For the success of the Competency-Based Curriculum roll-out, the Education ministry should pick lessons from its past mistakes. The laptop project presents a good example.
Though it ought to have been designed and presented as Information and Communication Technology (ICT) integration, the laptop idea was a noble initiative, whose benefits to the education sector in the short-term and the economy in the long run would have been massive. It was one of the most ambitious but promising projects to be tried by any African government in recent history. ICT integration, if well designed and effectively implemented, can open new and diverse learning opportunities for our children.
There is no denying the great need for ICT skills or more so the fundamental need to have acquisition of such skills introduced early in life to drive Kenya into a sustainable knowledge economy and increase our pace towards Vision 2030; but our approach, level of preparedness for such an ambitious project based on readiness assessment and review of other competing and pressing priorities were in doubt.
Education experts and stakeholders were not against the laptop project, but were questioning its practicability, feasibility and sustainability. Indeed, we appreciated that the idea was to expand access to ICT and with it improve quality of our basic education, modelled along the path of the global one laptop per child initiative started some years back by Nicholas Negroponte aimed at ending poverty by mass application/use of technology.
This had been tried in Rwanda and Ethiopia to transform education in these countries through ‘collaborative, joyful and self-empowered learning’, with mixed results. But like in Peru, these laptops, particularly in most rural schools, became more symbolic toys than practical learning tools.
It was a big mistake to ignore lessons from these less celebrated pilots. In the end, we lost a lot of money in the failed laptop project, running into billions of shillings.
We hope the ministry has drawn lessons from such a failure to inform implementation of CBC.
But it is instructive to note that the ministry swallowed humble pie and went back to the advice offered by professionals, namely, setting up and equipping computer labs and libraries in every school. A well-designed and equipped computer lab could and will ensure that all teachers and learners from lower primary to high school have fair and guided access to ICT at regular and planned intervals.
The lab strategy has the potential to make ICT accessible to all learners, make the project more sustainable and easy for the schools to manage. The idea of supporting all institutions to have functional computer labs is more realistic, fashionable and sustainable.
What the ministry should now do is to start the ICT integration programme from the top — by ensuring that all tertiary institutions are well equipped and have functional computer labs; then move down to support all secondary schools to establish and run accessible and usable computer labs, before gradually moving to cover primary schools.
For CBC to succeed, there are several issues that must be addressed concurrently to ensure that its roll-out is smooth. These include addressing the pupil textbook ratio for lower and upper primary sections, which in most schools still stands at 7:1 and 4:1 respectively, looking for a more cost-effective and viable strategy of dealing with acute teacher deficit as well as improving infrastructure to deal with overflow resulting from the free primary programme and the 100 per cent transition policy.
Mr Obondoh is an education and social policy analyst [email protected]