Kenya’s higher education, science and technology sector is set for major reforms aimed at promoting a knowledge-based economy to improve national prosperity and global competitiveness.
This would involve interaction of institutions and processes to enable the generation and conversion of knowledge into goods, processes and services.
The move by the government to ensure trainers at Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) institutions join the public service is aimed at boosting their performance and make the sector attractive.
The scheme, which is undergoing the final review by the Public Service Commission, will see the technical training tutors leave the Teachers Service Commission.
In the new system, TVET trainers will have their own terms of service unlike in the past when they were lumped together with primary and secondary school colleagues.
Technical education training would also not be assessed in the same way as formal education, with teaching skewed towards competence rather than on theory.
The latest developments come in the wake of the government’s recent move to establish TVET Authority to manage technical training institutions as part of the efforts to re-position technical and vocational education.
The renewed focus on vocational and technical education is one of the strategies aimed at addressing youth unemployment.
Building quality institutions that would develop the required manpower to enhance the capacity of Kenyan youths to contribute to the expansion of the economy is a move in the right direction.
This goal of equipping the youth with relevant skills is being pursued through a two-pronged approach, the first being the requirement that all secondary schools must have skills acquisition content introduced in their curricula.
The second approach is what used to be called village polytechnics will be renamed vocational training centres whose personnel must have been trained at the Technical Training Centre in Nairobi.
There is no doubt that this level of commitment and investment in the technical education has never been witnessed in Kenya before.
The current shortage of artisans, plumbers and technologists is due to failure by previous governments to prioritise the development of technical education.
But with more emphasis on technical education, youths are going to get the right type of training that would empower them to become job creators and active players in the economy.
What the government is doing is to redefine education and give the youths the knowledge and skills to effectively compete and face the challenges in the job market.
Currently, many youths complain of lack of employment opportunities, even though majority of them lack the relevant skills.
Meanwhile, the proposal that students joining technical training institutions will have an option of taking subjects related to their careers is also a step in the right direction.
This is aimed at ensuring that students exploit their talents and attain specialisation in their areas. Once this is fully effected, students wishing to join technical training institutes would have a curriculum that is flexible and learner-friendly. It would be tailored to offer functional subjects and will be simplified to meet learners’ needs.
This basically aims at offering skills that are important for day-to-day life and work as opposed to expansive and complex content that may not add value to learners’ lives.
The system has proved successful in both developed and developing countries where students specialise as early as possible to prepare for careers of choice. In some countries, students start specialisation in secondary school.
By the time they join university or technical institutes, the students emphasise on research work and less on class work because they are already equipped with the knowledge about their respective careers.
The renewed focus on vocational and technical education by the government is one of the best strategies in making the sector attractive to Kenyans besides meeting the needs of the youth in the job market.
—The writer comments on social issues