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September 20, 2018

Laptops only will not improve learning

Some of the Homa Bay Primary school pupils who received the Jubilee Government laptops on Wednesday.
Some of the Homa Bay Primary school pupils who received the Jubilee Government laptops on Wednesday.

Uwezo launched its sixth learning assessment report last week. The report is hardly flattering. It is a chilling indictment of our education. Learning outcomes are dismal.  Shameful regional inequalities in education achievement persist half a century after we earned the right to govern ourselves.  

The Uwezo assessment measured the ability of over 130,000 children to read and complete basic numeracy tasks at the level of class two.

Are our children learning? Only three out of 10 children in class three can read and add at the level required in class two. One in every 10 children completing class eight have not acquired literacy and numeracy skills expected of a child in class two.
Learning achievement in rural and urban schools reveals shameful, unconscionable disparities. Only 25 per cent of children in class three in rural schools can read at the level expected of a child in class two.

Conversely, over 40 per cent of children in class three in urban schools can read at the level of a child in class two. Here is what is more disconcerting. Children from well-off households were two times more likely to read and add at the level expected of a child in class two.

It is obvious that our children are not learning. And this is especially worrying in a knowledge-based economy, which is both global and intensely competitive.

Is there something irredeemably wrong with the current curriculum? Or is it the teachers? Or is it the child? Or is it the household — the parents and the home environment? What lessons have we learned?
What do we need to do to improve learning achievements, and to prepare our children for an unknown future? I know we are investing billions of shillings to give laptops/tablets to our pupils. We are also changing the education system from the 8-4-4 curriculum. These are drastic policy decisions. And they are costly.

This is not the first time we are fiddling with both the education system and the curriculum. Will these big-ticket policy decisions improve learning achievement for our children? Where is the evidence? I would love to see the systematic evaluation of the 8-4-4 system and the current curriculum.
I would also like to know, if this time, we are sure that the reason our children are not learning is because the current curriculum is defective.

I would like to see any studies conducted in our schools that prove electronic devices will enhance, reading, writing, numeracy and playful creativity among our children.

Are we changing the curriculum and the education system just because it’s a good thing to do? Are electronic devices the new fad?
Are we truly committed to preparing our children for a brutally competitive knowledge-based economy? If we are committed, we must invest in teacher training, pay teachers well and hold them accountable.
Moreover, we must invest in rural economies, reduce poverty and prevent stunting, which robs millions of children of their learning and productivity potential.

Poll of the day