Education system must change, says Kiyiapi

Friday April 6 2012

File | Nation Prof James ole Kiyiapi, the permanent secretary in the ministry of Education. He says the 8-4-4 system of education must adopt to new technology and the demands of the modern world..

File | Nation Prof James ole Kiyiapi, the permanent secretary in the ministry of Education. He says the 8-4-4 system of education must adopt to new technology and the demands of the modern world.. 

What were the recommendations of the education conference on the two systems, 8-4-4 and 2-6-6-3, and what is the way forward now.
Michael Ochieng, Nairobi

The task force is still compiling the recommendations of the conference. But most of the recommendations of the task force were accepted.

The task force recommended three issues: that early childhood education becomes part of the rest of the school system and that every child should go to class one.

The current system, where we have two years of kindergarten and eight years of primary has been seen to be too long and is responsible for massive drop outs. The new structure also proposes a free and compulsory education from kindergarten. My position is that we shall meet with key stakeholders.

We cannot force them. But we also want to ask them: where in the middle way can we meet? This is because what is currently under discussion is not a government position but a report of experts.

We are aware that it has generated strong views from people, including a retired president and teachers. The structure is what seems to be the problem. We shall still consult with all the stake-holders, the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education and the Kenya National Union of Teachers on the way forward.

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I don’t quite understand why teachers are opposed to the change of 8-4-4 system. Is it because they fear change or they want to maintain the status quo?

Salaash Ole Kisotu

I, too, am wondering what their concern is. When I asked the KNUT chairman, he told me teachers would not accept what they were not involved in. Yet they were represented in the task force.

The Constitution encourages dialogue and stakeholder consultation and that is why we are going back to consult. We understood last time when union chiefs told us the new term dates we wanted to introduce would have interfered with teachers who attend college during the holidays.

But the concerns of the issue at hand are not clear. As a ministry, we thought the task force made reasonable recommendations.

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What is the cost implication of introducing 2-6-6-3 system? And what effect would part of that money achieve if it was pumped into revamping the 8-4-4 system?

Maureen Wangari, Kiambu

The cost is not the issue here. Everybody is trying to quote figures.

If we employ all teachers, meet special education requirement, increase government’s sponsorship per child  in primary school to Sh3,000 and Sh20,000 in secondary school as per the task force’ recommendation, we have the right teacher pupil ratio and the correct infrastructure and we make education compulsory in all stages, 8-4-4 could even be more expensive. 

We are simply grossly underfunding 8-4-4 and then turn around and say it is cheaper.  We get used to mediocrity, making do with a shortage of 100,000 teachers and we say the present system is cheap?

For instance, in 2004 1.2 million children enrolled in standard one. In 2011 only 700,000 did KCPE, meaning more than half a million dropped out. Out of the 700,000, still a whole 200,000 did not go to secondary school. It is not the number of years.

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What are the serious loopholes that have been identified in the 8-4-4 system to warrant a complete overhaul?

Joshua Makokha, Busia

The main goal was not to change 8-4-4. We were really blind to any system. All we wanted was to design an education system that properly captures the spirit of the Constitution, vision 2030 and emerging issues like Information Communication and Technology.

Within the Constitution three things have changed fundamentally: the Teachers’ Service Commission, which employs all teachers, has been given autonomy, there are now two levels of government and even though education is a national function, the county will be charged with the implementation.

Education has also been made free and compulsory. All these fundamental changes necessitated complete overhaul. I am saddened when people reduce the whole thing to 8-4-4 and 2-6-6-3. We must define what we need first and the structure will fall in place by itself. Let us not put the cart before the horse.

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My concern regards the content rather than the distribution of years. As a history teacher, I have noted that our texts emphasise the defeat of African communities during the colonial invasions with no mention of success stories such as the Ethiopian repulsion of the Italians. This is wrong. Education systems everywhere else stress their successes at the expense of historical failures. This helps to cultivate a champion’s mindset.

Walter Lisutsa, Oserian High School

That is a valid point. Our main concern should not just be the structure but the content, which has to be relevant. Even more important is the delivery of that content. Once we agree on structure, we can then tell curriculum experts to design material the way we want.

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How will schools which want to have their students shine be trusted to run their own assessment, will they be objective in the assessment of their own students?

Job Ochieng, Siaya

That is not what we proposed. The task force recommended that at the end of class 6, pupils should sit a national exam executed by the Kenya National Examination Council.

But at lower primary there will be a county-based assessment system which will still be guided by KNEC. This is just to ensure pupils are acquiring the desired learning outcomes. But the Class 6 marks are recorded and will contribute to the exam that will be done after Form Three. 

This is to give learners a second chance because in the past if you were sick during KCPE your life came tumbling down because whatever you got determined your future.  In the proposed system, the learner will be guided as to what to pursue on the basis of what she gets from these two exams. She can decide to pursue sports or science or any other field in the next level.

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Will the proposed system of education redress the inherent disadvantages for the pupils from marginalised rural communities who lack social amenities, good classrooms and adequate teachers enjoyed by the urban rich?

Salaash ole Kisotu

Yes, the new system will empower counties to deal with unique local issues. Primary school time will be shortened hence giving an escape route to children from marginal areas who risk early marriages if they hang on for a longer time in primary school.

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This whole clamour for educational change should be geared towards improving quality as input is directly proportional to output.  How do you expect to bring about this quality when there is a massive teacher shortage in the country?

Gideon Ng’etich, Ilmotiook Secondary School, Narok

The issue of teacher numbers is not in contention. No structure will take away the need for more funding for infrastructural development and a conducive environment for education.

No system can take away the requirement for the massive funding needed because of the huge number of young people in school (15.4 million).