Education system fails East African students

July 15, 2014

As regional technocrats in the East African education sector keeps grappling with rudimentary education systems, fiascos concerning examination papers are becoming common in once Africa’s most progressive region when it came to education, it is time to admit that a complete overhaul of the education system is needed in East African countries with Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania being in dire need. Every year, education ministers face parliament to explain why examination papers have been delayed and several other issues related to the national examinations from cheating to ‘manufactured results slip.’ Authorities in the three countries, which oversees education and at times sports affairs, need to discuss whether to continue the national examination or whether to scrap it and replace with harmonised regional examination. Graft allegations where lawmakers in one country recently questioned minister in charge of education about the tender process regarding the printing of the exams papers as there are indications that the process was not done according to proper procedure is heartbreaking.

There is an overwhelming public support for the lawmakers’ move to scrap the national examinations platform as it is right now which promotes incorrect learning habits. According to an education expert familiar with the proposals to be discussed at the East African Community education strategy soon, Ugandan, Tanzanian and Kenyan students sitting for such examinations normally cram for days on facts and figures without grasping the essential issues. The regional current education systems are too heavily focused on rote learning, which has outlived its usefulness. If East African region is to compete on par with other fast-growing countries and if they are to produce the skilled workers of the future, their education system must move to one that promotes critical thinking and problem-solving. Too often employers complain that graduates lack these faculties and have to be retrained on the job, which is a waste of time and money. Students in East Africa are as talented and hard-working as students from other countries, but they are handicapped by an outdated education system.

Contador Harrison