Why the push to overhaul teacher training in Kenya is a bad idea

Kenyan teacher Ayub Mohamed giving a lesson in the Nairobi suburb of Eastleigh.

Kenya is in the fourth year of implementing a new competence-based curriculum for all levels of schooling. The new curriculum seeks to develop student competencies including mastery of content, critical thinking and complex problem-solving.


This new curriculum is the third topdown overhaul of the country’s education system since Kenya’s independence in 1963. The previous curriculum was deemed too academic and examination-oriented. It was deficient in hands-on, experiential learning, and practical experimentation to allow for competence.


The goals of the new curriculum are worthwhile. But a controversial government proposal to radically change teacher training is unwarranted. Under new guidelines by the Teachers’ Service Commission – the government agency which administers public school teachers – the Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.) teacher training degree is to be abolished.


This degree, in place for the past 50 years, emphasises the mastery of teaching (pedagogical) skills during training. The teacher candidates simultaneously take courses in education courses as well as in content areas during their entire undergraduate studies.

The approach being proposed is identical to the one abandoned in 1970. Under this model – which emphasised subject matter expertise – prospective teachers enrolled in regular arts or sciences degree lasting three years. This would be followed by a one-year post-graduate education diploma, completing a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science (Education Option).


The diploma covered educational courses in pedagogy, curriculum, foundations, and management.


In some countries like the US and UK, both approaches are common depending on the institution attended. India and Nigeria, like Kenya, adhere to the Bachelor of Education model only.


Kenya’s official support for change has met a forecul defence of the existing programme. But, in fairness, research is inconclusive on whether student learning is enhanced by the development of teachers’ theoretical professional knowledge or subject matter expertise.


As such it isn’t definitive which is the best approach for teachers to get their initial training (called pre-service training). Given student learning outcomes aren’t determined by what type of pre-service training teachers get, it is my view that the new teacher training policy initiative isn’t driven by research evidence. Rather, it is informed by political calculations. The public teachers’ commission is seeking to project a reformist stance because it wants to be seen to be contributing to the new education

Manuel Kalama

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