Teach For Kenya champions a multidisciplinary approach to education reform. We view Teaching as Collective Leadership and students as the promise of a brighter future for all Kenyans.

October 12, 2023 admin No Comments

Global Knowledge Sharing Can Transform Kenya’s Education

Imagine opening the doors to your home, finally free of the solitary confinement that grounded the world, but then perceiving a sense of disconnectedness from humanity. That’s how we felt coming out of the COVID lockdown of 2020. Adrift for months in the digital sea of social media, watching the seasons change from the window and endlessly staring at the flickering screen, we were all searching for a connection to others. And yet, the post-Covid world saw the creation of echo chambers wider than ever. Socio-cultural divides, increase in income inequality leading to resentment and unrest, escalation of environmental effects caused by climate change and the resulting rise of climate deniers, the global spread of the ‘us vs them’ mindset, and a continuing decline in trust in institutions. We sensed a necessity for a collective pushback against this polarization. After all, it is our collective problem.

The systems scientist, Peter Senge, said that “sharing knowledge is not about giving people something or getting something from them. That is only valid for information sharing. Sharing knowledge occurs when people are genuinely interested in helping one another develop new capacities for action.” You see, organizing knowledge-sharing initiatives and connecting people from diverse backgrounds are the tools we need to address the global challenges that affect us daily. We need to give ourselves the time and space to learn from one another.

Significant ideas, movements, and inventions that have made progress possible for the human race have been based on the principles of openness, collaboration, and knowledge sharing. For example, the development of the internet, which has revolutionized every area of our lives—how we communicate, connect, and build relationships—was made possible by these principles. ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network), a precursor to the internet as we know it, was founded on the culture of collaboration and knowledge sharing among scientists, and a non-commercial ethos focused on decentralization and openness. On these same principles, Tim Berners-Lee, in 1989, created the World Wide Web and made it available to everyone for free. If you are reading this from a digital device, it is this culture and the people who have embodied the principles that make it all possible.

The decision to cultivate a culture of knowledge-sharing often stems from a deep-seated belief in human flourishing and well-being. It creates a sense of community and connection, uniting individuals across geographical and cultural boundaries in a shared commitment to the greater good. We saw how this came to life in Teach For India, where a group of young people, working with students, challenged the idea of kids as passive recipients of knowledge and reimagined the meaning of an excellent education. They insisted on intergenerational partnerships where students themselves have the agency and opportunity to improve the systems that impact their education, their communities, and their future. Enabled by the principles of knowledge sharing and collaboration, this idea spread across the Teach For All global network, taking root in contexts thousands of miles from India. Today, children in classrooms of teachers in Teach For Zimbabwe are designing and leading projects to combat the negative effects of climate change and food insecurity in their communities. In classrooms and communities of Teach For Romania, students are tackling the problem of bullying in their schools through deep collaboration with teachers, parents, and communities. On a global level, Teach For All set up its first Student Leader Advisory Council led by children on the belief that all children have the potential not just to navigate the world they’ll inherit, but to lead it.

We have seen time and again in our collective history how knowledge sharing allows for greater progress, greater equity, and greater opportunity for more people. Change begins when we refuse to accept the status quo that favors competition over collaboration and silos over community.

Although we know this, we continue to live in a world in which knowledge sharing to advance education is widely limited. Just take a moment to think about our current education systems. Our students spend most of their learning time working individually. Our teachers are isolated in classrooms with little time or incentive to collaborate with their fellow teachers. Our schools are working tirelessly to prove their impact and secure ongoing funding to keep their doors open, leaving little room to share best practices. 

But it’s time to bridge the gap between our education system and the demands of the future.

In Kenya, the education system has its share of disparities notwithstanding efforts put in place by various key sector players. Some of which are glaring today include; inequality, excessive focus on exams, inadequate inclusivity, and teacher-to-student ratios   

A recent report published by the Kenya Bureau of Statistics indicates that the total number of schools grew by 1.4 percent from 88,506 in the 2020 school year to 89,747 in the 2021 school year. The number of registered pre-primary schools increased from 46,652 in 2020 to 46,671 in 2021.

During the review period, the number of primary schools rose by 3.6 percent to 32,594, with the increase mainly attributed to the registration of more schools and the reopening of some private schools which were closed during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The number of public universities increased to 32 following the award of a charter to the National Defense University-Kenya.

Enrolment in Pre-primary 1 and 2 increased marginally to 2,845.3 thousand in the 2021 school year from 2,832.9 thousand in the 2020 school year. Total enrolment in primary schools increased by 1.1 percent to 10,285.1 thousand in the 2021 school year. Total enrolment in secondary schools rose by 4.9 percent to 3.7 million in 2021. The number of teachers in public primary schools increased by 1.2 percent to 220,744 in 2021, while the number of teachers in public secondary schools and teacher training colleges increased by 6.3 percent to 120,279 in 2021. Enrolment in Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) institutions grew by 10.4 percent to 498,326 in 2021, while university enrolment is expected to grow from 546.7 thousand in 2020/21 to 562.1 thousand in 2021/22 academic year.

Efforts to address some of these gaps included the introduction of a competency-based Curriculum (CBC) to ensure students student-centered approach to learning. 

Teach For Kenya is working closely with the government to bridge these gaps by partnering with schools to post more fellows through consultation with the Ministry of Education.

As of 2023, Teach for Kenya has partnered with 24 schools in the counties of Nairobi and Kisumu, supporting more than 10,000 learners. This has shown great improvement in school performance including attendance and increased retention rate across our partner schools.

We need to rethink the purpose of education. We need to consider the possibility that knowledge sharing is not simply a ‘nice-to-have’ but a ‘must-have’. It not only reveals short-term solutions but has the power to create long-term systemic change. Young people lived through the same period of isolation as the rest of the world. The only difference is that we lived through this world-altering time at a moment in our social development when we most needed connection and community. We have returned from that isolation hungrier than ever to share, collaborate, and learn together. The world needs to harness this potential. We need to access the opportunity to see firsthand the impact of knowledge sharing and to step into our leadership potential to create the future that we all desire.

As we look ahead to the Teach For All Global conference in Nairobi, one thing is clear: we must continue to nurture the principles of openness, collaboration, and knowledge sharing. It is upon these foundations that young people will access the essential leadership skills they need in an increasingly uncertain world. An excellent education is our way to solve global challenges, and sharing knowledge is how we improve education on a global scale. We believe it’s in the leadership of the youth that we will find the missing piece, and the more we show young people the value of collaboration, the more promising our future will be.

Leave a Reply