The reforms the government is initiating in basic education institutions will inevitably require fundamental changes in higher education. The Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC) is in its fifth year after the pioneer class joined Grade Five.
Soon, the pupils will complete their 12th grade and wait to join tertiary institutions. The first crop of CBC students to enter university will have unique academic characteristics. Universities need to get ready to receive them.
Under the Basic Education Curriculum Framework, the students get an educational experience that does not only develop skills and knowledge but also requires that they apply them to real-life situations. University programmes, therefore, need to have advanced practical solutions to societal issues.
And in a major shift in the teaching approach, a sustained focus on 21st Century skills implies that the students will be accustomed to collaborative work, critical thinking and problem solving, among other skills. They will be able to communicate well in person and digitally. Universities have to rethink their teaching approaches to leverage on such skills.
The number of students seeking an education will be much higher. First, the 100 per cent transition has tremendously increased enrolment. Secondly, some of the tenets of CBC, like focusing on competency rather than grade and parental engagement in their children’s learning, will increase the learning outcomes with more students qualifying for university.
Pressure to realign all programmes to CBC will intensify in the university sector, which is already facing insufficient or declining public funding.
To run their operations, public universities generate income from government budget allocation, mainly based on enrolment and internal revenue. But that is insufficient to meet the obligations of the education reforms, more so if the universities have to be cognisant of the watchwords of the education reforms — equity, quality and relevance at all levels.
Stakeholders must review the higher education funding model. Some universities have had to restructure their operation systems to cut costs and particularly increase efficiency and effective use of facilities and staff. How this should be done is subject to debate but it is inevitable.
In the meantime, universities need to develop functional linkages that would see industry fund relevant research initiatives to their mutual benefit. Their alumni, who are in influential positions in society, can fund programmes and projects as is mainly the case in the global north. Philanthropists and industrialists seeking to further causes dear to them can finance programmes or research efforts that are consistent with the functions of the university.
The next steps, therefore, need to focus on building the capacity of higher education managers to find solutions to financing gaps in the face of inevitable reforms that started at the basic education level.
[email protected], @muminabonaya