By David Wandabi – Programs Officer – Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) & Eco-schools Coordinator

Sometimes life can be unforgiving and you can find yourself stranded if you do not have any contingency plan in place with sudden turn of events and situations. The danger of one sliding into oblivion then becomes a painful reality. In 2018, over 100,000 KCSE candidates had high hopes of pursuing teaching careers at diploma and certificate levels. This of course was as a result of the Ministry of Education lowering the entry requirements for P1 teachers from C- to D+.

In 2019 however, more than 20,000 slots are expected to fall vacant across all primary teacher-training colleges (TTCs). The government has halted all admissions to this level, in phasing out P1 teachers. 13,000 students would have been admitted into the existing 31 public training colleges and another 3,000 across the newly established institutions in Kenya. Private colleges have about 4,000 spaces available for students across 85 institutions.

The elevation of the P1 course to diploma level is a key reform in the teaching industry meant to improve the quality of both professional and academic standards of the primary school teachers. This bold move is informed by, among others, the fact that there has been discomfort among many stakeholders that the two-year P1 course is inadequate to equip the trainees with the knowledge, skills and attitudes required to competently  perform the envisaged roles in the new Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC) being rolled out by the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development. 

It is worth noting that robust teacher training and education programmes should focus on providing skills, competencies, professional attitudes and values that equip educators with knowledge as well as ability to recognise and nurture the educational needs of the students. We should be cognizant to the fact that the success of the CBC is squarely hinged on the ability of the teachers to not only understand but also facilitate acquisition of crucial competencies among the learners.

These are digital literacy, self-efficacy, citizenship, learning to learn, imagination and creativity, critical thinking and problem solving as well as communication and collaboration skills. But for the envisaged teacher training diploma course to be relevant, including meeting societal needs, it should be developed taking into account the aspirations of the international community, the country’s development goals and the 2-6-6-3 system of education.

Among others, the content should be in line with the vision of the Basic Education Act 2013, the Education for Sustainable Development Policy of the Education Sector 2017 as well as the Kenya Vision 2030 and global Vision 2030 Education Agenda as all stress on the need to prepare teachers with a mind-set that focuses on the core educational outcomes. Therefore, emphasis should be laid on mastery of the subject and pedagogical skills and methodologies.

While developing course content in the anticipated diploma programme for primary school teacher trainees, it should be noted that as per the Basic Education Curriculum Framework (2017), pertinent and contemporary issues is an integral part of the content in the new syllabus dispensation. 

These include global citizenship, life skills, health and values education. In an attempt to prepare students to be global citizens, topics like peace education, human rights, gender issues, integrity, social cohesion, ethnic and race relations as well as patriotism and governance inevitably need to be covered. Other issues that need to be included in the teacher training course are sustainable development, climate change, learner support programmes, community service learning and parental engagement. In the new syllabus, topics like environmental education, disaster risk reduction, financial literacy, poverty eradication, countering terrorism and animal welfare are a viewed as precursor for sustainable development.

As for learner support programmes; peer education, communal life, clubs, societies, sports and games are elemental. Topics on career guidance and counselling services; community service learning and parental engagement; community participation and parental empowerment are paramount and should be considered.

Even though the whole notion of reforming teacher education and training, particularly at the primary school level, is commendable, there are notable obstacles that need to be intricately tackled. Orienting instructional practices towards stronger collaborative relationships among teachers and learners, a core emphasis of the CBC, is a primary upheaval staring at the teaching profession. Campaigners of this style hold that such a paradigm shift boosts creativity, innovativeness and dignity apart from making learning enjoyable.

Therefore, this is another critical area that designers of the teacher training diploma course should be attentive to. Inadequate, obsolete and decrepit infrastructure and resources for preparing teachers are also of utmost concern. This is exacerbated by the fact that operations of the TTCs are largely dependent on students’ fees. Adequate information and communication technologies infrastructure, a key component of the new curriculum, needs to be put in place so as to yield teachers that can deliver quality education competently. 

Deliberate strategies to finance primary school teacher training is key. Therefore the decision by Higher Education Loans Board to start financing primary school teacher trainees from 2020 is praiseworthy. The move is timely as enrolment in the TTCs has been nose-diving due to the interplay of multiple reasons, including inability by some of the students to meet training cost. Another major factor is failure by many candidates to attain the minimum entry grade at Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education examination. Some students have also previously avoided the P1 certificate course, opting instead to go for various diploma programmes in other fields which require the same entry grade.

Fortunately, with Kenya National Qualifications Authority now clearly spelling out the minimum entry qualification, and other relevant agencies, there is a higher likelihood of more influx of students in the TTCs compared to the past.

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