Plans are on to have all universities in the region rationalise all the programmes and courses they offer through the adoption of Competency Based Education (CBE). This builds on the 2016 agreement by East African Community Heads of State that declared the EAC a Common Higher Education Area (CHEA).
Officials of the Inter-University Council of East Africa (IUCEA) extolled the virtues of the CBE system, saying it will ensure that regional universities meet the changing needs of school leavers and enable college graduates to compete in the current changing labour market. They were meeting in Nairobi recently for the annual general meeting.
“There are growing concerns about unemployed young graduates from universities in the region,” said Gaspard Banyankimbona, the executive secretary, IUCEA, adding that “the quality of learning, the reputation, the relevance of courses and preparedness of students for the labour market are very critical.”
The competency based curriculum development approach increasingly requires the organisation of training in three main areas: At the higher education institution, in industries and in incubation centres or start-ups.
“Training in industries is linked to employability while training in incubation centres or start-ups is intended to promote self-employment mainly through entrepreneurship,” said Prof Banyankimbona.
He wants university education to focus more on the development of technical, technological, digital and information skills required for industrialisation and new labour markets.
“Previously, universities were expected to produce graduates imparted with new frontiers of knowledge and learning outcomes that would make them managers in the production sector,” said Prof Banyankimbona.
He said universities must therefore adopt the CBE, which was traditionally considered only relevant for technical and vocational education and training to produce middle cadre technical graduates needed by the low-skills productive sector.
Speaking at the meeting as chairperson of the EAC Council of Ministers, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary, EAC and Regional Development Adan Mohamed said, “The Competency Based Education touches on the nerve not just for Kenya but the entire East African Community.”
“We must shift from academic-based learning to skills-based learning to address the socio-economic challenges of our countries,” said Mr Mohamed, adding that this was the only way the region can become self-reliant, reduce unemployment, foster student and labour mobility and harness resources for the good of our people.
“I challenge higher education institutions not to just be victims of change, but to also impact change by producing graduates who are flexible and proactive in their response to changing times. This is the only way they will create an impact in our economies,” said Mr Mohamed.
He said the IUCEA, a strategic institution of the EAC responsible for the development of higher education, is well placed to drive such a shift and help steer policy direction towards educational reforms required to produce graduates with requisite skills for the socio-economic transformation of the EAC.
“The emergence of new technologies has drastically changed the landscape of the demands of skills in the production sector, which needs graduates with competencies that would match the dynamic trends of the industry and societies at large,” said Prof Banyankimbona.
“We are advocating for a paradigm shift in higher education institutions to make their curriculum produce empowered graduates for self-job creation or who will readily fit into the needs of the labour market and the society in general,” he added.
The IUCEA wants the core and traditional functions of universities to shift from what is referred to as Education 3.0, which is (1.0 Teaching; 2.0 Research; and 3.0 Community Outreach) to 5.0 (1.0 Teaching; 2.0 Research; 3.0 Community Outreach; 4.0 Innovation; and 5.0 Industrialisation).
“Education 5.0 is a new doctrine of education that considers the important symbiotic relationship between education, industry and the society in which the three co-exist. This new doctrine which is under implementation in Zimbabwe is intertwined with Competency Based Education,” said Prof Banyankimbona.
In 2016, EAC Heads of States meeting in Dar es Salaam, declared the EAC as a Common Higher Education Area. This means national higher education and training systems are to operate and are guided by the common regional framework under which curricula, examinations and certification as well as academic and professional qualifications, and the quality of the educational and training output in higher education would be harmonised.
This is in addition to the Standards and Qualifications rolled out in 2015 by the East African Community, which each university in the region is expected to adhere to.
Kenya has already recommended that universities rationalise all the programmes and courses they offer to ensure they are adequately prepared for the admission of the first cohort of students who complete a competency-based school curriculum to enter higher education in 2029.
Under the new curriculum, learners will spend two years in pre-primary education, six in primary, three in junior secondary, three in senior secondary school and another three years in university.
A Ministry of Education taskforce has already recommended the rationalisation to ensure a relatively seamless transition from basic education to technical and vocational education and training (TVET) institutions and universities.