Age Restrictions

In the period preceding or proceeding the release of KCPE results, I heard news to the effect that a head teacher had denied a student the opportunity to sit her KCPE exams because she was under age. According to regulations by the government, the head teacher contended, only those who have attained the age of 13 years are allowed to sit KCPE. This problem is also faced by parents who want to enroll their under age children in class 1. This problem has been considered a stumbling block to prodigies who would finish their education early in life and start contributing to society when their brains are still on their optimal freshness.

With one year added to the education cycle, the age restriction will further delay the earliest a person can graduate. Today most Kenyans finish college at between the ages of 22 and 24 years (prodigy or not) depending on whether they pursued university education through joint admission or privately through direct university admission. Elsewhere, we have heard of cases where prodigies acquire PhDs at ages as young as 15 (although there is Karl Witte who received his PhD at 13 but that was way back in the 1800s). Normal young years to acquire a PhD today seem to lie between the age of 17 and 22.

But when we have a system of education that completely and totally blocks out prodigies from proceeding to the next level simply because they are aged 13 or whatever year, then this country will never reap the benefits of prodigies when they are infinitely curious. Albert Einstein for instances started his journey towards the discovery of Special Relativity when he was only 16.

What I am saying is, it is proper to have general guidelines on appropriate ages students ought to be in class X (or grade if 2.6.6.3 sees the light of day) but is is utter foolishness to deter prodigies from proceeding from class X to class X+2 or class X+3 thereby skeeping X+1 or X+2 classes/grades simply because a law says so. That will kill the hearts and curiosity of the geniuses the country is endowed with.

Education Cycle

Many have wondered whether it is necessary to change the education system in Kenya from 8.4.4 to 2.6.6.3 if the only issues with 8.4.4 are content and content delivery – and the associated KCPE and KSCE exams. They contend that instead of changing the education cycle, why not just implement the new content and content delivery alongside the 8.4.4 cycle?

Today, although not official, students spend 11 years in pre-primary and primary education making 8.4.4 to actually be 3.8.4.4 education system. The proposed 2.6.6.3 reduces the 11 years to 8  years and at the same time incorporating the pre-primary education into the education system. The new primary school will also have two distinct levels that is junior primary and senior primary (from lower primary and upper primary of the 8.4.4 divided into 3:5) where students spend their time learning a few basic life and social skills in junior primary and embark to talent discovery in senior primary. The sense of progress right from pre-primary (2 years) to junior primary (3) years to senior primary (3 years) imparts important psychological motivation on the learner – and I do believe that shortening the years of progress especially from 5 years of the current upper primary to 3 years of senior primary will remarkably reduce primary school drop out rates. The same argument can be applied at the secondary school level – even though the secondary will have an added 2 extra years.

There are those who have argued that the A-Level type of education that we had with the 7.4.2.3 was way better as it was aligned with many education systems in Europe and elsewhere, and that given that it was scrapped, those who have gone to seek education outside Kenya’s borders find it hard to get admission in some European Universities; an that this speaks for the need for us to re-introduce the A-Level Education in Kenya. What I would propose is that what we will have as junior secondary where students will learn a lot of general knowledge almost from all fields be treated as the previous O-Level whereas the senior secondary where students will start to specialize in preferred fields be treated as A-Level of Education, so that certain aspects of the A Level education is brought back to our education system.

Examinations

I am against national examinations. I wrote about my thoughts on the need to scrap KCPE and KSCE a while back and in its place I recommended that a system where the next level of education administers secondary/college/university admission exams be introduced. My thoughts were echoed by CS. Fred Matiang’i when he said that 2016 KCSE results will not be the only requirement for the admission in the universities given the excessive cheating cases witnessed in the last exams, but the universities will be required to also filter out students that may not be competent to pursue degrees in the respective courses they offer.

The proposed 2.6.6.3 education system in Kenya also wants to do away with KCSE and KCPE. What I haven’t clearly understood is whether the place of KCSE and KCPE will be taken up by new national exams or if the next level of education will administer their own examinations.

What I am sure of is that 2.6.6.3 proposes that instead of testing how much a student remembers, the new exams and tests will try to find out how students have both internalize the knowledge gained and how they intend to apply that knowledge in practical life situations. The exams will not try to pity students against each other, but will rather try to gauge how students have gained useful information throughout the course of their learning in that term or year. Further, 2.6.6.3 proposes that end year exams will not be required for students to progress to the next grade (I believe within the same level of education e.g. primary).

I fully support these recommendations and in addition I would emphasize on the need for total scrapping of national examinations to allow for institutions in next level of education to conduct their own entry level exams. Some have faulted this proposal saying that it will be easier for parents to buy positions in the next level of education as it will be easier to access let’s say the Principal of a high school than it is to access the Director of KNEC and other KNEC officials. However, I believe that when education shifts to learning towards discovery and creativity away from examination centeredness, I do not see this challenge arising.

CONCLUSION

It is true that education system in Kenya has been bogus and to some extent outright useless, especially after 8.4.4 content was reviewed in early 2000s. This however should not kill our hearts as the education experts who formed the Education Task Force led by Prof Douglas Odhiambo came up with far reaching well thought out recommendations that the 5000 delegates set to sit down and debate, refine and adopt should go ahead and adopt. The proposed 2.6.6.3 education system might be what this country has waited for since the dawn of time in order to achieve unltimate greateness.

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