For the past few days, I have watched and read about the directive given to universities by the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) to cease offering the Bachelor of Education degree by September 2021. I held my reservations as I meditated over the uninformed position until Education cabinet secretary, George Magoha came in to support the proposal.
It is instructive that Kenya is a leading country in the field of education, and, as such, any decisions concerning the latter must be based on research and stakeholder consultation.
TSC was established by an Act of Parliament, and so are the universities. I fail to understand how the Commission for University Education can sit back and watch TSC usurp its role in university education. TSC’s role is limited to employment of teachers, and offering of professional development courses, in collaboration with teacher educators.
Decisions on degree programmes offered at university level is the business of respective senates and not other agencies. Pray, does TSC have the expertise and legal mandate to decide what Schools of Education should offer?
Allow me to dig deeper into the fallacy propagated by the TSC and the Ministry of Education. They argue that all a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science graduate needs is a postgraduate diploma earned after one year of pedagogical studies.
Can we take it that CUE has acquiesced to this, and that those training to be lawyers will also take a BA in English, history, Kiswahili and religious studies and then proceed to the Kenya School of law to become lawyers? Surely, this would equally apply to a degree in medicine so that students take a B.SC and go to some Kenya School of Medicine to become doctors.
A lawyer spends their entire degree programme learning content and ethics related to their profession. For one to become a doctor, the cadaver must be an intimate object of their study. Why the fuss with schools of education?
Admittedly, one of the most complex questions in academia is “What is to teach?” This question raises fundamental principles on how we prepare our teachers, what we decide as curriculum, how we conduct learning and what we expect to be the products of our education system. TSC should not trivialise this noble and complex profession by imagining that anyone can teach. Those who have studied comparative education are aware of many nations that lost track after mishandling this issue. Indeed, nations that safeguarded teacher education from politics have prospered.
TSC is apparently playing power politics, in the fashion of some regulatory bodies which preside over the suffering of students of engineering, law and health sciences. Fortunately, the courts affirmed that only CUE had the legal mandate to accredit programmes.
Engineering students at Masinde Muliro University, law students at Moi and University of Nairobi’s Kisumu campus, among others, were told that their degrees would not be recognised since someone somewhere thought he or she could decide what the students should learn. Vice chancellors and principals of institutions offering medical laboratory science would tremble in fear of being sued because their programmes, though approved by senate and accredited by CUE, had not received the nod from the Kenya Medical Laboratories and Technicians Board.
It did not matter if the VC was a professor of medicine; he was expected to submit to the board; with the latter minting money from the same. TSC may be angling to fashion itself in the mould of the Kenya School of Law; there are enough reasons for this country not to go in that direction.
Curriculum for teachers
Allow me to revisit the matter of who determines the curriculum for teachers. I have read that the decision to change how a teacher is prepared is premised on ensuring competency based Curriculum (CBC) compliance. We have not been provided with evidence that the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) has given TSC such advice.
KICD presently is headed by one of the most brilliant experts on teacher education, whose PhD thesis was on teacher preparation. Was Prof Charles Ong’ondo consulted? Further, the CS has two principal secretaries who are teacher educators, and a chief administrative secretary who is fully grounded in matters Education and teacher preparation.
Why would TSC arrogate itself the role of determining what universities should teach? Educationists, CUE and the Universities Academic Staff Union (UASU) should not allow the TSC to muddle teacher education in Kenya. TSC cannot call one meeting online with deans of Schools of Education and purport to have consulted the stakeholders on this issue.
What is TSC and MoE afraid of in consulting stakeholders? TSC should know that universities are citadels of academia, different from trade unions. It cannot, and shall not determine programmes for senates, even if CUE were to be disbanded.
Further, KICD has developed a diploma curriculum for secondary school teachers in readiness for preparing teachers for junior secondary school for CBC. In doing this, the institute has been careful to find a balance between professional knowledge and content knowledge.
There is no evidence therefore to suggest that these students will first learn content knowledge and then proceed to acquire skills or competencies in teaching thereafter.
TSC should read the history of teacher education in East Africa and Kenya and know the weakness of BA or BSc. with a PGDE was the problem with the teacher that the East African University produced at Makerere.
Consequently, a well thought-out degree called Bachelor of Education was formulated. My little experience as a teacher educator, and as a former Dean School of Education at Moi University, and my personal experience of the practice of education elsewhere, inform my rejection of TSC proposals.
In many countries, universities such as the State University of Columbia, Ball State University, Indiana and Purdue Universities (IUPIU) prepare the teacher right from the time the student joins the institution. At IUPIU, student teachers are attached to schools right from year one, and their preparation is split between field experience and lectures.
Best science teachers
When I was a diploma teacher trainee at Siriba Teachers Training College, our practicum alone was year-long, and true to the word, many of us are exemplary educators. The same goes for the teacher who was prepared at Kenya Science then.
They went ahead to become the best science teachers this country produced, and leaders of our national schools. Mr Chris Khaemba formerly of Alliance High School is an example. This is my point: Those who have taught PGDE programmes will tell you that professional preparation is in the mode of a B. Ed is far superior and more grounded.
Whereas I acknowledge that reform and quality assurance are important with regard to the form and nature of teacher preparation, it is very critical that we allow the persons with the appropriate knowledge and practice in teacher education to handle any reform process.
I wonder whether TSC and the MoE have considered the fact that B. Ed programmes also prepare teachers in special needs education! Can special needs teachers be prepared in the two semesters of a PGDE?
It should be noted that in some renowned universities, lecturers without an education background are expected to take a course in pedagogy before they are allowed to teach. It is not about delivering content, but shaping the learner to acquire relevant knowledge and skills. That takes a long time. TSC and Prof Magoha should consult schools and professors of education on teacher education before we think of scrapping B. Ed degree.
The author is a deputy principal, Alupe University College, and a Professor of Education at Moi University.