President William Ruto on Tuesday (August 1, 2023), unveiled an ambitious plan complete with a raft of recommendations aimed at reforming the education system from pre-primary to tertiary levels as the 8-4-4 shift gains momentum.
The report by the Presidential Working Party on Education Reform (PWPER) was presented to Dr Ruto at State House, Nairobi. If fully implemented, the report, which the President said he was proud of, will shake up the entire education system from the ground up.
"I will lead the team that will ensure that the recommendations are implemented for the benefit of children and society," he said.
The PWPER was appointed at the end of September last year and travelled around the country to gather views from the public. Its mandate expired at the end of March, but Dr Ruto extended it to June 9, 2023 as it had not completed the task.
"The country is no longer restive because we have addressed all the concerns about what will happen to our children," Dr Ruto said.
The PWPER was chaired by Prof Raphael Munavu and, with the task completed, the focus now shifts to implementing the recommendations. The document includes proposed legislative changes that will require action by Parliament.
Primary and junior secondary learners will bear a lighter burden after the team proposed a reduction in the number of learning areas.
"Stakeholders raised concerns about the high number of learning areas in primary and junior secondary schools; curriculum overload and overlap; high cost of updating CBC passed on to parents; internet and electricity connectivity challenges that negatively affect digital literacy; and low levels of literacy and numeracy for basic learning," the report says.
PWPER, therefore, recommends that the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) reduce the number of learning areas from nine to seven for Grades One to Three, from 12 to eight for Grades Four to Six and from 14 to nine for Grades Seven to Nine. The number of learning areas will be five in pre-primary and seven in Junior Senior School (Grades Seven to 12). The PWPER envisages a comprehensive school comprising pre-primary, primary and junior secondary in one campus and managed as one institution. The term 'secondary' will be dropped from the current Junior Secondary and Senior Secondary.
To deal with the cut-throat competition for places in secondary schools, the report recommends the abolition of the classification of schools as national, extra-county, county or sub-county and the reclassification of schools as day, boarding, mixed (day/boarding), mixed (boys/girls) and according to the pathways they will offer at senior secondary level.
In a move to embed community service learning — a key component of the Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC) — the report recommends a programme modelled on the National Youth Service pre-university programme that collapsed in the 1980s.
"Introduce a mandatory three-month community service programme for senior school graduates before entering tertiary institutions and a further nine months of mandatory community service upon completion of tertiary education. A certificate of completion of community service should be issued as proof of completion before admission to the world of work," the report says.
It goes on to suggest that the Ministry of Education (MoE) develops a policy framework on dress code for all levels of education.
In response to stakeholder concerns about teacher qualifications for the implementation of the CBC, the report recommends that the MoE develops guidelines for all teachers who graduated before 2023 to undergo a mandatory one-year retooling and upgrading programme. This effectively means all teachers in service and those who are unemployed.
"Given the gradual implementation of the CBC, the MoE and sector stakeholders need to prioritise the retooling of teachers in line with the new requirements of the CBC and the learning/subject areas," the report says.
Teacher training, which was previously the responsibility of the Teachers Service Commission (TSC), has now been transferred to the MoE, which significantly reduces the powers of the TSC.
Universities are also expected to develop one-year retraining programmes for teachers in preparation for competency-based teacher education programmes.
The PWPER has also recommended an increase in funding for education. Pre-primary education, which was previously unfunded, will be funded at the rate of Sh1,170 per learner per year, while the primary school capitation grant will almost double from Sh1,420 to Sh2,238 per year. Senior high school students will receive Sh22,527 per year. The current capitation is Sh22,244, which has been in place since 2018. Secondary school principals have been lobbying for an increase to Sh30,000.
There is also a recommendation to introduce a minimum essential package to cushion schools whose enrolment is below the optimal level. The recommended amounts are Sh70,200 for pre-primary, Sh537,120 for primary, Sh2.03 million for junior, Sh3.04 million for senior and Sh1.89 million for special education.
The PWPER has also recommended that the Jomo Kenyatta Foundation, which has been in existence since 1968, be abolished and replaced with the Kenya Basic Education Bursaries and Scholarship Council. Its mandate will be to coordinate the administration of bursaries and scholarships.
"There are multiple sources of scholarships and bursaries that are fragmented and uncoordinated, with no clear selection criteria for beneficiaries. Most of them are characterised by corruption, nepotism and tribalism, with undeserving, well-connected beneficiaries benefiting more than the deserving," the report says.
Sources of scholarships and bursaries include the MoE, the National Government-Constituency Development Fund (NG-CDF), county governments, banks and foundations, NGOs, faith-based organisations and philanthropic individuals.
The new entity will have a centralised database of all scholarships and bursaries. The provision of bursaries and scholarships from two sources will be prohibited, as will the return of excess bursary and scholarship funds to recipients.
"Needy students are to be identified through schools, districts, sub-districts and counties, involving religious leaders, principals and elected leaders. The council is to be established as a semi-autonomous government agency within the [State Department] of Basic Education," the report says.
According to the document, stakeholders suggested that tracking of learners should start at birth to inform school enrolment and for capitation purposes. It recommends the introduction of a unique identifier for each child from birth throughout their education. This should be achieved within a year.
The report includes an implementation matrix, setting out the timetable for each action point and the ministry or agency responsible.