As Uhuru’s laptops promise for the 2014 Class One children develops into reality, it is important to highlight some learning challenges within Kenyan public primary schools. Further, what are the efforts being made to integrate ICT in education?
Kenya’s education system is undergoing reforms to align itself with Vision 2030 and the new Constitution, promulgated in 2010. For instance, in January 2011, The Task Force on the Re-alignment of the Education Sector to the Constitution of Kenya 2010 (TF) was commissioned by then-Education minister Professor Sam Ongeri. In order to meet its objectives, it “undertook a detailed situational analysis of the education sector by reviewing the Education Act, various commission reports, other relevant policy and legal documents; Benchmarking with good practices from countries with national and county governments and also received submissions by various stakeholders. The TF held County cluster stakeholder consultation forums and also analyzed memoranda submitted to it.” (See education.go.ke).
The TF presented its report in February 2012 and a pertinent observation on ICT in education was that: “only about 2% of schools in the country have the necessary ICT infrastructure. It recommended that ICT institutional framework be strengthened to allow efficient integration of ICT in the entire education sector with enhanced ICT capacity at all levels and for the establishment of a National Centre for ICT Integration in Education (NACICTIE) and be devolved to counties. It also called for the provision of technical backup in ICT initiatives in government learning educational institutions.”
The following ICT-related recommendations by the TF are posted at global-economic-symposium.org:
• The development of digital content has been progressing well at the Kenya Institute of Education (KIE), now the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD).
• An ICT Curriculum has been introduced at teacher training level.
• The proposed 10-Year Master Plan for ICT in Education will ensure that ICT development will be holistic and integrated with all levels of education. This will produce citizens knowledgeable and skilled in using ICT as well as having the ability to compete with the outside world as envisioned in the KENYA VISION 2030.
• A National Centre for ICT in Education (NACICTIE) will be established, complete with a National Help Desk and Support Section.
• Enhancement of Public-Private-Partnership for ICT investment in education and training.
• Provision of computers in schools based on the following ratios:
o one desktop per 15 learners, and one laptop per teacher;
o projected costs for implementation of ICT Master Plan in Education (2010–2015):
• Launching of educational broadcasting services throughout the country.
o In March 2011, former President Kibaki launched the broadcasting station granting the KICD a fully dedicated digital educational broadcast channel (Radio and Television) with outreach to all areas of the country.
Learning situation for teachers and pupils
Generally, Teacher Education in Kenya lacks a policy framework and the teaching profession is not well defined. Only a few teachers have a clearly defined career development plan. The results of a World Bank survey titled: ‘Service Delivery Indicators (SDI) for Kenya’, were made public on July 12, 2013. “The main objective of the new SDI initiative, which is an Africa-wide programme, is to generate data on quality service delivery that can then help citizens to hold their government and service providers accountable, and push for change that delivers better results for them.”
“Increasing accountability for education and health services is at the heart of the Service Delivery Indicators,” says Ritva Reinikka, Director of Human Development for Africa at the World Bank. “These new data will help governments and service providers take specific actions to deliver better services and to track the impact of reforms across time as the surveys are repeated.” SDI can also help governments achieve greater efficiency of public spending. “Unless you know where exactly the problem is, you can’t fix it,” Reinikka notes. “Governments today are often operating within tight budgets that already devote a large share of resources to health and education—so honing in on the issues and spending money more smartly is really critical.” (See worldbank.org).
A key finding in the SDI survey was that, in terms of service delivery, Kenyan teachers do not work at all or merely engage in other non-teaching activities while at school. The survey of 300 schools revealed that teachers in public primary schools spent only two hours and 40 minutes daily to teach pupils. Further, these teachers were 50% less likely to be in class compared to those of private schools; and only one third of them “give students value for money.” Public school pupils received an average of 20 days less teaching a term, compared to those in private schools. In addition, only 35% of teachers in public schools “showed mastery of the subjects they taught” while “seniority and years of training did not correlate with higher levels of knowledge.” Kenyan schools do well in terms of “hardware” i.e. textbooks, equipment and infrastructure, but not on “software” which is: “the level of effort and knowledge among teachers.” Around 80% of schools had adequate lighting facilities for reading, and there were enough textbooks per pupil – more than the recommended three per pupil. (In: standardmedia.co.ke on July 20, 2013). The SDI findings recommended that human resource management be improved to realize quality education.
The results of another study which investigated why some Kenyan schools performed well while others continually performed poorly in the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) indicated that: “mathematics teachers in Kenya’s primary schools had a poor understanding of the subject.” ‘The Classroom Observation Study in Nairobi’ was conducted by the African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC) between May 2009 and March 2010. The participants were: 2,443 pupils, 72 mathematics teachers and 72 head/deputy headteachers. Teachers scored a mean grade of 60.5% in mathematics tests with a margin of 13% difference from the pupils’ outcome at 46.89%. One teacher scored 17% despite being in the profession for five years. APHRC researchers felt that their poor scores contributed to the poor performance by the pupils.
