Several more thoughts après the release of KCSE results:
Via Wallace Kantai FB
– What Dr. Matiang’i and Prof. Magoha have done is the equivalent of getting the car into the garage and giving it a deep, thorough clean. They haven’t even started working on the engine and other mechanical bits yet. This is because of several reasons:
– We as Kenyans have never decided what we want out of our education system, at all levels. Is our education system a jobs-training programme? A marker of status (which is why we try and get our children into schools with a big ‘name’)? A child-minding complex (witness the howls when parents were told they would have to spend a few weeks with their children)?
– We’re stupidly obsessed with numbers. i.e. are we shifting from 8-4-4 to 7-6-3? To 4-4-3-3? Are we talking football formations or education? These numbers are meaningless without a conversation on what the education is supposed to deliver. It could be a case of a 30-year Moi hangover, but education reform is not about numbers.
– Because we have never decided who we are as a nation, the content of education has never been at the core of the national discussion (except in 1984-85). What is our story as a country, that we can then pass on to new generations? How did Kenya arrive in the shape that it is in? (You can see my bias as a history buff). Dr. Matiang’i almost re-started the conversation with the requirement that all students in Kenya must study Kenyan history, but that conversation was more-or-less stillborn because we decided to spend our intellectual bandwidth on political questions and our obsession with foreign sports.
– The university system in Kenya is broken. There is negligible research being conducted on the issues that matter to us as a nation. Agriculture research? Moribund. Health research? In terminal decline. Kenya is already one of the worst-affected countries by climate change, affecting everything from disease prevalence, to food security, to inter-ethnic conflict. Where is the Kenyan academy in that discussion – from the science, to mitigation mechanisms, to anthropology? What world-altering legal thought has come from the Kenyan academy? Where are our political scientists as we contest the Kenyan political space and seek to create a better country? Where are our sports scientists to help our athletes, or rugby players, get better at their craft? (Why isn’t there a world-class Institute of Sports Science based at Iten, with a generous helping of public and private funding?)
– Even in the things we boast of, we’re guilty of tinkering at the edges; playing at the tertiary level when others have developed the primary platforms and made all the money. We claim to be the Silicon Savannah, yet what we have is not computer scientists – it is app developers. Which Kenyan is studying what undergirds the architecture of the Internet, and helping to redesign it? Where are they doing it?
I know I’m guilty of painting with a broad brush, and that there are exceptions – Dr. George Njenga at SBS, Dr. Kamau Gachigi at Gearbox’s Fab Lab, Dr. Isaac Rutenberg at SLS and Dr. Caroline Mose (Carrie Em) are a few who I know will quibble with some of what I’m saying, but the wider picture remains. Fixing the education system in Kenya will take more than a year of efficiency in the administration of exams, and will demand that we put deep thought into who we want to be as a nation, and how we will get there.