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Kenya's education system

KENYA'S EDUCATION SYSTEM: IS IT RELEVANT IN THE 21ST CENTURY? By Dickson S.O Owiti: Objective(s) of the day: By the end of the session, participants should; • Demonstrate an appreciation of why Kenya is where it is technologically, socially, economically and politically. • Brain storm for the way forward

Definitions: Education-acquired attitude, character, values and skills. It could either be formal or informal Formal education-the one at school, college and universities Informal education-the one at home by parents and significant others Education System-as used in this paper doesn’t mean the format such as 8.4.4 but refers to the package (curriculum content and ways of imparting it) curriculum-sum total of events that a child goes through. It includes: • instructional materials • examination and evaluation procedures • out of class activities • way of life passed on from generation to generation (culture)

Some questions that Kenyans are grappling with:

• Has our education truly empowered and united the people of our country or has it increased the divide between the privileged and the underprivileged? • Has our education strengthened the democratic and secular foundations of our country? • How can we convert the multiethnic character of our society into an asset for unity and development? • Why is our country lagging behind many other countries in research output, innovations and inventions? • Does education in our country promote creativity? • Are the institutional structures and practices in our country conducive to innovation and creativity? • Why do systems quite often collapse in our organinsations?

Introduction The 21st century lies ahead of us, and in it a lot of things will happen some of which you don’t have to be a genius to foretell: • people and countries will come together to form unions and economic blocks for trade and prosperity i.e. EU, UAE etc • citizens will embrace technology and become environmental friendly or unfriendly • the world becomes a global village in as far as telecommunication, transport network and so on are concerned • creativity and innovation becomes the key for survival i.e nuclear energy , genetically modified food etc • every individual will need access to more food, shelter, clothing, clean air and water • incurable diseases due to human lifestyle i.e medicine, type of food eaten etc • global climate change-ozone layer, sea levels rising etc

So, are we prepared to meet the challenges? are we relevant or irrelevant for this era?... At the moment we are irrelevant given our education system (formal and informal).

Education system is the heartbeat of any nation. Malfunctioning of the heart can render a big blow to the entire organism. Kenya’s current Education system has emphasis on academic performance and equipping the student with skills for further college work and for jobs. The curriculum is calculated to prepare the students for employment and ignores the reality that students also need to prepare to meet the various challenges of life as members of the Kenyan society of which they are part. The emotional, psychic, social and spiritual aspects of the personality of the students have been ignored with the result that students receive inadequate and incomplete education. The system have produced generations that are career geared but are illitrate and ignorant of their God (devil worship), government and civics (their rights, who to hold accountable etc), history (patriotism-Bildad Kagia, Achieng Oneko, Paul Ngei etc), mathematics (appl. of concepts such as union, sharering, equality etc), geography ,morals, values, virtues, attitudes, and believes (devotion, commitment, perseverance, responsibility, prayerfulness and honesty just to mention but a few) that are essential and necessary for wholeness of a citizen. Observers have argued that human character and morals for both public and personal have disintegrated in all walks of life. Personal and or political greed as well as reckless exploitation of natural resources have over the years suffocated the Kenyan nation. As a result, calamities such as drought, floods, famines, collapse of buildings, land clashes, garbage heaps and street children have been but just some of the manifestations of the aforementioned limitations of the education. Kenyans therefore today appears like foolish men and women who are wielding the axe at the very branch of a tree on which they are sitting.

Kenya’s education system has narrowed the education to mean ‘perish’ or ‘survive’. That is, education in Kenya has become the only way to ‘survival’. Consequently, there is fear of failure which is reflected in a lot of cheatings in examinations at secondary schools as well as at the universities (mwakenya, short gun etc). In a country like Germany, education is to enable an individual solve the societal problems and so there is no ‘peris’ or ‘survival’ element. As a result there are no such cases like cheating in examinations for there are no competitions. Thus Kenya’s education system (indeed schools and parenting) is failing the Kenyan public thus making the nation irrelevant for the 21st century:

1. The examination system and procedure promotes selfishness, individualism and division instead of unity - reflected in the behavior of children covering their work with their arms during exams so that others do not copy, teachers giving back exam scripts when folded so that marks obtained are secret to the individual. 2. The district selection system for secondary students perpetuates regionalism and denies students the chance to interact and socialize with students of varied backgrounds. 3. The poor teaching practices in our schools promote inequity and undemocratic principles displayed in teachers favor for a section of class, individual, gender and method of teaching. 4. Our examination systems promote unhealthy competition based on a win or fail as an individual principle that has lead to dishonesty and untruthfulness in our students culminating into exam cheats we often see at the end of each year (everybody for themselves and God for us all). 5. Curriculum implementation procedures in our schools have resulted into high dependency and luck of self-esteem in our students since the teacher is the authority and custodian of knowledge. Such authoritarianism denies children creativity, deprives them of their individual freedom to learn responsibly and hampers social interaction. Children therefore grow lacking confidence. 6. Emphasis on paper-and-pencil examination is undemocratic to a majority of students who might have done better on portfolio and projects as alternative forms of assessment and in addition promote level of stress. 7. Our education has failed to promote cultural models that are supposed to challenge and energise children to be devoted and persevere in event of frustration and difficulty. 8. It promotes carelessness and disrespect for the environment as students’ seat and grows up in disorganized classroom environments, unclean surrounding (homesteads) including even kitchen utensils. Children become very irresponsible and casual with their environment.

