An education taskforce has made radical recommendations to check the powers of the teachers’ employer, support merger of universities and strengthen middle-level colleges.
It has been established that these are some of the recommendations made by the Presidential Working Party on Education Reforms in its second interim report.
Sources in the team told The Standard that the second interim report, which addressed teachers training, powers of Teachers Service Commission (TSC), middle-level colleges and universities will be presented to the president soon.
Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu and top ministry officials met the working party members on Monday at the Centre for Mathematics, Science and Technology Education in Africa (CEMASTEA).
Insiders said that long discussions went into how to check the powers of TSC to ensure its command is limited to only recruiting and promoting teachers.
The team also wants the entry grade to teachers training colleges reviewed to accommodate more students after it emerged that the stringent admission rules have locked out more students.
It also supports mergers of universities, setting up of centers of excellence and strengthening middle level training institutions that they recommend should be done in each county.
“The issue of pending debts was a major debate and it emerged that once this is sorted out the institutions of higher learning would be back on their feet.
“It actually emerged that there is need to set up more technical training institutions and not expanding existing universities,” said the source.
“The issue of merging universities was ratified but most importantly, creation of centres of excellence where specific universities are known for various products because one university cannot replicate itself over and over.”
But what will elicit debate is the proposal by the working party to check TSC powers. Insiders in the task force said the powers wielded by TSC both as an employer and regulator was a deep conversation by members.
“Some of these were common sense proposals because it is only teachers who are regulated by their employer. For all other professions, there is clear distinction between employer and regulator,” said a source.
However, the changes may require a referendum as TSC is a constitutional commission.
“The issue of a referendum was also discussed because TSC is a constitutional commission but there will be conversations on whether parliament may be roped into the matter,” said the source.
TSC is established under Article 237 (1) of the Constitution as a constitutional Commission with primary functions being to register recruit and employ registered teachers.
TSC is also empowered to assign teachers for service in any public school or institution, promote, transfer teachers, discipline and terminate their employment.
This constitutional role effectively gives the TSC exclusive mandate over teachers with little or no ministry interference.
Last year, in a report of the National Assembly Education Committee tabled in the House on March 3, 2022 recommend enactment of a new law and proposed changes to Article 237 of the Constitution and the TSC Act to solve the conflict of interest of the commission being a regulator and an employer.
The report released last year just before legislators went for a two-week recess observed that TSC holds the constitutional and statutory mandate of the employer and regulator with powers conferred by Article 237 of the Constitution and TSC Act.
“There is need to establish a separate regulatory agency to remedy conflict of interest,” reads the report by MPs.
The report followed a petition tabled on October 5, 2021 by Emuhaya MP Omboko Milemba on behalf of representatives of Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet).
Speaking during release of KCPE results, Machogu said: “We are looking to the Presidential Working Party to make recommendations about laws, policies and regulations in our sector. We have seen a number of attempts to amend some of the existing laws, policies and regulations, a few of which are currently pending before the National Assembly,” he said.
Machogu said he will consult with all stakeholders with a view to driving the reform processes to a decisive and logical conclusion based on recommendations of the Working Party.
“We will appeal on the respective committees of the National Assembly and the Senate to be patient with us as we will regularly knock on their doors as we seek these legal and policy reforms,” he said.
On admissions to TTCs, the task force heard that the institutions have not taken in more students because of the stringent entry requirements.
“For about two years it emerged that these teachers training colleges have trained less than 2,000 students and this is brewing crisis,” said the source.
Training of a fresh breed of diploma teachers started in 2021 with diploma set as the minimum training level for all primary school teachers in the country.
The government said this was its key strategy in rolling out plans for quality teaching and learning in schools.
During the first admission in June 2021, only 1,000 students were selected to join six Teachers Training Colleges (TTCS) across the country as teacher education reforms kicked off to anchor the Competency based Curriculum (CBC).
Only TTCs of Machakos, Thogoto, Baringo, Egoji, Migori and Shanzu receive between 150-200 students.
More colleges were expected to admit students during the subsequent intakes. It however emerged that since the first admission, most institutions have remained empty as entry requirements were raised, locking out many students.
Applicants are now expected to have a KCSE Mean Grade of C (Plain) or its equivalent with a C Plain in English, Kiswahili, Mathematics, and also a C in any of the Humanities subject and Sciences subjects.
For candidates with disabilities, the minimum entry grade was set at C- (Minus) and a C- (Minus) in the cluster of subjects stated above.
Applicants for the Diploma in Early Childhood Teacher Education (DECTE) are required to have a C Plain Mean Grade in the KCSE or its equivalent (as equated by the Kenya National Examinations Council (Knec).
According to the designs, the teachers’ trainees are expected to only specialise in three subject areas, having attained a minimum KCSE grade of C (Plain) in the learning areas they wish to focus on.
And now, insiders at the task force say that the team has proposed a plan that would ease entry to TTCs and also ensure teachers undertake in-service training to professionalise the trade.
“Now we propose that teacher training be aligned with Kenya National Qualifications Authority (KNQA). To pursue a diploma coursed you need to have a C plain and a combination of two other subjects. But to be a teacher the requirements are a bit stringent and the industry has shrunk,” said the source.
“There will be need to strengthen professional courses/training to professionalise the teaching. But we cannot bar students from pursuing teaching because they did not score grade C.”
But the battle over TSC powers did not start yesterday. In 2018, TSC and the Ministry of Education wrestled over new entry grade to teachers training colleges as the matter moved to court.
This was after then Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed gazzetted in June 2018, new teacher training requirements by the KNQA that set C– (Minus) as the minimum diploma entry grade and D (Plain) for certificate training courses.
TSC moved to court to halt new teachers training colleges admissions for all those with D saying the move would cause losses and wastage.
TSC said ‘lowering the entry grade is a serious affront to national development and may be a recipe for failed future economy.’
“The upshot is that should persons with lower qualifications opt to train as teachers, they face the danger of not being registered by the commission on account of non-compliance with commissions set standards,” said Mrs Macharia.
In his advisory, then Attorney General Kihara Kariuki said only the TSC, not the Education CS, was mandated to prescribe college entry qualifications.
The AG letter says that the Constitution requires TSC to assess the standards of education and training required for persons entering the teaching service.
“This assessment must as of necessity include the setting of the said standards…It would be defeatist to have a Commission that is created as independent from the Executive and yet have the Executive have the ultimate say on the implementation of the mandate of the Commission,” said Kariuki.
“In this regard therefore, as far as setting of the minimum academic entry requirements for persons entering the teaching service is concerned, the buck stops with the Commission,” said Kariuki.
In his letter to TSC, the AG affirmed that the mandate to set the minimum qualification for entering teaching profession rests with the Commission.
“Our view is premised on the plain meaning of Article 237 (3) of the Constitution, which mandates the Commission to review the standards of education and training of persons entering teaching service,” said Kariuki.