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Why we must transform our education

Friday August 9 2019


Pupils of Kiambuiri Primary School, Nyeri County, go through study materials as they walk home on August 1,2019. Education, invariably, is the weapon at our disposal as has been during other disruptions. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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The International Youth Day is set aside by the United Nations for the world to focus on issues that affect the youth with a view to starting conversations on potential solutions.

Globally, the day is commemorated every 12th of August and in Kenya it is preceded by week-long activities. The theme for this year is "Transforming Education".

Rooted in Goal 4 of the global Sustainable Development Goals to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”, International Youth Day 2019 invites us to examine how governments, youth-focused organisations and other stakeholders are transforming education to facilitate achievement of the 2030 Agenda.

The theme is timely given the many disruptions occurring today in every sector of our society owing to a storm of technological and scientific advancement, the genesis of what is now referred to as the Fourth Industrial revolution.

The disruptions are so far-reaching that the world has found it apt to start a conversation on the pertinence and relevance of the education system in preparing our youth to adapt better.



A historical perspective will help us appreciate the value of education in helping us face the challenges and opportunities inherent in our current situation.

Historians talk of human civilisation having experienced three revolutionary discoveries that transformed the way the world operated.

The first Industrial Revolution was occasioned by the discovery of the steam engine.

Second was the discovery of electricity that heralded other scientific discoveries leading to mass production and assembly lines. Then of course came the third, the computer age.

It automated manufacturing and transformed communications and had an impact on every sector.

One of the biggest contributions of Kenya during the third revolution was the introduction of mobile money transfer to the world. Now the fourth Industrial Revolution is with us, or Industry 4.0, as they are calling it.


Much has been written about Revolution 4.0, but simply put, it builds on the first three revolutions and crosses the boundaries of reality to join the physical, the biological and the digital worlds to work together.

The result is a blurred reality, hard to configure, but based on modern-day scientific advancements, including artificial intelligence, robotics, the internet, genetic engineering, energy storage and quantum computing, among others.

The speed at which the fourth revolution is happening has catapulted us into a new world of technology causing a whirlwind of disruption and changes in every sector.

Every country is obliged to arm their population to weather the storm. Education, invariably, is the weapon at our disposal as has been during other disruptions. For the well-positioned, the revolution presents immense benefits.

Disruptions aside, those who reap from the windfall are those who prepare and position themselves to identify points of advantage.

As a country, we need to equip the youth with the right skills and competencies to be able to operate in the new technological world.


Technology has to be introduced into the school system through the Competency-Based Curriculum. Like any innovation, it’s experiencing hitches, but its advantages will soon be realised.

Technology colleges are blooming in Kenya. Kenyan youth are fast at reading the signs of the times and have been enrolling in TVETs for technology-based courses.

Total enrolment in TVET institutions grew by 32.3 per cent from 275,139 in 2017 to 363,884 in 2018.

During the same period, enrolment in vocational training colleges increased by 25.5 per cent to 284,506, partly due to the on-going initiative to increase enrolment in TVET institutions.

These new approaches are already paying dividends for the youth. The Ajira digital programme managed by the ICT ministry has enabled thousands of youth secure jobs in international companies through on line job platforms.

Various private sector organisations have been equipping youth with the technological skills to enable them access opportunities through the internet.


For the out-of-school and rural-based youth, the government has been refurbishing existing youth centres to take technology and digital education closer to the youth.

In the last one year, my ministry has refurbished 21 youth empowerment centres. These assist in providing access to ICT infrastructure and internet and 152 centres are planned across the country.

As youth respond to this new work environment, there’s need to re-evaluate the essence of education our youth pursue.

Liberal education is gaining traction in terms of preference in the fast-changing and globalising environment.

Liberal education prepares learners to adapt and cope with changes as opposed to education that “trains” students for strict disciplined application.

Our orientation should be inclined to adopting pedagogical approaches that promote research and innovation.

Our concern today should go beyond making education accessible in order to address the content of that education.

Prof Kobia is the Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs.