Keep en­try grade to teacher col­leges high

Daily Nation (Kenya) - - OPINION -

The hith­erto un­nec­es­sary de­bate over the min­i­mum qual­i­fi­ca­tion for ad­mis­sion to teacher train­ing col­leges has resur­faced fol­low­ing a Kenya Na­tional Qual­i­fi­ca­tion Author­ity direc­tive that seeks to lower the en­try re­quire­ment with­out any log­i­cal ba­sis.

The author­ity has pegged the en­try to pri­mary teach­ers col­lege at grade D- and diploma col­leges at C- in the Kenya Cer­tifi­cate of Sec­ondary Ed­u­ca­tion (KCSE). This is a ma­jor climb­down from what the Ed­u­ca­tion min­istry had set — C for cer­tifi­cate and C+ for diploma cour­ses. More per­plex­ing is that KNQA made the changes with­out con­sult­ing the in­ter­est groups — the Teach­ers Ser­vice Com­mis­sion (TSC), unions and the par­ent min­istry.

The ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor is un­der­go­ing ma­jor re­form. The cur­ricu­lum is be­ing changed from the tra­di­tional knowl­edge-based ori­en­ta­tion to fo­cus on com­pe­tence so as to equip learn­ers with skills and ap­ti­tude, be­sides knowl­edge. That will make them do­ers rather than im­bibers of in­for­ma­tion that is re­gur­gi­tated dur­ing ex­ams, but with­out any demon­stra­tion of abil­ity to prac­tise what is learnt. Teach­ing that cur­ricu­lum re­quires higher level of think­ing.

There is a rea­son for the min­istry to set the high ad­mis­sion thresh­old. It is one of the strate­gies of rais­ing ed­u­ca­tion stan­dards across all lev­els. The premise is that pro­duc­ing qual­ity teach­ers re­quires that the trainees en­ter with higher grades. That teach­ing can­not be rel­e­gated to a low-tier pro­fes­sion that opens it­self to those with weak points.

Teach­ers are the im­ple­menters of a cur­ricu­lum and are re­quired to have thor­ough mas­tery of knowl­edge. But that is not pos­si­ble when the trainees in the col­leges have dis­mal grades. They lack the ap­ti­tude and ca­pac­ity to in­ter­nalise and de­liver qual­ity teach­ing.

World over, the cam­paign is to pro­fes­sion­alise teach­ing – re­cruit only highly qual­i­fied peo­ple to join the train­ing col­leges, de­ploy them ap­pro­pri­ately and pay them well. It is only by do­ing so that you can guar­an­tee qual­ity teach­ing and bet­ter aca­demic out­puts.

Clearly, KNQA has got its facts wrong and is pulling ev­ery­one back. One won­ders what trig­gered the changes when ed­u­ca­tion ex­perts had agreed on higher qual­i­fi­ca­tions. What is the prob­lem that the author­ity sought to fix?

We re­in­force the TSC’S po­si­tion that en­try grades to the col­leges re­main com­pet­i­tive. The teach­ing pro­fes­sion should not be the dump­ing ground for weak can­di­dates — those who go into it for lack of op­tions. The stan­dards must be raised through re­cruit­ing highly qual­i­fied peo­ple and pay­ing them at­trac­tive salaries to guar­an­tee re­ten­tion and bet­ter per­for­mance. We can­not en­gage the re­verse gear when the des­ti­na­tion is quite clear.

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