23 November 2012

Kenya: Bill Seeks to Lay Firm Ground for Education


Some individuals and organisations have expressed reservations with the Basic Education Bill, 2012, saying it outlaws homeschooling--the practice whereby parents opt to teach their children an academic curriculum at home instead of sending them out to a public or private school.

They claim that the envisaged Education law undermines the right of parents to determine the education of their children. Those opposed to the Basic Education Bill, 2012, have failed to acknowledge certain vital facts about education and the universal interest governments everywhere have in education.

Education is arguably one of the most important legacies that we can pass onto the next generation. A quality education can make the difference between continuing a familial cycle of poverty and having opportunities that could lead to a better and happier life for an individual and for an entire nation.

According to the Bill of Rights in our Constitution, basic education is a fundamental human right and the State is, ipso facto, obliged to provide that education or create an enabling environment to that effect.

Kenya is a signatory to international commitments and Conventions with clear provisions on the right to free and compulsory basic education for the child and, state's obligation towards that right The Basic Education Bill, 2012, therefore, seeks to give effect to the provisions of the Constitution 2010, and the international conventions which Kenya is signatory to.

Also driving the Basic Education Bill is the necessity to realign education and training to the needs and requirements of Vision 2030. Quality basic education is the corner stone in the acquisition of skills relevant to the world of work and living in general.

The policy initiatives in Education aim at enabling students to secure knowledge, attitudes and capabilities that will enable them to drive and manage newly industrialising, "middle-income country that will have the ability to provide a high quality life to all its citizens by the year 2030 Education is one of the policy instruments that the government is using to achieve the goals and objective of Vision 2030.

While the government does not outlaw homeschooling altogether, it nevertheless looks to the public and private school system as one of the pillars upon which to build a mindset and attitudes necessary for a cohesive nation and a newly industrialising and middle income country.

Home schooling is well developed system in throughout Canada, France, UK, US and in such countries as Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, and South Africa. Under the Home-schooling system, families opt for them in order to help teach subjects, such as foreign languages and sciences.

Parents in these countries, have a comparatively sophisticated education; this gives them the technical ability to provide instruction/tuition to their children in areas they have competence.

They also have the means to hire tutors to provide such instruction from home. Not Kenyan parents. Kenyan families don't have the necessary educational background to know the kind of instruction that constitute education.

Nor do they have the pedagogical skills to impart such an education even if they knew what is good for their children. They therefore cannot provide a coherent and systematic education experience to their children. Nor do they have the means to hire qualified teachers for this purpose.

It does not follow that those not in formal school system are accessing education at home. The estimated 1million school going children out of school are not in any systematic learning experience. Most of them could be victims of child labour wherever they are. Others are child mothers.

There is little to argue for homeschooling in a social and cultural environment that has not fully embraced modern formal education. On the contrary, the hunger for public schooling/education has grown remarkably both in enrolment and formal institutions of education. According to the Ministry of Education's, the number of public and private primary schools increased from 6,058 in 1963 to 27,489 in 2010, while the number of secondary schools has increased from 151 to 7308 over the same period.

Enrolment in primary education has grown from 892,000 pupils in 1963 to about 9.4 million pupils in 2010, whilst enrolment in secondary education has grown from around 30,000 students in 1963 to 1.7 million students in 2010. The increase has been accelerated by the introduction of Free Primary Education (FPE) and Free Day Secondary Education (FDSE) programmes in 2003 and 2008 respectively, a policy that will define one of the legacies of Kibaki Presidency.

The Education Bill, 2012 seek to address the challenges the massive expansion in school enrolment has posed. The policy initiative on Education and the envisaged legislation seek to address the issues of access, equity, quality, relevance and efficiency in the management of educational resources.

The Ministry of Education has, in the Bill in question and in the enabling draft policy framework on education, acknowledged the need to reform the primary and secondary school curriculum with the emphasis shifting from knowledge reproduction to knowledge production and, to make ICT central to it.

The Ministry seeks to ensure that the learners have skills the 21st global economy requires for any country and individual to survive. Education is indisputably, one of the most important legacies that we can pass onto the next generation.

Aquality education can make the difference between continuing a familial cycle of poverty and having opportunities that could lead to a better and happier life.

That is what stakeholders in education should be anxious about: to ensure that the government establishes an environment which fosters quality teaching and learning.

Perhaps is crucial is the quality and availability of education to all regardless of gender, region, disability and social class. We should fix that and everything else can work itself out including the parent's ability to provide supplementary learning experience to their children by way of quality interaction with them during school holidays and also by buying books for the children, which though outside the curriculum nevertheless, go a long way in consolidating the knowledge, attitudes, abilities and skills which the formal curricula of education seek to impart into the learners.

The writer is communications officer, Ministry of Education.

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