum.
Rather than focus on the real issues around the fundamental flaws in the design of CBC, the Ministry of Education embarked on endless rhetoric, tough talk, and misinformation and capped it with a circus in the name of a taskforce that took 24 months and generated more than 110 recommendations. More than a year after the taskforce presented the recommendations, the report is yet to be made public. Still, the issues raised in 2012, 2016, and 2018 let alone in 2021 still remain unresolved.
The move by new President William Ruto to put stakeholders to the table to chart the path to the education we want could not have come at a better time. It is even more palatable that, unlike the previous task forces, this is a presidential taskforce that will benefit largely from the entire government architecture and infrastructure.
In my view, the stakeholders in the education sector must seize this opportunity to engage in an honest and useful debate on the future of our education in the medium and long term. The sectors that feed into education should come out boldly and critique the education sector; a sector that has become overly sensitive to critique from within and from outside.
The role of the National Treasury, Kenya National Bureau of Standards, Institute of Economic Affairs and Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis should be visible in this discourse. The taskforce should set the pace to address the deep-seated and fundamental challenges facing Kenya’s most expensive public service. It is time for us to get it right.
— The writer is an education development commentator