Five things to ponder as Education System in Kenya changes from 8.4.4 to


There are so many wrongs with the current education system in Kenya. The problems range from content and content delivery the fruits of which are seen in the calibre of graduates colleges and universities continue to churn out, to cheating in national exams that get worse every passing year. In many respects, the current education system has not been able to educate Kenyans in areas of rich information based general knowledge, acquired practical skills that are in line with students’ talents, and research, scientific, engineering, technological and managerial skills that surpass the needs of the current job market to overflow into revolutionizing innovation and manufacturing.

Then there is the complain that the education system has not strengthened our social fabric to make us us shun ills like corruption. That students are graduating without social skills to sustain social interactions at the family, community and work environments. That students are graduating with the intentions to engage in pursuits for wealth no matter the means nor the short cuts they must follow. I would however say that the corruption that has been practised in this country since independence to date has been orchestrated by the old guard who underwent the colonial and immediate post colonial systems of education – most of whom were privileged to have acquired post secondary education in the so called developed world.

It is in the realization that the current education system in Kenya suffers numerous loopholes that the government has put in place a roadmap to scrap 8.4.4 and implement the proposed system of education that was recommended by the 2011 Education Task Force Report. Among several other things, the Task Force chaired by Prof Douglas Odhiambo recommended a shift in content delivery where emphasis is placed on age oriented content that would inspire talent discovery.


We have been looking for a free thinker. A creative thinker. A thinker who can come up with properly researched well articulated articles. We want the thinker to be a fresh college graduate. It is taking us forever to find one. On the other side, a story is told of a Masters Degree holder who went to pursue further education in the UK. She had scored straight As in Kenya, but when she arrived in the UK, she found herself dumb – dumb because she didn’t know nada in matters beyond her economic field of training. On the contrary, bachelor students in the University she went to had vast knowledge about the world and could participate in academically intense debates in diverse fields – as diverse as from ancient history and philosophy to current trends in science and technology. Some of the students, she said, were in hard core engineering and medical courses. The difference between them and us, she explained, is content. Content in UK focuses in diversity of an informed well rounded student but skilled in his/her narrow field of pursuit, but our content is focused on exams and the number of As and the Bs one can reap out of it. The content of education system in Kenya lacks what I would call curiosity and creativity.

Content is key in any education system. I have seen some posts go around Facebook demeaning particular contents e.g. “parts of an insect” at a time fast developing economies like China are emphasizing on science and technology (which ironically “parts of an insect” belongs to). Then there are those who insist that only the content that are relevant to mama mbogas and fundi wa viatus (general informal business sector) should be taught in our primary and high school level of education, as, according to them, chemical bonds and Newton’s three laws of motions do not apply to their day to day lives. I am not going to engage them here or elsewhere.

The content that should be delivered to our students right from the go is that type of content that should inspire curiosity and creativity. It is curiosity and creativity that generates great scientific, mathematical, technological, artistic, musical, and research minds. New products and services, new methods and processes, more efficient tools and instruments, better machinery, better tech gadgets, better and more improvement systems, are developed by curious minds. A curious mind explores – a creative mind improves.

For a long time Kenya and Africa at large has been accused of importing Western made solutions to African problems. Water boreholes across the African continent is being resolved by engineering conceived and developed in Europe. Food scarcity too. In Kenya for example, we are being told by the day that even simple products like tissue papers, toothpicks, and matchboxes are being imported en masse from China. The textile industry has been dead for years because our education system has not provided affordable clothing industry that can compete with second hand clothing from Europe – Sorry, the education system in Kenya has not been able to provide human resource that is able to evaluate the economic dangers of allowing imports of second hand clothes from Europe 50 years ahead.

Content that inspires curiosity and creativity, content that drives talent discovery then nurtures it to fruition, content that opens up opportunities for talent exploration and product creation thereafter, is the type of content every education system. It is, to a large extent, the type of content that has lacked in the education system in Kenya since independence.

Content Delivery

It is not enough to have proper content – the content that can inspire curiosity and creativity. How that content is delivered to the student matters a lot. Is it delivered in such a way that the student “knows” or in a manner to let the student “know” then is “amazed”? Is it delivered by old school teachers who have no desire nor the means to catch up with the changing trends? Is it delivered by old school tools that do not inspire the curiosity and creativity in the first place?

Content delivery is where resource allocation to the education system matters. Most proponents of 8.4.4 have reasoned that there is nothing wrong with the system but what the system has lacked is resources. They say that system produced graduates who were oriened to the white collar jobs, and that the 8.4.4 was set up to inpsire job creation and self employment; but since 8.4.4 required that students are imparted with practical skills in arts and crafts, music, agriculture and home science right from upper primary that required investment in teaching instruments and tools housed in laboratories, the system was doomed for failure immediately those instruments, tools and laboratories failed to be availed in the primary and secondary schools. The elimination of those practical subjects in the primary curriculum when 8.4.4 was reviewed in the early 2000s did not help matters as students became half baked graduates not only with zero practical skills but also became theoretically inept – a people whose schooling was entirely focused on passing exams to gain entry in the next education level. After high school, computer packages became the next big thing for them.

Thus, even if the proposed education system is enacted next week as has been speculated by the mainstream media, if content delivery is not considered then the system will not be any better than 8.4.4. The current 8.4.4 was founded on the basis that it would impart practical skills to students right from primary level, but the instruments and the tools required to do just that were not provided. The is being proposed to aid in talent discovery immediately a student joins the seniour primary school, but if basic science labs, basic music instrumets, basic drama theatres, and basic outdoor and indoor sports and hundreds other facilities are not provided in the over 22,000 primary schools across the country, then no matter the content – the system will still fail.

We do not need to change the education cycle to make education better, what we need to focus on are these first two; content and content delivery. Education cycle should always be the last thing in our minds.

Continued in page 2.


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