Keep entry grade to teacher colleges high
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.