'Educated But Not Learned'

Joan Mwende
Education Systems Ought to Lead to Wholesome & Productive Employees

The 8. 4. 4 system is Kenya’s Education system; which basically means going through eight years of primary school education, four years of secondary and four other years of university. Having gone through it and being on my second last year of the system, there is no doubt it has been of more good than harm. At my age, I can very well compete at the same level with my classmates in campuses from different parts of the Kenya, not to mention East Africa. My arithmetic skills, a few sporting skills and certificates of Music festivals and Drama festivals are a constant reminder of the benefit the system has been to me and my mates.

But again the thought of the whole system reminds me of the torture of chemistry, especially organic chemistry, which days on end would always make me a prospective public administrator, actress and community server! I wonder how the joining or connecting of Cs and Hs; C-H-H-C would help me be more effective in my dream career. While History and Literature were my best classes, my desk mate, a great mathematics scorer, wondered just why she had to go through the two. She found them boring and difficult to understand. Often times than not, she would say they require good memory unlike her best area mathematics which ) only required instant reasoning and calculations. 

Then came our teachers with their daily advice that we have to balance our performance and excellence in all our subjects if we wanted to pursue what we dreamed of; our careers. I can never dispute the fact that this they did with our best interest at heart. The termly career talks, motivational and inspirational speakers and peer-teachers training were all aimed at helping us achieve great grades academically. Grade A students in academics were the best, and role models to all of us.

But there are students who really stood out in co-curricular activities such as games, drama and music. Of course they would be acknowledged and congratulated during the school assembly and also encouraged to put in their best and shine in class. This is not to say that it was unwise, not at all! The problem with 8.4.4 system is in its conventional nature. It is mostly inclined to academics. The final and most important assessments are limited to conventional written papers rather than oral and listening tests also. Learners are not encouraged and tested on the domains of sports, drama and extra-curricular activities so as to develop all-rounded students.

In many schools, the relationship between the students and teachers is full of tension and a conversation outside classwork or sports, music and drama can hardly be struck. Students who are outstanding in speaking skills or visual arts really have no space to showcase their strengths. Going through this whole system for twelve years of primary and secondary school mostly produces sub-standard students who lack motivation to pursue what they believe in. 

Alternatively, they begin from scratch right after completing the whole system. In college therefore, most students pursue the wrong courses altogether. StoryMoja Africa Limited managing director, Muthoni Garland regrets that students waste a lot of time and money in universities due to wrong choices of careers. The 8.4.4 system in a way glorifies some professions, and downgrades others. Medicine, Engineering and Law have since time immemorial been viewed as the best fields to pursue, while hospitality, hair and beauty are viewed as inferior fields and best suited for a particular gender.

It is hard to avoid the fact that students who continue to go through the 8. 4. 4 system stand to lose more than those going through the International General Certificate of Secondary Education, IGCSE which is a balanced system with a flexible course of study. Every student gets to choose between core curriculum and extended curriculum. It gives all students who have different strengths and weaknesses the freedom to choose subjects that are right for them, hence the opportunity to score great grades.

IGCSE’s balanced nature and international perspective to studies can be borrowed into the 8.4.4 system so as to produce wholesome students. This means that a student can be provided an opportunity to explore, nurture and advance personal abilities or talents as they pursue Academic education. In the end, the best thing is to produce young citizens who can multi-task and be able to stand out in all they get down to. 

To conclude, I must say I am among those really praying for the introduction and implementation of the new proposed Kenyan education system – 6-6-3 system. It aims at encouraging students to specialize in the areas that they are good at early enough, and then take on career paths that are related to that at the higher education level. I am also for the idea that schools introduce classes on fundamental issues such as human rights, and political systems.  In any case which employer does not want a great economist who is a team player, good at outdoor activities and great at public speaking? Wholesome employees are assets to companies or organizations because they uplift the quality of delivery. And it all begins in schools!

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