Education system needs a total overhaul

Pupils in a class. The last change in the education system was in 1985 when the 8-4-4 system was introduced in place of the A-level programme. Photo/FILE
Pupils in a class. FILE 

Did you know that many of Kenya’s post independent leaders had a Grade Eight level of education, spoke multiple languages more fluently, had immaculate discipline and that they competently managed the economy?

To the contrary, many of the university graduates of today cannot express themselves, have poor command of languages, are corrupt and seem to have thrown discipline to the dogs.

Without doubt, this is the result of declining educational standards. What needs to be done is nothing short of a complete overhaul of our education system.

The overhaul Kenya needs is not just switching from the current system to something akin to the British system.
We need a transforming system with clear learning outcomes spelt out at each level from pre-school to university level.

Much has been learnt from the past to deal with the current ambiguities and discourage rote learning that characterises basic education.
Key areas that have been neglected in the past syllabi include creative thinking, the basics of psychology and phonetics.


On the extracurricular aspect, there is need to emphasize discipline, self-esteem and national values espoused in the constitution.
The transformation must extend to the teachers service commission, which should ensure that no teacher serves in regions of their ethnicity.

This is because several studies (for example Adan Abas’ study on the Effects of clan clashes on provision of quality education in public primary schools in Mandera North district, Kenya) have shown that ethnicity and clanism affect provision of quality education in Kenya.

Many other studies (for example, Gudo Owino and others’ study on the Role of Institutional Managers in Quality Assurance: Reflections on Kenya’s University Education, published in Australian Journal of Business and Management Research) indeed show the effects of tribalism on education.

Negative ethnicity

Owino’s study collaborates with what is today public knowledge that public and private universities suffer from interference by political and religious patronage. As such, negative ethnicity and nepoti

As such, negative ethnicity and nepotism was found to have affected the provision of effective management for quality assurance among Kenyan public and private universities.

Kenyan public universities suffered from insufficient teaching and learning resources and a leadership that did not satisfactorily engage its stakeholders in decision making.

The reforms must take merit into consideration, especially with the selection of those managing institutions of higher learning.

Tribalism in educational institutions is a serious indictment on the country’s competitiveness and it is the major cause of the indiscipline that is rampant not just within the universities but also in the public sphere.

The level of indiscipline in Kenya is unimaginable where virtually everything from projects to a simple task force to investigate some mundane issue are never concluded within the stipulated time.

There is a pervasive culture of requesting for an extension but the problem is that some of these extensions continue into more than five times the time the task was estimated to require for completion. \

Lack of consensus building

Cost piles up and issues become irrelevant since some matters require timeliness.
Transformative reforms of any kind are difficult, but with wide consultations they are possible.
Already, opposing views are beginning to cloud the discourse but this is largely due to lack of consensus building.

It is time to start dealing with the indiscipline especially at institutions of higher learning where students deliberately fail to attend classes, appearing only for the examinations.

Sometimes they disrupt exams because they were not ready just as they did last week.
There may be need to leverage technology to deal with the naughtiness of our student population.

It is perhaps the reason why members of parliament resulted to shameful acts to make their point.

For Kenya to become a competitive nation, it must firmly deal with the indecisions of completely overhauling the education system, and instill discipline and hard work.

However, for this to happen, there must be wide consultation to build consensus and avoid permanent grumbling as we have done with the 8-4-4 system for 30 years. There are no two ways about the future to which every country on earth has set to concur.

Ethiopian marathon runner Haile Gebrselassie once said, “Once you have commitment, you need the discipline and hard work to get you there.” Success of any kind comes with commitment and discipline.

The writer is an associate professor at University of Nairobi’s School of Business