In March, 1990, at a conference sponsored by UNDP, UNESCO, UNICEF and the World Bank, held in Jomtien, Thailand, 155 Member States of the United Nations adopted the World Declaration on Education for All. The countries, Kenya included, set themselves the goal to achieve “Education For All” by the year 2000. These countries also committed themselves to eliminating regional and gender disparities in education.
The mid-decade review in Amman (Jordan) in June 1996 revealed that progress towards Education for All had been much slower than anticipated at the Jomtien conference. Based on analysis of national situations, it was revealed that “in most countries, the Jomtien objectives will not be reached in the year 2000.” The target date had to be extended, and the donor countries once again committed themselves to the task of helping developing countries ensure universal primary education by the year 2015.1 The analysis of the education sector in Kenya indicates the extent to which Kenya's education sector has been operating in the last thirty years and the level at which the national goals of education have been met. In this report, we have indicated that the crisis in the education sector goes beyond the basic issues of access to education, and reveals itself as due to gender issues, efficiency, as well as the quality of education and its relevance to national development. In a nut-shell, the shortcomings, though varying in form and severity from one sub-sector to another, have been precipitated by a combination of factors. It is against this diagnostic background that this section focuses on how to deal with the crisis in education, and how to make the sector relevant to national development in the 21st century.
The socio-economic and political conditions in Kenya, which are basically characterised by poverty and a high rate of unemployment, coupled with external pressure, call for the need to have radical changes in development thinking and policies in the country as we enter the 21st century. These have to be matched with equally radical changes in educational thought and policies. The country can no longer afford to perpetuate the growing disparity between education and society in general, and the mismatch between educational output and the labour market (productivity) in particular. Taking into account the present level of development as well as the globalisation of information technology, the country will require producers and consumers who are literate, numerate, adaptable, trainable and morally upright; what is needed is for all Kenyans to be educated. The thesis of this paper, therefore, is that the mission of education in the next millennium can be stated as the enhancement of the twin process of a) production of a mass of functional literate Kenyans as a prerequisite for sustainable national development, and b) creation of empowered gender responsive human resources capable of adapting to changing situations and able to efficiently produce goods and services required in the country.
From the stated perspective, the challenges for development of policy and putting in place institutional structures for education sector in Kenya revolve around some basic issues including:
First, an enlarged basic education, where the first ten years of schooling have to be made truly free and easy of access. Appropriate legislation and policies promoting access to basic education will have to be reviewed and instituted. Both direct and indirect costs will have to be removed. Laws and regulations spelling out the centralised and bureaucratic control of learning institutions will have to be changed. This will give parents and communities, local authorities and NGOs more say in running and financing education programmes. The scrapping of end of standard VIII (KCPE) examinations would also greatly increase educational opportunities for school-age children.
Second, the Government, communities and donors will have to take over the responsibilities of supplying basic learning materials like textbooks and science equipment in the first 10 years of learning. This will reduce the cost burden on parents thus motivate them to send their children to school and/or to retain them there.
Third, there is an urgent need to engender education legislation, policies, institutions and programmes. Education will have to be gender responsive, to empower boys and girls not only to access schooling, stay there and perform well, but also to develop abilities and skills to challenge gender stereotypes which are repugnant to development. Gender analysis tools must be used to review policies, curricula, pedagogical issues, and assessment tools and processes. The 21st century Kenya will need a national gender policy to guide development in general, and a gender policy in education to guide the education sector in particular. Gender sensitisation and training for policy makers, heads of programmes, implementors, parents, boys and girls will have to be enhanced and intensified.
Fourth, the age-bound, year-bound kind of schooling must be changed. There will be a need to introduce flexibility on age requirements for participation in schooling at whatever level. Besides, alternative structures for over-age and out-of- school children need be established to increase access to education.
Fifth, intensifying and streamlining teacher education to empower teachers with new approaches to education will be mandatory. Teachers will have to be gender responsive and to use empowering methodologies in their teaching. Teacher-centred approaches will have to be replaced with pupil-centred approaches. This will make both school and classroom atmosphere conducive to learning.
The above measures have direct implication on cost and financing of education. Based on a systematic study of an optimum unit cost of education at all levels, cost and financing modalities should be developed and reviewed from time to time. Some of the policy options which could be explored include: a) switching resources from tertiary education to basic education, b) enhancing the efficient usage of available resources, c) forging partnerships between the government, NGOs and donors to raise money for creating centres of excellence in each province. This can be extended to districts at a later date, d) establish a Basic Education Endowment Fund by borrowing a leaf from the National Harambee for Youth and for Women conducted in 1997, e) privatising some institutions of higher learning and, f) restructuring education and reviewing of school curricula, by reducing subjects to be learned and examined.
1. UNICEF, 1998 Report.
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