The year 2030 is fast approaching, which is Kenya’s target to be a newly industrialising, middle-in- come country providing a
high quality of life to all citizens. Though we can cite several Vision 2030 milestones such as infrastruc- ture development (e.g. road bypass- es, port dredging and expansion in Mombasa, standard-gauge railway construction, University of Nairobi Towers) and launching a new con- stitution, the local human resource base is still far from adequate, and is ill-prepared for the Vision 2030 priority sectors.
It has been estimated that by 2030, the population of Kenya will be 60 million. Going by the UNESCO-recommended ratio of one engineer for every 2,000 citizens,
this population will require 30,000 engineers; hence, some 90,000 engi- neering technologists and 360,000 technicians. These figures already show why emphasis on technical and vocational training is critical. Underproduction of hands-on pro- fessionals to support the holders of technical degrees in industry there- fore remains the weakest link in the chain as far as technical capacity building is concerned.
The Leadership Challenge Fortunately, there is an emerging trend of African centres of excellence focusing on thematic capacity build- ing areas to address specific training needs. This development challenges African governments to lead in insti- tuting structural changes in their basic education systems to help sus- tain a supply of quality and prac- tice-oriented graduates. The Kenyan- German Centre of Excellence for Mining, Environmental Engineering and Resource Management (CEMEREM) stands out as an example for the extractive sector, being one of the Vision 2030 priority sectors targeted for focused capacity building.
Human resources development is therefore a fundamental enabler to the Vision 2030. This requires qual- ity and marketplace-oriented train- ing, mainly in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematical sci- ences (STEM). Effective training in these areas must be responsive to the times and changes presently shaping the global labour and technology marketplace. This means that only leaders who can manage time and change as far as today’s demands on training are concerned can deliver the critical mass of human capital needed for the Vision 2030.
In light of the above facts, the suitability of graduates from vari- ous training centres remains a cen- tral consideration. Time is critical to the administration of pedagogy and student assessments, so is quality control. This dual challenge has to be technologically enabled, given the ease and speed with which today’s mobile and web technologies can be used to compromise standards.
By recently ensuring excellent administration of national exam- inations for primary and second- ary schools in Kenya, the Cabinet Secretary for Education, Dr. Fred Matiang’i, and his able team, have started well on planning for the transformation we need in Kenya if we are to produce competent and home-grown human capital equipped to deliver on Vision 2030.
Flashback on Research Findings On the need to transform Kenya’s basic education system to boost national innovation capacity, the leading thought in my previous article based on a 2014 – 2015 cross-country survey on basic edu- cation delivery was:
The quality of basic education, in terms of how effectively it imparts critical thinking and problem-solving skills, has a strong influence on the innovative aptitude of any grad- uates – anytime, anywhere.
The leading argument was that we must initiate reforms from the basic education level if we are to achieve excellence at tertiary educa- tion levels, since colleges and univer- sities train students who are prod- ucts of the basic education system. This is the simple wisdom of seeing the big picture (systems thinking) while addressing root causes and exploring feedback pathways.
The survey revealed that the pre- vailing basic education system does not effectively address the core areas of systems thinking, talent identi- fication, scientific inquiry, spatial intelligence, creative arts and com- munication skills (Access the entire article here). Unfortunately, these areas are critical to the human-re- source demands of Vision 2030.
- After discussing the results of the survey, which drew examples and interviewed respondents from across the world, the following two conclusions emerged.
Discovering and devel- oping creative talents right from primary school is a crit- ical intervention point in nurturing innovators who can solve real-world problems and impact society.
- African countries should have a fresh look at the quality of theireducation systems, critique how they interface with socio-cultur- al settings and marketplace needs, and come up with revised structures and policies that will help produce the right graduates for the local development needs in an evolution- ary manner.
It is encouraging to note that the proposed 2-6-3-3-3 system of education, if properly implemented, will address the weak areas identi- fied above. The implementation of the 8-4-4 system of education has not effectively addressed the cru- cial areas of talent identification and impartation of practice-oriented skills. The velocity of changes at the basic education level has also seen a widening gap between private schools and public schools in terms of facilities, work-play balance and holistic training. Effecting corrective measures through the new curric- ulum will require that the imple- mentation team flex its muscle to ensure compliance with the highest standards, and better still, institutionalise well-proven success factors and systems. Kenya’s Basic Education Reforms The year 2016 will forever remain a reference point in Kenya’s history of basic education. Dr. Fred Matiang’i and his able team ensured watertight quality control in the administra- tion of the national examinations for primary and secondary schools.
Technology was used to ensure real- time transmission of marked results, thereby reducing chances for manip- ulation. The results consequently came out in record time, almost three months ahead of the preceding trends. The credibility, accuracy and overall quality of these examination results were convincing to all and sundry. The overall performance for the 577,254 students went back to the expected normal distribution curve, as provided for by the Central Limit Theorem for large numbers. This outcome reminded many of the for- mer days when achieving a mean grade of A plain attracted unques- tionable glory. Nationally, the scor- ers of A plain reduced drastically from 2,685 in 2015 to a mere 141 in 2016. Lecturers of engineering and sciences had been complaining about A-students from prestigious schools who, ironically, could hardly comprehend scientific fundamentals or execute independent research after joining university; they should
expect promising students from this 2016 cohort.
The good news across the coun- try is that all the students who scored the minimum university entry grade of C+, being half of the previ- ous numbers in that category, will be placed in the Kenyan public uni- versities. This means that after a long time, since the early 1990’s, C+ can now give hope to the students who would otherwise miss university education, unless they were able to pay high fees as privately sponsored students. The rush to escape mid- dle-level colleges by all means has also suffered a near-death blow. This had been the usual trend with the skewed performance that was fuelled by examination irregularities on the
one hand, and privately sponsored students taking up a large share of space in public universities with lower scores on the other. In terms of degree programmes, Kenyan public universities have been more attrac- tive than private universities because
the latter have not been offering prestigious courses such as medicine, engineering and technology, architec- ture, among others.
Technical and vocational training to supply the key practical skills highly needed for the country’s development has a chance to blossom with this new outcome. This will help address the widening skills gap that has adversely affected the sup- ply of hands-on cadres of professionals (technologists and technicians).
Going into 2017 and beyond, the President’s directive to assign permanent personal identification numbers to learners in Kenya is supposed to take effect. The pre- vious cross-country survey informs this new strategy to lay emphasis on identifying the learners’ talents through an integrated assessment and evaluation process. This should help minimise the wastage of talents and rare skills, which has character- ised the previous education system where the blind rush to have “at least a university degree” has seen many students struggling with disciplines they were not cut out for. At any rate, a well-thought-out industrial intern- ship, recruitment and job-creation model remains an indispensable part of the winning strategy.
- Nashon Adero is a PhD Researcher at Technische Universität Bergakademie Freiberg (Freiberg University of Mining and Technology – Germany) www. linkedin.com/in/hopadero Skype: hopadero