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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Curriculum review and laptops alone will not improve student learning

Uwezo launched its sixth learning assessment report last week. The report is hardly flattering. It is a chilling indictment of our education. Learning outcomes are dismal.  Shameful regional inequalities in education achievement persist half a century after we earned the right govern ourselves.  

The Uwezo assessment measured the ability of over 130,000 children to read and complete basic numeracy tasks at the level of standard 2. Are our children learning? Only 3 out 10 children in standard 3 can read and add at the level required in standard 2. About 1 in 10 children in completing standard 8 have not acquired literacy and numeracy skills expected of a child in standard 2.

Learning achievement in rural and urban schools reveals shameful, unconscionable disparities. Only 25 per cent of children in standard 3 in rural schools can read at the level expected of a child in standard 2. Conversely over 40 per cent of children in standard 3 in urban schools can read at the level of a child in standard 2. Here is what is more disconcerting. Children from non-poor households were two times more likely to read and add at the level expected of a child in class 2.

It is obvious that our children are not learning. And this is especially worrying in a knowledge-based economy, which is both global and intensely competitive. Is there something irredeemably wrong with the current curriculum? Or is it the teachers? Or is the child? Or is it the household – the parents and the home environment? What have lessons have we learned?

What do we need to do to improve learning achievement and prepare our children for an unknown future? I know we are investing billions of shillings to introduce laptops/tablets into our classrooms. I also we are changing the education system and the curriculum will no longer be 8-4-4. These are drastic policy decisions. And they are costly.

This is not the first time we are fiddling with the both the education system and the curriculum. Will these big-ticket policy decisions improve learning achievement for our children? Where is the evidence? I would love to see the systematic evaluation of the 8-4-4 system and the current curriculum.

I would like to know if this time we are sure that the reason our children are not learning is because the current curriculum is defective. I would also like to see any studies conducted in our schools, which prove that electronic devises will enhance, reading, writing, numeracy and playful creativity among our children.

Are we changing the curriculum and the education system just because it’s a good thing to do? Are electronic devises the new fad?

Are we truly committed to preparing our children for a brutally competitive knowledge-based economy? If we are committed we must invest in teacher training, pay teachers well and hold them accountable. Moreover we must invest in rural economies, reduce poverty and prevent stunting, which robs millions of children of their learning and productivity potential.

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