GUYO: Create equal standards to give all students level playing field

In the week that we are told the Ministry of Education failed to spend Sh10 billion allocated to it, I wondered how many schools were failed in the country.

This article is not about the Sh10 billion, however, but more about wondering whether we need to think of ways to create equal standards across public schools to give children a level playing field in the job market.

If there is that kind of money not having been used in the face of crumbling schools, then I wonder what exactly is amiss in our education system.

The bone of contention between the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) and ministry in the recent past was whether grades to the teacher training colleges needed to be lowered to D+ to address a chronic shortage of tutors.

It was also a way to give counties that perform poorly in education a quota so that their residents can be absorbed into TTCs despite scoring lower grades.

The intention seems to be well founded, but it is a self-defeating exercise. All it would do is flat-line literacy levels in perpetuity in the areas that desperately require radical reforms to improve education standards.

Garbage in, garbage out. Unless the teacher with a lower overall grade has something exceptional to offer, it would be a case of recycling failure.

I do understand that some people reach higher acumen plateau with experience despite lower achievements in school, but it is a gamble that is not worth taking for the sake of our children’s future, and not in the competitive global market systems.

Standardisation does not begin and end with school curriculum. Education must consider school environment as well.

This is to ensure that buildings meet an acceptable standard of habitation. What we have is schools that operate in diverse systems: You have schools in one area that are well resourced to have extra swimming pools and buses and state-of-the-art laboratories and others which have children studying in mud-walled classrooms with leaking grass-thatched roofs, stones for seats and toileting in the grass!

Standardising education would mean all schools meet basic acceptable standards in which children can learn well.

There is no need to pan to political interests to just pop up schools that are unfit and unfair for children to learn in. There are schools that have never even heard of a science lab, let alone have one.

What chance does that school have to inspire future scientists in their communities?

Most schools have no libraries within the school, in the village or in nearby towns. These are facilities that are crucial in helping nurture an enthusiastic child who may, otherwise, have never had the opportunity to access study materials due to poverty.

The film, The Boy who Harnessed the Wind (recommended for every school) is about an African child who found a way to save his village by building a wind turbine to provide water for his community during famine. His interest in the turbine was piqued by a book he found by chance at his lowly equipped library in his poorly built village school in Malawi.

It is mind-boggling to imagine how many such enthusiastic children lost out in life due to being let down by the education system and government policies that are geared less towards the poor.

One other issue worth considering, particularly in areas with a Muslim majority, is introduction of a faith-based school system. These are areas with one of the lowest literacy levels, worse among women.

Counties such as Garissa, Mandera, Wajir and pockets of the coastal region with higher Muslim populations could benefit from having schools built on their faith.

The idea is to have a hybrid system based on religious teachings and the national curriculum. The system is more reassuring to Muslim parents who are still unsure of mainstream schools for cultural reasons.

Schools built on the Christian faith have done very well in improving literacy levels. It is a template worth considering to boost the number of girls attending schools in communities that hinder girls’ education. The move could work towards improving socio-economic status of girls and women from conservative areas.

Not equipping or funding schools denies many youngsters a lifetime of opportunities. It’s worth noting that education is a fundamental right as stipulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The current education system in Kenya creates inequality. There is a need to plan for a standardised education system that would consider all factors in order to create a level playing field.

The school environment, undoubtedly, plays a large part in shaping behavioural patterns and helps in creating quality human resource. It’s crucial, therefore, to ensure young people grow with the mindset that they are equal to their peers globally.

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