Reports in the media revealing that nearly half of teachers trainees in different colleges who sat the Kenya National Examinations Council (Knec) exam last year failed has further unveiled the rot that had almost consumed the education system.
At the Moi Teachers College in Baringo for instance, 130 students out of the 360 trainees got referrals in the exam, administered by Knec. This disheartening performance was reflected in virtually all the colleges across the country.
It is said that the mass failures could have been due to stringent exam guidelines introduced last year by the indefatigable Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i that completely changed the entire examination system right from administration to examination marking.
This could be true, but undeniably, the result conclusively also unearthed the harsh reality that the students may have not earned honest grades in their KCSE exam, which was the consideration in their admission to these colleges.
A few years ago, the ministry raised the admission grades to teachers colleges from grade D (plain) to C (plain) and above for those joining both the private and public colleges.
Annually over 20,000 students are admitted to these colleges. The question then is why would a critical mass of students who scored an impressive C plain and above, which is just a grade below the university cut-off grade of C (plus) fail in an end year exam?
Undoubtedly most of these students are beneficiaries of the disgraced 2015 KCSE exam and prior, which registered unprecedented cases of examination cheating.
Either way, the status of teacher training education in Kenya has been deteriorating over the years, which raises concerns, especially the standing of the teaching profession in the minds of most Kenyans.
Over the years, the teaching profession has been regarded by policymakers and even the people as a career pursued by those with low attainment in KCSE examination.
This is the reason admission to teacher trainee colleges was placed at the lowly grade of D plain for those recruited to teach in ECD and primary schools, the most critical levels in a child’s education.
Even at the university level, majority of those admitted to pursue Bachelor of Education degrees scored the bottom grades for university entry.
This is a sharp departure from most developed countries, especially in Europe, America and Asia, which have placed the primacy of excellence in examination at the apex of the teacher recruitment policy.
According to case studies in a research paper, How the world’s best-performing school systems come out on top, authored by the OECD Directorate for Education, Finland has gone a step further.
First round for selection include prospective trainees sitting a multiple-choice examination designed to test numeracy, literacy and problem-solving skills. The top-scoring candidates then proceed to the second round in the selection procedure, run by individual universities.
In this round the applicants are tested for communication skills, willingness to learn, academic ability, and motivation for teaching. In most developed countries, recruitment to teacher trainee colleges is a highly controlled process to avoid oversupply.
Flooding of the market with teacher graduates makes its hard for them to find jobs, hence makes the profession unappealing for many, a situation Kenya and most African countries find themselves in.
But ultimately, the challenge facing many developing countries is lack of resources to remunerate teachers sufficiently because to attract top students to the teaching profession will always require governments to pay higher salaries and other incentives.
Equally, the top performing education systems largely depends ultimately on the quality of its teachers. —[email protected]