There has been noise all over ranging from castigations and a barrage of criticisms with regards to the Kenyan education system as it is deemed to be churning out half-baked graduates into the job market. Recently, we have seen the lives of several engineering and law students being jeopardized due to the claim that some of the courses are not accredited and do not meet the required threshold to offer scholarly services to students and the society in general.
The primary question and issue of great concern are the remarks that are made by the employers and other stakeholders who feel that the current cadre of graduates from the institutions of higher learning are half-baked. To them, this simply implies that in as much we have a very high number of graduates today, their professionalism in execution of tasks is wanting.
This dwindling level of professionalism is pegged on the absence of the crucial skills that these institutions of higher learning are supposed to impart to the learners. Methinks that indeed we are ebbing towards a professionalism crisis if certain remedy measures are not going to be instituted. In this country we have put in place a culture that favors academics more than education and so this is the genesis of this professionalism crisis that is evidently showing up.
We tend to treasure and cherish examinations more than the real skills and expertise that these higher learning institutions are supposed to offer. This has cultivated a syndrome of cramming, passing or failing examinations and forgetting about the stuff that had been memorized in the mind. It isn’t surprising to find some “professionals” who tend to know very little about their fields and areas of specialization as a consequence of the above highlighted syndrome.
But what is propagating and precipitating this vitiation of professionalism? In my opinion, the pecuniary rapaciousness is the major cause of all this. Education has become an entrepreneurial opening and opportunity for business people. It isn’t wrong for investments in education to take place but in our case it has presented a gracious opportunity for individuals to make money easily by taking advantage of the education-thirsty people.
This financial greed has been the cause of the plummeting professional standards. We have seen cases where individuals have collaborated and connived with some purported higher learning institutions by offering fake courses all because some individuals somewhere need to have some quick money to get rich by wrong means. This is the first case. Secondly, other lewd individuals go to an extent of forging academic and professional certificates and obtaining fake copies. Thirdly, most of the institutions of higher learning give priority to the admission of a higher number of students beyond their capacity instead of improving the quality of education through research and largely through establishment of well-equipped learning facilities.
A vibrant education system is certainly critical for the economic progress of any given country. Education is the basis for generating the needed critical mass that drives the economy of the nation. If our development blueprint, Vision 2030, is to be attained then as a country we should continue having increasing levels and standards of education.
However, achieving this grand socio-economic plan will be slow-paced as we have a limited technical work-force in place because many middle-level colleges have been phased out. This phasing out has occurred because universities have acquired them, making them their campuses, constituent colleges and some have even become fully-fledged universities. In Kenya we have generated the mindset that an undergraduate degree equals a technical qualification and this is quite skewed.
Our institutions of higher learning need to prioritize research in various fields if we are to progress economically. In fact, this is supposed to be the core mandate of all these institutions. Most of them however, carry very limited research and this has also greatly contributed to the decline in the standards of professionalism. Coupled with limited research is the challenge of poorly equipped learning facilities. Just check across institutions that offer the technical courses and you will be astonished at how they are poorly equipped.
Higher education is supposed to engender individuals who should spearhead invention and innovation which are some of the prerequisite fundamentals for economic growth and development. The limited capacity and research only serves to create a stagnating economy.
On the other hand, individuals should also strive to make themselves competent. What are you doing to be a competent professional? This is what many people will fumble with and mumble at due to some laziness. To be honest, many students just sit there and wait for the system to shape them into the ideal professionals. Many thrive and survive on reading class work notes and the story ends there. In whatever course that somebody is undertaking, one ought to make an effort to standout from the rest. Even if you detest reading try to do at least something that sets you apart. It can be an invention or innovation all which stem from the logic of having an idea.
So do we choose to blame the education system for all these woes and challenges? We have the duty and responsibility of righting its wrongs lest we forget that we are part of the same system. But all isn’t gloom as we are way ahead of other nations in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Third World league.