The debate on the viability of the 8-4-4 education system in Kenyan and whether to change it for an alternative system, continues unabated.
The 8-4-4 system was introduced in the country President’s Moi regime in 1985 to replace the previously 7-4-2-3 system of education. Moi said that he commissioned an expert from Canada to consult all stakeholders and come up with the best system for Kenya and has cautioned the Ministry of Educations against making a hasty decision concerning the matter.
A GOOD USE OF SH340 BILLION?
Advocates of the 8-4-4 system argue that it should be maintained but have acknowledged the need to streamline it, in order to make it more relevant .They would rather see the Sh 340 billion needed to effect an overhaul be spent on hiring more teachers and learning materials.
“I am holding important talks with the education minister so that the 8-4-4 system of education is retained because the new system is too expensive for the country”, said Higher Education, Minister Margaret Kumar.
Opponents of 8-4-4 on the other hand propose a complete system overhaul. They argue that the 8-4-4 system is more exams’ oriented and is not conducive to developing talent. Failure in exams normally spells doom to students who end up giving up on life, as they feel their dreams are shattered when they score below the average marks.
2-6-6-3 INVESTING IN PEOPLE?
The proposed new system, 2-6-6-3, will see pupils spend two years in early childhood development education, six years in primary, another six years in secondary and three years in university. According to the Chairman of Parliamentary Committee on Education, David Koech, the new system gives more priority to basic education.
The 2-6-6-3 education system came about as one of the major recommendations by a 35-member taskforce, who were asked to assess the implications of the new Constitution on education and determine the content to be taught in schools. The unit, under the chairmanship of Douglas Odhiambo, was unveiled some three months ago the by the former Education Minister Sam Ongeri. The recommendations of the taskforce are expected to help stem some of the recurrent problems facing the education sector.
In response to claims that the proposed system will be costly, Odhiambo said that the country needs to appreciate the fact that education is an investment to its people, and that the cost should not be a factor to dismiss the proposed system. “The 8-4-4, keeps children in the primary schools for too long, limits subject area and vocational and technical training choice for most Kenyan children”, Odhiambo said.
PARENTS BACK NEW SYSTEM
The Kenya National Association of Parents has called on the current Education Minister, Mutula Kilonzo, a well known reformer, to fast track the process of adapting the new education system to replace the 8-4-4. The parents have blamed the 8-4-4 system for the billions of shillings Kenya loses to Uganda annually, as a good number of parents opt to send their children there for their A-levels (form 5 and 6) after completing their high school in Kenya. Uganda’s 7-6-3 system puts students through A-levels before university.
OVERHAUL NEEDS STRUCTURE AND PLANNING
There’s no doubt that Kenya’s curriculum must be reviewed to help students to rise to current challenges and meet the requirements of Vision 2030. The 8-4-4 system has failed in some measure to produce all rounded individuals for the workforce required for a rapidly developing economy.
It is so disappointing to see hundreds of frustrated form four graduates who don’t even know the careers they want to pursue even after their results are out. Much worse seeing students dropping out of campus midway through their course, simply because they have come to realise that they are pursuing the wrong career, either because they followed the crowd, or perhaps because they were forced into it by their parents.
The proposed 2-6-6-3 system is expected to accommodate other disciplines such as technical work, self employment and wealth creation, if well strategized and implemented, Kenyan students will gain more from it but if the system is just overhauled for the sake of it, without proper structure and planning, then we will still be singing to the same song, only to a different tune.
As the Education PS James Ole Kiyapi said, “there is no single system of education across the world that can serve all generations at all the time”.