Qualifications database falters over lack of funds
It has now emerged that the Kenya National Qualifications Authority is not in a position to set up the database to be known as the Kenya National Qualifications Framework, meant to be a one-stop reference shop for employers and stakeholders seeking to confirm the education credentials of any given graduate and facilitate alignment of learning in universities with the labour market.
The authority’s chairman Professor Bonaventure Kerre told journalists in Nairobi that the project did not receive adequate funds from the National Treasury for the current financial year starting on 1 July.
The country is now turning to donors to help fund the databank which is expected to, among other things, rid the country of fake certificates. This means the platform, which is already more than a year behind schedule (it was supposed to be up and running by 1 July 2017), will take much longer.
The funding shortfall is in line with a general cut in expected funding for the university sector for this financial year. For the 2018-19 fiscal year, the National Treasury allocated US$1.03 billion to institutions of higher learning, up from US$961 the previous year.
The amount is US$300 million lower than the funds the universities requested.
Treasury, which funds a huge part of the public universities' budgets, has over the years either cut allocations or failed to meet institutions’ needs.
The delay is also hurting a plan towards the harmonisation of qualification frameworks in East Africa as planned by the bloc’s partner states: Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda and Tanzania.
The setting up of the database is expected to be backed by guidelines on qualifications and credit transfer to harmonise the courses offered in universities in Kenya. This will eventually be linked to those of the East African Community partner states. Currently, while most courses are almost identical in name and general content; they differ in areas such as duration.
There are also varying parameters on how programmes are constituted and the number of credit hours a student is expected to notch up before being considered to have successfully completed a course.
While most universities have in place mechanisms for credit accumulation and transfer, the systems are hard to implement due to the discrepancies in the higher education systems across the countries.
Data for prospective employers
Once established, the platform is expected to host all the qualifications issued within the country and from other countries, providing an annual report on the status of qualifications. This will provide accurate graduate data to prospective employers who currently have to run reference checks with universities to confirm credentials of prospective employees.
This integration, the government says, will help improve the transparency and quality of programmes offered in institutions of higher education in the country.
For a country concerned about dropping education standards, the central database is expected to be a game changer as universities will be put on a tight leash in terms of how they administer courses and qualifications.
Kenya prides itself as being the hub for education in East Africa, with an emphasis on science and technology, and has an eye on growing the export of education services to the region. Such ambitions are being undermined by sub-standard qualifications.
Kerre said the database was “a sure bet in guaranteeing the credibility of all academic qualifications coming from the institutions of higher learning’’.