I am enjoying the noise about education in the region

In this era of information overflow there is simply a lot that one may not know. For example, I only got to know on January 24, 2019 that January 24, 2019 was the International Day of Education. Almost every day is an “International or world day” of something.

For those that are not public holidays keeping track is not easy. Often those in the related industry or sector may be aware of a given day.

Education is something I am passionate about for several reasons but even I didn’t know about this new day until it arrived. The United Nations General Assembly on December 3, 2018 adopted a resolution with full consensus declaring January 24 as International Day of Education.

This was done to celebrate the role of education towards peace and development. One of the key things I picked up my university days was that, a country cannot be more developed than its education system.

In recent days, I have noticed some bit of ‘noise’ about education in the region. It appears that people are starting to express concerns about the kind of education that is available especially for children.

In Rwanda, the education sector has undergone the most changes in the last two decades. I believe the intentions behind these changes were noble but you cannot deny that they have often felt like a trial and error phase than some well researched changes.

In Kenya the changes of the curriculum have got so many people talking about whether the government is serious with improving on education or simply using children to test anything as long as it sounds new.

There has also been some noise about the rising cost of education and whether it is really worth it. There are international schools whose school fees make you wonder whether children are taught or they are just given brain transplants so they can leave with super smart brains.

I must admit that I enjoy seeing people discussing these things on different social media platforms because then I know a consciousness about education is being awakened. People are starting to question what education really means for different people, different environments and for different purposes.

Truth is many people do not question the kind of education on offer beyond just looking for money to pay for their children to attend the best schools in town and obsessing about grades.

These conversions are healthy and timely. I have watched a couple of short documentaries on some of the most developed countries and how they did it. What I quickly notice is that for many, there was a deliberate effort to not only fix but also strategically design an education system that creates the kind of people that fit the country’s development agenda.

You know those comparisons people often make about how Singapore or South Korea were at the same level of development as some East African countries?

What is often left out is how education played a key role in helping those countries to surge forward. It is not enough to have natural resources when there is no skilled human resource to make those natural resources profitable.

And to do this you don’t actually need so many people with degrees but people with skills. Some of the richest countries in the world are those that put emphasis on vocational education to produce the skilled labour that runs their industries.

On the contrary in this part of the world you are more likely to hear that a vocational school has been ‘upgraded’ to a university so that many more can get that much coveted university degree certificate whether or not they have any relevant skills to offer.

As we continue to have these discussions on whether the education on offer is worth it or working, we may have to keep in mind the words of Sir Ken Robinson, “All our children are born with immense talents. We need forms of education which identify them, cultivate them and energise them.”

Email: ssenyonga@gmail.com

Blog: www.ssenyonga.

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Twitter: @ssojo81

The views expressed in this article are of the author.

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