New curriculum should target the ‘educated fools’ pulling us back

The true purpose of education - to expand our minds and build our character.

Thursday March 3 2016

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Think back to your early days, to your primary school, perhaps somewhere in the village or in the estate where you lived.

What stands out about those days? Back in those days, perhaps, you did not carry a huge bag full of books, the way children do nowadays.

Today’s children work long hours in the evening on homework.

They do not really get Saturday off - school or no school, they have enough homework to keep them busy.

They are still children, but weighed down by books, homework, and the consequences of exams.

Then there are the innocent ones, the pre-school children who do not yet know what is in store for them.

They are the ones who find joy in the adventure of reading, of learning a new song.

For a little while, learning is not a competition. It is intrinsically valuable.

They are the ones who remind us of the true purpose of education - to expand our minds and build our character.


As we reform our curriculum, we must keep in mind the end result we want to achieve - Kenyan citizens of quality, not just people who have filled their minds with what has been referred to as “book learning”.

Have you ever heard the expression “educated fool”?

There are signs in our society of the educated fool syndrome that make us question whether education has really accomplished its task of expanding minds and building character.

One of the most telling symptoms of this deficiency is our behaviour on the road.

As a society, we have a tendency to drive like educated fools.

At a four-way junction, each driver will inch forward to cause a deadlock.

Each person believes that they have a greater right of way and no one wants to give way.

In a traffic jam on a two-way street, one driver will decide that he has had enough, inch his way to the right side of the road, and pass the row of stalled traffic until he runs into oncoming traffic and cause a deadlock.

Worse still, several other drivers who were impatiently sitting in traffic will now follow suit (I call this the sheep syndrome) and begin to overlap.

How can our reformed curriculum, as a very practical matter, inculcate the social values of sharing, maintaining order, and making decisions based on personal and not crowd ethic?


Another common symptom of the educated fool syndrome is our understanding of leadership.

Somehow, we have leadership mixed up with power and recognition.

This is a problem most visible in government, but it is a theme that runs right down the social stratum to our families.

Are we, the parents, models of leadership for our children and domestic employees or are we the kind that demands but does not deserve respect?

How can we, as a matter of urgency, introduce the concept of servant leadership into our curriculum?

It matters a great deal what our children learn in school because sooner or later it will be reflected in a society that is either progressive and intelligent or learned but not so forward-looking.

Could it be, as well, that the competitive nature of our education is contributing to the educated fool syndrome?

If we were taught that we must compete to excel, then we have also learned to compete on the roads and as leader, to outdo one another wherever we can.


We are now a society that believes that life is a competition.

The competitive nature of our education system might be something we want to take a second look at.

Competition is not necessarily a bad thing. It can encourage us to strive for excellence.

But it has its place and limits. It is time we examined whether education is truly meant to be like a competitive sport.

One of the dangers of treating education as a competition is that every competition comes to an end.

There are winners and there are losers, and then it is over. But education ought to be a lifelong engagement.

It ought not to end at the conclusion of our last exam in school as though it were a boxing match ending in a knockout.

When organic things stop growing, they die. What happens when humans stop expanding their minds, engaging in personal development?

If our new curriculum can inculcate an excitement in learners, a lifelong desire to discover and acquire new knowledge, then it will be a true success.

Mr Waweru is CEO, WordAlive Publishers. [email protected]