Consequently, the education system has thus created a cultural script from where everyone reads. It is a script of:

• Dishonesty-corruption such as angloleasing,goldenburg etc • Unkindness and ungenerous to each other-old, sick, street children • Carefree attitude-pollution of environment, zebra crossing, traffic rules etc- Dandora in Nairobi • Lack of work ethics-uncooperative at work place, unpunctual, untrustworthy, non perseverance • Lack of courtesy, integrity, creativity, patriotism, humility etc • Favouritism, tribalism, nepotism, clanism etc • fortitude-(mali ya uma syndrome)misuse of state resources etc • undemocratic and impatient-at cues in banks, bus terminus, zebra crossing etc Together, all these erode any gains that might have occurred in the right direction.

The growth curve applies in all aspects of human’s life.

A • learning is slow as brain has limitations and cant be stretched beyond a certain point B • Human’s brain corresponds to rate of growth and has the greatest capability to learn and be moulded. It’s this time that ability to think and be creative is at its highest peak for majority. However, this is the period when in Kenya, we make mistakes in:

- what is taught (curriculum) and how it is taught - poor role modeling i.e lack of care for environment, lack of integrity, honesty cooperation, fairness love etc - failure to relate what is taught to everyday life experiences of learners - undemocratic practices in schools and in public that has no provision for brain’s curiosity and hunger for discovery. - Wrong influence on the direction learning takes.

C - The brain’s capacity to think and be creative now reduces. It is at this period that people are retired (at 55 yrs in Kenya). Unfortunately, in Kenya this is the period we have expectations on our population hence the stress and the frustrations. Since learning in wrong direction had taken place, individuals stick to their way of doing things even if they may not be proper.

The way Forward We often remember and talk of having been at per with the tiger countries (Singapore, Malaysia etc) in terms of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) a few years back and wonder why their GDP has grown while we have retrogressed instead. Whatever development adjustment we attempt, we often forget the education system that has values, virtues and beliefs that can produce generations ready to take up challenges. Consequently, we have been in a vicious cycle of poverty and unable to move any closer to the desired goals. This crisis can only be solved if all of us-parents, teachers, politicians, school administrators, the church and all citizens re-examine our beliefs and assumptions about education. We must think of values, virtues, morals and beliefs that are supposed to balance and complete the curriculum we currently offer our children in Kenyan education. Some of such characters, virtues and values we could impart into our children through school curriculum include: • democracy • equality • cleanliness • commitment • cooperation • courage • courtesy • creativity • dependability • diligence • fairness • fortitude • generosity • honesty • honor • kindness • loyalty • patience • patriotism • perseverance • humility • punctuality • respect for authority • respect for others • respect for the creator • rspect for environment • respect for health • nation pride • self-control • self-respect • sportsmanship • trustworthiness • truthfulness • tolerance If the aforementioned human values could be inculcated in our children, the 21st century and beyond can promise a hope for a better future. Parents and Schools can seek to develop and reinforce the traits through a systematic approach that includes adult modeling, curriculum integration, a positive school climate, and access to comprehensive guidance and counseling services. Opportunities for character-based curriculum abound in schools, whether in a formal classroom environment, the school assembly, or in the informal atmosphere of school lunch times and extra-curricular activities. However these instances only become opportunities if teachers are made to view them as such. This requires that the curriculum developers design programmes that will increase such awareness in teachers.

Some of the techniques, which can be included in the curriculum to impart value-based education, are as follows: 1) Integrated Approach: Teachers should design lessons in which the subject matter is used to develop character. For example, History can be used to foster the development of values such as tolerance and patriotism; Mathematics for sharing and equal mindedness; Science for appreciation of and respect for the environment and so on. By using these approaches, teachers direct the pupils towards character building, which should be the hallmark of education. 2) Silent Sitting / Meditation: Meditation helps to relax the body and the mind and thus enables the student to focus his thoughts and become more concentrated. Improvement in memory, concentration, intuitive power and the development of calm and balanced nature, requires students to practice meditation regularly and patiently. 3) Prayer: The habit of prayer must be deeply inculcated in the student. Its benefits are numerous. It develops faith, devotion and self-confidence and act as a safe outlet for pent-up feelings and frustrations. It also improves memory and concentration, infuses strength and courage and confers mental peace. 4) Story-Telling: Stories on the life of great men and women, saints and heroes of the society kindle the spirit of inquiry and promote higher ideals and understanding of human value in students. 5) Group Singing: Devotional Singing cultivates love for God and promotes harmony of body, mind and spirit. It fills the mind with pure thoughts and purifies the atmosphere. Students should be encouraged to sing, dance and play musical instruments as it helps develop self-confidence. 6) Group Activities: Role-plays, community service activities, cooperative learning, drama and creative writing and other activities reinforce the aforementioned values. Many of these allow the students to apply these values in their daily life. Students will realise that their life at home, at school, the community and the world is more peaceful and joyful when they practice these values. They instill feeling of dependability

Conclusion True education is a mixture of head, soul and heart. We should not be content with an education system, which is confined to academic achievement alone. Character development through school curriculum and way of life should be the foremost aim of education and the central focus of all curriculum development exercises. Good character increases the value of a person. It is only when the school or education system produces men and women of fine character will Kenya begin to see the fruits of the large investments made in its citizens.

Bibliography Linda C. Scerenko (1997): Values and Character Education Implementation Guide, Office of Policy & Communications Georgia Department of Education Shashank Shah (2006): The Necessity of “Value based Education” Sri Sathya Sai Books and Publications Trust Stevenson, H. W and Stigler J.W (1992): The learning Gap, Why our Schools are failing and what we can learn from Japanese and Chinese Education, Simon and Schuster, New York