But a teacher in Central Kenya blamed the government for not providing the right teaching aids “that would demystify mathematics and science as difficult subjects.” Trade unions for teachers blamed the government too for not training enough teachers for these specialties. Teachers are overloaded with a requirement by the Education ministry to teach six subjects daily, especially in overcrowded classrooms. (See aphrc.org and ipsnews.net).
On April 27, 2013 Lee-Anne Benoit posted an outline of Kenya’s system of education and personal observations made during her educational trip to Kenya. (See: ‘Students for Development Blog’ – sfdblog.ca). A section of her piece states that: “In addition to overcrowded classrooms, teachers face many challenges, which in turn affect student performance. Firstly, they are under a great deal of pressure to teach all of the curriculum outcomes in order to prepare students for their examinations. Combined with a lack of funding and classroom space, teachers are at a loss when it comes to planning creative lessons. Secondly, teachers face a strong tradition of teaching practice that is both historically and culturally embedded. Attitudes towards change can be stubborn, making transformation a slow process. Thirdly, teachers lack an appropriate amount of support and assistance within the classroom as well as opportunities for professional development. As it stands, resource and literacy programs are virtually non-existent in schools, and the government cannot afford to pay for assistants within the classroom. Few primary schools can even afford a library. Fourthly, and in part due to distance, there are barriers to communication between home and school, which negatively impacts student progress. Lastly, primary school teachers work for very low wages, which can be demotivating for some, ultimately affecting their professional pedagogical practice. For many teachers and students alike, school can be a truly sink or swim endeavor.”
Poor literacy and numeracy outcomes
A survey report titled: ‘Are our children learning? Annual Assessment Report’ by Uwezo Kenya for 2012, notes that there is at least one computer out of 10 schools in Kenya and only five out of the ten use them for learning purposes. Meanwhile, only one out of ten schools has an email address. Uwezo tested over 153,000 children in all the 47 counties across Kenya. The report which was launched on July 23, 2013 painted a grim picture of learning processes within the free primary education (FPE) program. Excerpts from standardmedia.co.ke are posted verbatim below. (Also visit uwezo.net).
“Kisumu, Tina River, Turkana, Siaya, Garissa and Samburu counties have the lowest average of children in class three who can read a story and do a division of simple maths for class two. By class five, 33 per of the children cannot read and understand simple class two English stories, or hadith in Kiswahili. A class three child in Nairobi Province is twice as likely to read a class two level paragraph than a child in the same class in Western Province. Girls are better readers than boys in Kiswahili nationally, except in arid areas of Wajir, Garissa, Tina River and Mandera. The report also shows that seven out of 100 class eight children cannot read a class two level Kiswahili story. The findings also established that 11 out of 100 pupils in class eight couldn’t do a simple class two math while seven out of 100 of them couldn’t read a simple English or a Kiswahili story. Less than half of class three children in Western, Nyanza and Eastern Regions can read a class two level paragraph, with a class three child in Nairobi having twice as much chances of reading a class two level paragraph than a child in the same class in Western region.”
According to Lee-Anne Benoit: “There is much speculation that the poor performance of public school graduates on the KCPE examinations is due to a number of specific factors. For example, because of the increased enrollment in primary schools in 2003, teachers had to contend with extraordinarily large class sizes made up of a diverse range of students whose preparedness varied. Circumstances such as these diminish a teacher’s ability to differentiate their instruction and give individualized attention. Resources and materials are spread thin and mobility within classrooms becomes limited. It is thought that this large influx of “first generation learners” has contributed to declining test scores in the public school system (Glennerster and Kremer, 2011). It is also thought that poor performance in primary schools is perpetuated by an increasing stratification between public and private schools. This disparity becomes all the more clear when considering the disparity between the KCPE scores of public and private school graduates (Glennerster and Kremer, 2011). Under qualified teachers has also been stated as a factor as well as corruption.”
The Government of Kenyan needs to invest more resources in research and development (R&D), to be on the cutting edge of science. Former East Asian Tigers (South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore) leapfrogged the Western-based stages of economic development by investing heavily in science and technology (S&T). These countries developed a manufacturing and export-driven economic model which had its genesis in capital accumulation since the 1960s. Although they suffered immensely during the Asian economic crisis in 1997-98, they have regrouped to be a financial hub worth emulating by other developing countries. This region also invests heavily in higher education.
Kenyan politicians recall now and then how the country was on the same economic development level with South Korea in the 1960s, yet are doing very little to get the country back on track. With misplaced budget allocations favoring their huge salaries and allowances at the expense of poorly paid teachers, nurses and other civil servants, Kenyan politicians can only dream of meeting the Vision 2030 program, which aims to industrialize the country. Although competitive grants are offered to university students through the National Council for Science and Technology, there is no indication that Kenya is producing enough scientists to contribute to national development.