The first batch to complete Kenya’s new Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC) level is now in Junior Secondary Schools (JSS). JSS is intended to prepare students for higher education and equip them with life skills.
In Kenya, junior secondary education is offered to students aged 12 to 15, covering grades seven to nine. Already, junior secondary education has had its fair share of challenges.
The system is strapped for cash and has a high teacher-student ratio, and access to quality education is limited.
But there are also opportunities to improve the quality of junior secondary education in Kenya. These include preparing students for higher education, developing critical thinking and problem-solving skills, and integrating technology in education.
The Challenges Affecting Junior Secondary Schools in Kenya
Perhaps as the Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu released the results of some 1.2 million learners that will be pioneers for the Junior Secondary Schools, he had no grasp of the magnitude of the task ahead. Towards the tail end of last year (2022), the Ministry of Education confirmed that the KPSEA assessment would not be the basis for placing learners in junior secondary. Instead, they’d be domiciled in existing primary schools. The decision was a stop-gap solution after a recommendation by the task force formed by President Ruto.
Many schools lack proper infrastructure and classroom facilities, which can negatively affect the quality of education. A lack of adequate teaching materials and resources can hinder students’ learning experience.
Schools in rural areas, in particular, face significant challenges in accessing resources and funding, leading to disparities in the quality of education between urban and rural areas.
Also, Junior secondary education in Kenya has a high teacher-student ratio. In overcrowded classrooms, especially in public schools, students don’t get individualized attention. The result is increased teacher workload and lower student achievement.
The government has tried to ease the burden by recruiting more teachers and training the existing ones, but it doesn’t come close to solving the problem.
Lastly, the education quality of the new system is lagging. Low enrollment rates in some regions and disparities in access to education between urban and rural areas are significant concerns. The limited resources and infrastructure in some disadvantaged areas can lead to lower quality of education.
Perhaps the term ‘a herculean task’ can somewhat describe Junior Secondary Schools’ current situation. But there’s always a silver lining!
Certainly, there are opportunities to improve the quality of junior secondary education in Kenya by preparing students for higher education. Junior secondary education can provide students with a strong foundation in subjects such as mathematics, science, and language, which are essential for success in higher education. Early exposure to these subjects can help students identify their strengths and interests. These are necessary to guide the student’s future academic and career choices.
Junior secondary education has the potential to develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Students at this level are at a crucial stage in their cognitive development, and teaching methods that emphasize critical thinking and problem-solving skills can significantly impact their intellectual growth. Project-based learning and group work are effective strategies for developing these skills and can benefit students inside and outside the classroom.
Finally, integrating technology into education can improve the quality of junior secondary education in Kenya. Technology can enhance student learning by providing interactive and engaging resources and facilitating communication between teachers and students. Successful examples of technology integration in Kenyan junior secondary schools include tablets and e-learning platforms.
Junior secondary school has a lot of challenges, but it is promising. A lot of concerted effort from the government and stakeholders is necessary to ensure its success.