A major achievement of the of the Matiang’i era that hardly features in accolades for the charismatic Cabinet Secretary and his team is his roll out of the aptly named Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) model schools the moment he stepped into his predecessor Prof Jacob Kaimenyi’s shoes a year ago.
The Director of the Centre for Mathematics, Science and Technology Education in Africa (CEMASTEA) that supports the initiative Mr Stephen Njoroge says Kenyans have been carried away Dr Matiangi’s relentless efforts to inject sanity into a discredited examination sector that a gallant achievement poised to take the country into the industrial age goes unnoticed. Mr Njoroge laments the low enrolment in STEM related subjects driven by the urge to score higher grades in easier humanity options. Initially 47 in number, one in each of the 47 Counties, STEM schools will in July this this year double to 94 and continue increasing by the same number annually with the potential of taking technology to a higher level and thus open the vista for competition with Asian Tigers that have industrialized fast in 50 years of independence.
“It is a pity that only 22 per cent of students admitted to our universities pursue STEM related courses where mathematics and other science subjects are mandatory,” Mr Njoroge told participants at a Stake Holders workshop aimed at enhancing the management of Strengthening Mathematics and Science Education (SMASE) held at a Nakuru hotel over the weekend. The workshop that brought together directors of education and other stakeholders from across the country to share experiences on the management of SMASE programmes at County level examined the way to get a clear understanding of the funding, budgeting and accounting for SMASE funds. Mr Njoroge said Asian Tigers with which Kenya and other African countries stood on the same industrial pedestal 50 years ago had 70 per cent of their university students on STEM related courses. “Moving closer to them means that we must treble our efforts,” advised Mr Njoroge. The Director of Inclusive and Special needs education Ms Maria Cherono who represented Education Principal Secretary Bellio Kipsang called for continuous professional development of teachers to improve the quality of education that had nosedived during the decades long examination cheating era. She hailed STEM as the way to go. “We must encourage our students to patent innovations and discourage drilling for the sake of passing examinations, leaving students clutching a bath tab minus the baby. “Innovations are the baby without which high grades scored in stolen examinations are but a bath tub,” she said. She said the Ministry had in the last one year spent sh590 million in the 47 STEM schools, a figure expected to double in July when STEM schools double to 94.
A representative of the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) Ms Benta Atieno said curbing teaching while commendable required backing by a policy change on exam moderation. She regretted the fact that raw marks were used to grade students yet going to university was pegged on grade C+, thus giving undue advantage to those doing humanities over their counterparts pursuing science subjects. The two day workshop was officially closed by Senior Deputy Director in charge of Teachers management at the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) Mr Abdirizak Farah who called for Continued Teachers Professional development (CTPD) as no nation can rise above the quality of its teachers. He criticized big schools for their chronic failure to follow government fee guidelines on flimsy reasons to rip off parents and guardians... “It is not unusual to find schools still ensnared in outlawed practices such as corporal punishment and the withholding of academic certificates. Impunity has become the norm in our schools to the detriment of healthy learning”, noted Mr Farrah.