(Download: The Edge, Inside Kenya's brain power, August 31, 2012)
In the 50 years that Kenya has existed as an independent state -- free from colonial rule -- the country has defied numerous challenges to become a regional economic powerhouse.
Yet this is a country that unlike its peers in the region has not had the advantage of a rich natural resource base that remains the bedrock of whatever little success its peers in the region have realised.
Slowly, but surely, Kenya has moved to occupy a key place in eastern Africa -- attracting a continuous stream of foreign investment to a level that compares well with the mineral rich neighbours whose main source of attractiveness remains the minerals.
This level of competitiveness without the support of a rich natural resource base has raised the question as to what makes the country tick.
A number of explanations have been given -- including the strategic location of the country -- almost in the middle of the lengthy eastern coast of Africa that runs from South Africa to Egypt.
Improvement in the country’s infrastructure has also played its role -- making it easy for business and ordinary citizens to move around and communicate more easily and cheaply than they ever did before.
But the one thing that has become clear in the recent times is that Kenya has and continues to rely on the ingenuity and entrepreneurial mindset of its population to favourably compete on the regional and global stage.
The country’s strength has and continues to be in the skills of its people in the various spheres of life and in economic pursuits.
This edition of the Edge has tried to dissect and map out the origins and the makings of this resilient human resource base that has and continues to be the mainstay of the country’s slow and turbulent advancement.
Our delving into this matter has led us into many directions, starting from how poverty and deprivation affect the development of skilled human resource base.
Then there is the role that early childhood development and education has played in giving Kenya a strong foundation for success and the space that the schools curriculum has occupied in the mix.
Having adopted a new education system in the 1980s that requires learners to go through eight years of primary education, four years in high school and another four in university, so many doubts have been cast on the quality of graduates that the system produces.
Challenges remain, but the good news as is attested to in stories carried here is that Kenyans have remained as competent as ever both locally and internationally.
The bottom line is that Kenya remains positioned in a pivotal position to take the crown competitiveness in the region, but success will require a real hard look at the system of education and its continuous refining.
Highlights of stories
Education tops list of what makes Kenya’s rich human skills base tick
Experts say a competitive curriculum has produced people who excel in top universities such as Harvard and MIT, and easily fit in the job market.
Getting the basics right: The link between upbringing and school performance
Studies show that a child’s skills set reflect their nutrition and health status as well as psycho-social development resulting from interaction within a number of environments, including the family, community of friends and neighbours.
Foreign curriculum equips learners with global skills
For well-heeled locals and expatriate families living in Kenya, international schools are the perfect institutions to prepare children or dependants for survival in the competitive global economy.
Tracking the MBA craze: Is the paper worth the effort?
When it comes to popularity of university courses, very few can measure up to the Masters of Business Administration (MBA) degree programme.
Technology sharpens the edge for Kenyan schools
From a distance, it looks like an ordinary class with the teacher projecting his voice to stress a point. A closer look, though, reveals something else. The seated students also have laptops and they are working on them, following the teacher’s instructions.
Parallel courses make their mark on the pool of graduates
When the government opened a new line of admission to public universities 10 years ago, it was driven by the modest ambition of allowing the institutions to earn extra revenue and reduce their dependence on annual handouts from the Treasury. The impact of this policy shift has, however, been felt far and wide. The so-called parallel degree programmes have expanded opportunities for thousands of high school leavers, who would ordinarily be locked out, to access university education and quickly build the country’s human resource skills base.
Why financing higher education is the biggest headache for families
As land prices have skyrocketed and rural farms have been subdivided from generation to generation, millions of Kenyan children have been left with little to inherit from their parents except a decent education. A university education has become a basic requirement in the Kenyan job market and parents are taking great measures to ensure their children get one.
Talent outside the classroom: Art and sports add sparkle to academies
Mo Pearson and Silas Miami take turns doing a cappella. Their rich voices fill the air. Pearson does a version of her own composition. Miami does a rendition. They have something in common: a talent for music. Kenya’s educational system turns out Form Form candidates who are talented not just in academics, but also on the non-academic front.
Reaping the education dividend
A close examination of the profiles of Kenya’s top business executives and senior government officials shows that the majority are university graduates, perhaps more so now than at any time in the past.
The eight types of intelligence
Howard Earl Gardner is an American developmental psychologist who is a professor of Cognition and Education at Harvard Graduate School of Education at Harvard University, Senior Director of Harvard Project Zero and author of over 20 books translated into 30 languages.
Download: The Edge, Inside Kenya's brain power, August 31, 2012