The opinion piece by Prof Mohamed Elmi on May 29 in the Daily Nation which argued that admitting D+ students in colleges won’t lower teacher training quality missed the point.
Without evidence, Prof Elmi argues that a student with a D+ in the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examination would perform as well as the one admitted with a grade C, B or A.
Evidently, this perspective on the relationship between academic achievement and the quality of teachers is not informed by any educational inquiry.
Yet, Kenya has ample documentation to link teacher quality to performance in KCSE.
As early as 2001, concern was being raised by principals of the then 21 public Primary Teacher Training Colleges (PTTCs) that low admission grades was undermining efforts to train effective teachers.
This concern was based on the fact that the teacher resource is one of the most important inputs into the teaching and learning matrix.
Arising from findings of a study carried out by the principals’ association, a recommendation was made to the 2003 National Conference on Education and Training to raise PTTCs entry grade to a minimum of C plain from D+.
In fact, the principals had recommended that besides raising the aggregate grade to C plain, minimum subject scores be put in English and Mathematics.
They had argued that PTTCs were finding it difficult to train teachers who had failed in English and Mathematics — two core subjects that are central to the primary school curriculum.
Similar studies by Unesco concluded that the best way for any country to improve quality of basic education is to train candidates with good secondary school grades.
The argument that training of teachers with lower academic grades will address the problem of staff shortage in some regions notwithstanding, lowering entry grades to teacher training colleges can only entrench a legacy of illiteracy among the youth.
Moreover, the teachers admitted with lower grade cannot, legally, be forced to work in the specific regions from where they originate.
Finally, there are no supremacy wars between the Ministry of Education and Teachers Service Commission as implied by Prof Elmi.
Both agencies complement each other in provision of education to Kenyan children as all government agencies operate within a clearly demarcated constitutional and statutory framework.
KIHUMBA KAMOTHO, TSC Head of Corporate Communications.