KENYA: Primary teachers barred from degree study

The Teachers Service Commission in Kenya has announced that primary teachers should be barred from direct admission to universities for bachelor of education studies because they do not meet entry requirements - a setback for primary teachers just ahead of a workshop at which education stakeholders called for them to be empowered and recognised alongside other education professionals.

A two-day workshop bringing together university dons, primary school teacher training institutions and administrators was held at Multimedia University College in Nairobi from 24-25 August. The theme was "linking primary teacher training to university education" and participants emphasised the need to make teaching attractive.

But the workshop happened on the heels of a Teachers Service Commission announcement on university admission for 'P1' level teachers - those who have undergone two-year training for a primary certificate. Teachers who pursue diploma courses are referred to as 'S1' and teach at secondary schools, as do university graduates.

Commission Secretary Gabriel Lengoiboni told public and private universities that most P1 teachers did not deserve to enrol for degree programmes because they did not meet the minimum entry requirement of C+ in the final national school-leaving examinations.

Lengoiboni's statement met resistance among teachers as well as universities that have designed courses specifically for P1 teachers, notably Kenyatta University and the University of Nairobi.

The conference unanimously agreed on a need to chart a way forward on how best to link primary teacher training with university education in a country that is embracing a new perspective on primary teacher training.

Opening the Nairobi workshop, Director of Higher Education Agnes Sila said international and national authorities were increasingly aware that achieving the Millennium Development Goals and Education for All would largely depend on training professionals capable in the long term of effectively promoting education - "in particular through the training of teachers and managerial staff in the education system".

Sila urged universities to view primary school teacher training institutions as friends and to engage them. "Universities will also have to be flexible in the opportunities they offer teachers, whether in upgrading their qualifications or providing intellectual sustenance to update knowledge, skills and understanding," she added.

The Director of Higher Education also called on universities to do away with outmoded curriculum models that acted as barriers to engagement with teachers. She referred particularly to "qualification upgrading courses that insist on treating experienced and trained teachers as if they were young trainees".

Commission of Higher Education Secretary Professor Everret Standa said the professional enrichment and strengthening of teacher training at all levels of education was a powerful way to keep up with the momentum of education for the future while remaining relevant.

"In developing countries like Kenya, there is a need to search for new approaches which are appropriate to cater for the expanding training needs of teachers," Standa said.

Teachers had to be exposed to further professional training after gaining experience on the job, to be prepared "for the classroom they will enter today and the classroom they will shape tomorrow, which will be characterised by smart boards, wireless connections, laptops and projectors".

There are 18 primary teacher training colleges in Kenya and this year 7,285 students out of a record 39,000 applicants have been selected to enrol on 8 September.