POWER OF WORDS

Why mastery of English is crucial

Knowledge of English—spoken and written—is the sine qua non of lifelong learning.

In Summary
  • Access to knowledge, skills, habits of thinking and belief system is predicated on the ability to read and understand printed matter in English.
  • The basic education a country gives its children is only a foundation on which to build their potential.
Uthiru Genenis Primary School head teacher James Gicheha congratulates Ann Wangare, who got 424 marks in KCPE and scored 99 per cent in English.
Uthiru Genenis Primary School head teacher James Gicheha congratulates Ann Wangare, who got 424 marks in KCPE and scored 99 per cent in English.

English is among the subjects tested in the KCPE and KCSE exams. The subject enjoys a peculiar place in the curriculum: it is a compulsory subject as well as the language of instruction.

This means that the entire human heritage from which the totality of what is taught in school is culled, has been encapsulated in English. Therefore, access to knowledge, skills, habits of thinking and belief system is predicated on the ability to read and understand printed matter in English.

The teaching and testing of students’ mastery of English—grammar, comprehension, usage in different contexts and literature—is therefore central in our education system.

The 12-year basic education experience of the English curriculum is designed to impart basic skills, among them speaking, listening, reading and writing. All advanced intellectual skills are founded on these.

Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. 
Henry Ford

The curriculum experience is aimed at helping the students to write intelligently and beautifully. Simplicity, clarity and fluency in speaking and writing on any subject touching humankind is the acme of mastery of English, or any language for that matter.

Success in business, profession and in leadership beyond the confines of technical area lies in knowing English well. The men who finally get to have influence in the community have always been known to burn the midnight oil mastering the word and how best it is used in different contexts with maximum results.

Knowledge of English—both spoken and written—is the sine qua non of lifelong learning.

The basic education a country gives its children is only a foundation on which to build their potential. It is during post-secondary education that the potential blooms after years of watering through reading, observation and imitation.

Hence the importance attached to the ability to read, write and cipher. The three skills are the key to the finest thinking and writing that great minds have written about. An English language curriculum such as the one we have is, when all is said and done, sufficient to nurture in our learners the ability to read, write and cipher—when appropriately taught. 

The ultimate goal of teaching a language—in our case English—is to help students to improve to consciously direct their powers of perception, reasoning, memory, imagination, judgement and feeling. The students need these to cope with changes in their personal and professional life.

Equally important is the ability to articulate values and alternatives, to persuade others to share a common vision.  

The ultimate goal of teaching a language—in our case English—is to help students to improve to consciously direct their powers of perception, reasoning, memory, imagination, judgement and feeling. The students need these to cope with changes in their personal and professional life.

Needless to say, major companies want young men and women with the ability to communicate, to articulate issues in written and speech form. 

It doesn’t matter whether you are bright, average or below average. All humans need to communicate, to share meaning, to share thoughts, feelings and ideas. Bonds between and among people are built using words—well chosen to communicate.

The ability to articulate your thoughts in writing and speaking is, consequently, key to success in a world that respects pure merit. The average student or professional with superior communication skills is likely to scale the heights of professional and business success compared to the bright student who is unable to convert words—in writing and speech—to embody their grand feelings, thoughts and ideas.

Communications officer, Ministry of Education