The most daunting task that the East African Community (EAC) Education Council faces is to create a uniform curriculum for basic, Technical Vocational Educational Training (TVET) and higher education for all the partner states.
The harmonization process that was set to be implemented in three phases is as painstaking as it is complicated.
The first phase in the process was to harmonize goals and philosophies of education, curriculum content, education structures policies and legal frameworks.
The phase housed the most complex issues in the harmonization process as the education systems and structures are as diverse as the vastness of the EAC region.
While the goals of education are almost copy cuts in all nations, policies and legal frameworks present numerous variances in different nations that make the harmonization process to almost appear like a mirage.
The 6-3-3-4 system in Rwanda, 8-4-4 system in Kenya, 7-4-2-3 in Uganda and Tanzania respectively, present an incompatible marriage of sorts to the harmonization team. The systems are yet to be harmonized.
Phase two of the implementation process aimed at examining curricula and approaches of delivering teacher, adult TVET in the particular states with a view of identifying gaps or overlaps and areas to be harmonized. Phase 3 was to develop relevant curricula based on the recommendations of regional study.
The quality of the teaching staff produced from different training institutions leave many education employers perplexed as there is a big mismatch of the level of skills that the graduates possess. Standards can, therefore, be questioned.
Political dispensations in the different nations are likely to derail the process as some of the education policies and the curricular itself, are likely to be contentious issues of debate in the partner states’ parliaments.
The completion of the process which was projected to end in 2006, is yet to yield fruits.
So far, the academic calendar for the EAC partner states has been harmonized though a number of higher education institutions are yet to comply.
Another gain that has been made so far is the concession to adopt a credit transfer system among the EAC partner states’ universities.
As the move comes with a basketful of goodies for the current and prospective East African Community states, a lot remains to be desired as the academic programs in the higher education institutions are as far removed from each other as the North Pole is from the South Pole.
Several institutions are offering varsity education whose establishment and development are uncoordinated and unregulated causing general concerns on the quality of education being offered.
Credit transfers within the EAC universities will only be possible if the standards and curriculum content and delivery are improved. Commercial institutions whose interest is to get as many students through the system as possible will do nothing more than shattering the dream of the EAC member states.
The proliferation of ‘kiosk’ higher education institutions whose objectives of establishment and growth are thwarted should be curtailed. The success of the EAC education system cannot be measured only by the so called increased accessibility assessed by the number of education institutions.
We need to see a clear criteria that will stand the test of quality.