Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu has defended reforms proposed by the Presidential working party terming them as necessary.
The reforms have sparked debate and concerns from various stakeholders, including Members of Parliament and teachers.
During the World Teachers Day celebrations, on Thursday, plans to trim the powers of the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) took center stage as President William Ruto’s proposals on education reforms came under sharp focus.
Some stakeholders even called for a reconsideration of some of the aspects of the reforms report.
Benta Opande, the Chief Executive Officer of Kenya Women Teachers Association (Kewota) termed TSC a great milestone that was brought to life through struggle.
“We should not forget that it was through a strike and arrest of some members of the Kenya National Union of Teachers that we got TSC thus we want to make it clear that we support the commission and cannot afford to downsize its powers,” Opande said on Thursday.
Kewota challenged the proposals noting they risk eroding the gains achieved in the teaching profession since the birth of the employer TSC.
She said TSC has enabled gender parity in employment that has seen the number of men and women in the country break even.
Opande spoke during the 29th celebration of the World Teachers Day at the Kenya School of Government on Thursday.
Similar sentiments were echoed by the Kenya Union of Special Needs Education Teachers.
Secretary General James Torome, said trimming of TSC powers will see the union weakened adversely.
He credited the commission for improved fairness in promotions of teacher.
“We don’t want to go back to the days when promotions were done in the District Education Officers office, because it was chaotic. Despite the TSC promotions being little, they are fair,” Torome said.
But even as stakeholders spoke, Machogu stood firm in his support for the reforms.
At a separate media briefing in his office, Machogu assured that the implementation process was ongoing.
He said that necessary amendments to the law would be made to align with the recommendations before full adoption.
The details are contained in Machogu’s response to MPs who had demanded to know why reforms were being implemented without their approval.
The CS revealed that an implementation committee has already been established to oversee the process and prepare draft legislation for submission to Parliament.
The legislators in a letter dated October 2, challenged the Ministry of Education’s decision to review grades for pre-service teachers, setting a mean Grade of C(Plain) as the entry mark.
The MPs argued this iscontrary to the mandate of the Teachers Service Commission.
The proposal effectively set a mean Grade of C(Plain) as the entry mark to the institutions and eliminated previous subject requirements of Grade C(Plain) in English and Kiswahili.
However, in his response, Machogu argues that the business of setting entry requirements to Teaching colleges is not of TSC but the ministry.
He explains that the earlier requirement had deprived the teaching colleges as many students were not able to meet the entry mark.
“The changes in entry requirements the colleges have witnessed increased trainees numbers from previous admission of 3000 to 18000 this year,” Machogu said in his response.
Further recommendations to trim TSC powers came under sharp scrutiny on Thursday during the celebration of the World Teachers’ Day.
Another contentious issue, put on the weighing scale by MPs was the establishment of a comprehensive school system that combines nursery, primary, and junior schools.
MPs challenged its constitutionality, but Machogu explained that necessary legal amendments would be drafted before implementation to address constitutional concerns.
“The Constitutional imperatives will be addressed as part of the implementation process,” the response by the CS reads.
Machogu also defended the decision to host junior schools in existing primary schools, citing public support and increased resources allocated to support this transition.
Furthermore, Machogu highlighted that changes to reduce the number of subjects taught in schools were in response to concerns about curriculum overload.
He stated that the rationalization of learning areas was ongoing and would be completed by December 31, 2023, for implementation in the new academic year starting in January 2024.
Kenya Secondary School Heads Association (KESSHA) also challenged the plan to reduce subjects in Junior School.
KESSHA chairman Kahi Indimuli said the proposed reduction in subject did not represent the aspirations of CBC as initially envisaged.
Similar sentiments have been echoed by the Kenya International Schools Association.
“At International schools the Junior school level, we have 22 learning areas. It is broad based,” Jane Mwangi, the chairperson of the International schools association said.
But Machogu justified the decision noting the same has been done in the previous curriculum when circumstances have warranted it.
For example, he notes, in 1989, the KCSE included 10 subjects, but was later reviewed in 1992 and reviewed to a minimum of seven subjects and a maximum of 9.
For grading, candidates had to take all the three (3) compulsory subjects, at least two (2) sciences, one (1) humanity and at least one Practical or Technical subjects.
Other changes justified by the CS include changes in the grading of KCSE examinations.
The presidential team recommended that the computation of KCSE mean score be based on two compulsory subjects of Mathematics and one language (English/Kiswahili/Kenya Sign), and five other best performing subjects.
Machogu argues that such changes on grading have been effected before.
He indicates that under the 8-4-4, the grading system was reviewed in 1992 to reduce the number of subjects used for grading learners from 10 to seven.
The changes in university funding, he says, were necessitated by inadequacy of the previous funding model that led to underfunding of public universities and TVETs, penalties and interests on Pay as You Earn (PAYE), statutory deductions arrears and underfunding of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) institutions.