Saturday, February 14, 2015

The buck stops at the Ministry of Education on certificates of doom

The recent expose dubbed Certificate of doom by NTV
was a commendable piece. That is why we need to encourage members of the fourth estate to keep unraveling the truths on academic fraud and impropriety in Kenya. The truth must be told if we truly care about building and nurturing a society with academic competency and respect through integrity.

Now that the cat is out of the bag on academic fraud, the Ministry of education, Kenya national examination council (KNEC) and Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) must be put on the spotlight because they are bodies tasked to ensure quality education and effective testing procedures for all learners in the country.

First of all, does the Ministry of Education conduct thorough vetting of all tertiary institutions to ensure that they conform to learning standards like: presence of qualified instructors, upholding entry grades of students based on the courses they take, the institutions’ affiliations to examination testing bodies at home and abroad and the suitability of the learning environments?

It’s pathetic that many public and private learning institutions in Kenya have lost their credibility either because of being commercialized, lack of integrity during registration, learning and testing or operating in an environment not equipped with the right facilities.

With modern technology, to start a proprietary institution, you only require two rooms, five desk top computers and a receptionist to open a computer college on Tom Mboya Street. Many parents from upcountry who are unfamiliar with what goes on in our urban centres are often duped to enroll their children in such fake institutions.

These fake institutions can be found in Nairobi and other Kenyan small towns like Kisii, Embu, Voi, Eldoret etc. They lack operating credentials from the Ministry of Education and perhaps the only validation they have is a license from the municipalities in which they operate.

With these mushrooming of malpractices in professional and career development, we cannot blame the operators who want to make quick bucks or the end user students but the Ministry of Education which is tasked with regulating the standard of learning and testing in the country.

The recent revelation by Dennis Okari of NTV about malpractices in the education sector puts the efficiency of the Ministry of education, KNEC and KICD on the line. The malpractices captured in Nairobi Aviation College may be affecting hundreds of institutions in the country.

In the academic World, higher learning institutions like the University of Nairobi enjoys the powers of setting up curriculum stands and study modules for students through the department of higher education. However, tertiary institutions must operate under strict curriculum disciplines provided by the Ministry of Education.

In the NTV expose, I was shocked to see Nairobi Aviation College granting a diploma certificate in aeronautical engineering. I just wondered which examining body that provided the final testing for the award of such diploma, which was on the college’s logo.

Besides, I just wonder how a Company like Kenya Airways can hire an Aerospace technician diploma holder from an institution with no capacity to train or even test their students in such sensitive course. It’s only a desperate employer who will accept a diploma certificate bearing a tertiary College logo on it transcripts. It can also be noted that, tertiary institutions often offer internal courses like basic computer literacy, computer repair, communication, math tutoring etc whose certificates are often printed in the institution’s logos and this is acceptable, but not high calibre courses like aeronautical engineering.

Just like the Kenya Bureau of standards (KBS) and Pharmacy and Poisons Board (KPPB) which ensures the quality, potency, and validity of  goods, chemicals and medicines manufactured or imported into the Country, the Ministry of Education should ensure that, knowledge imparted into Kenyans’ brains is up to standard  and can conform to competency in  human capital in the labour market.  

To avoid cheating through impersonation, KNEC, which is the umbrella testing body in the Country together with other bodies like KASNEB needs to ensure that the exams are proctored with the strictness it deserves. Since the institutions registered by the Ministry of Education offering KNEC and KASNEB exams are known, it’s their responsibility to safeguard integrity during testing.

It must be remembered that foreign testing bodies like The Institute of Commercial Management (ICM), City and Guilds International (CGI), Association of Business executives (ABE) etc, rely on KNEC to ensure that integrity is maintained during testing. There are many Kenyan students who study the curriculum of the said Colleges locally.

Just like in government, corruption has permeated in the education field. The old trend where children of the rich excelled academically is now reciprocal. When children from poor families are toiling and moiling to acquire college education, those from rich families register and attend few classes and in less than 48 months, they are in the arena marching in academic gowns ready to be awarded with degrees and diplomas. Your guess is as good as mine on how they compromised their way up due to their financial muscles. The end result is total incompetency in the job market.

I’m not against the mushrooming of proprietary and tertiary institutions because they benefit students who do not qualify to join national universities to achieve professional careers. My problem with these institutions is their failure to follow standard practices to ensure quality in their trainings.  

Academic integrity is the first impression on how an individual is likely to behave in their professional life. A student who participates in plagiarism or cheating is likely to carry the same trend to the job market. A lecturer who rewards a student because of money or sexual favours is as worse as a physician who knowingly gives wrong medication to his patients. Such lecturers destroy not only the student but all individuals who will seek the services of the student in professional life.

We must remember that, a well educated society will lead to accelerated socio economic development, a boost in efficiency, effective service delivery in the public and private sectors.
One common reality is that, even with increased number of Universities and  tertiary colleges in Kenya, challenges in the education sector continue to spiral since we transitioned from the 7-4-2-3 to 8-4-4 system  of education in 1985. It therefore prudent if the education policy makers re-looked at the need to review our education system in order to make it conform to the challenges of the modern century.