Some clever person once said a country that mistreats its children will reap their wrath in future. Considering we stood on the edge of the cliff and gazed at the abyss below following a very competitive poll; that statement seems very appropriate. In the deadly Post-election violence (PEV) of 2008 it was our young people who the demons chose to possess.
It’s for these reasons that we must take the debate on curriculum reforms very seriously. We need to produce young people whose minds are not so idle that demons congregate for a weekly workshop. Otherwise replacing a failed system with another one that hardly deals with the challenges of our time will only lead to a terrible outcome.
In the recently released KCSE results 545,700 students failed to make the cut for university entry. The President in his New Year message advised them to join the technical training colleges. The President’s message was meant to encourage especially after reports of children feeling hopeless and others committing suicide.
However, if analyzed further, that advice, subtly reveals the problem with our education system. What the stakeholders miss in their consultative forums about our system is the capitalistic nature of our education. Which sadly, even the much publicized education reforms does not identify, let alone tackle.
The vision of the new curriculum that is being rolled is, a desire to see an engaged, empowered and ethical citizen. This are good ideals yet impractical if we insist on curving ‘pathways’ for children while we have institutionalized failure by virtue of which institution of higher learning one attends.
It’s very possible that there are ‘A’ or ‘B’ students whose only interest is to work as a Plumber or Carpenter-building and fixing things but we’ve since relegated such jobs to school drop-outs that everyone wants a Bachelor degree-even those that can’t properly challenge themselves to be useful citizens after graduation.
This is why the debate on the new curriculum should’ve also figured how to change attitudes in children as they learn along the way to realize the goal for life is not acquiring a university degree. But this won’t happen if we see technical colleges as secondary to bachelor degrees. Developed countries like the US and Germany as critics of the new curriculum keep pointing out, know this only too well and some of the top students fight for a place in technical colleges because it’s not seen as the other option-in the event you don’t make the cut for university entry.
If the 8.4.4 system was to bring about self-reliance the new curriculum in many ways appears to completely claw back such gains if at all. Meaning we are likely to have a generation of kids who can only do certain things courtesy of their ‘gifts’ or ‘potential’. This is what 8.4.4 was expected to cure, how then are we going back without exhaustive consultations?
It’s the reason why some of the harshest critics of the new curriculum are now saying it is indoctrinating our children to become tenderprenures. Education in its ideal form should not be about jobs; it’s the reason the idea being pushed about ‘pathways’ is problematic. At best education should expose pupils and students to knowledge that can allow for a child to properly integrate in his or her society comfortably and hopefully add value to it.
We seem to be happy as a nation that many children are now failing and that this is a sign that there are reforms. Yet this very same children of the ‘good’ system are the ones forwarding hate messages on WhatsApp and unable to contend with one another during electioneering periods. It’s laughable. But to give the devil his due, Education CS Matiangi has stopped the cartels that aided cheating in exams on their tracks. Yet education is hardly about exams that we should rest easy. The devil resides in the details.
The new curriculum’s mission is nurturing every learner’s potential. This is good and appears to move away from exam focus. However in their explanation they negate the essence of that statement by introducing these ‘pathways’. If you acknowledge that a child is many things and should not be restricted to one form of exam, then why direct him towards a predestined path?
One of the good things that came out of the crisis talks held yesterday between ministry officials, Kenya Institute of Education officials and KNUT officials is that the curriculum will be rolled out gradually with the completion expected in 2027. There were fears these reforms were being carried out in a rush where key people like the teachers hadn’t fully grasped it. We can only hope that stakeholder engagement will continue even as it is progressively rolled out so as to deal with the problematic areas.
If you peruse through the document it’s easy to see the curriculum is heavily anchored on vision 2030 and the Sessional paper number 2 of 2015. Both documents are big on economic development and the need to equip pupils and students with the right skills to enable us as a country meet these economic goals but will there be an economy or these ‘marketable jobs’ if Kenya burns?
We therefore challenge the education officials and stakeholders to widen their working definition of ‘challenges of our time’ to include issues cohesion and integration. Perhaps there is a need to bring back Geography Civics and History as a mandatory course so that we have Kenyans who are well informed about the making of our nation and the role different leaders from different parts of the country have played over time, if only to challenge their prejudices and misconception about the country.