How Microsoft’s Policy Innovation Centre will help create a future-ready workforce in Kenya   




Kenya’s education sector is currently undergoing a transformation. A new curriculum, which has undergone a pilot in some 470 schools country-wide, with 10 from each of the country’s 47 counties, will replace the current education system when schools re-open in January 2018.

The 8-4-4 system, which has been used since 1985, is set to be replaced with the new 2-6-3-3-3 curriculum. The new system has three stages: Early years (consisting of Pre-primary 1 to Grade 3); Middle-school (comprising of Grades 4 to 9); and finally, Senior school (running from Grade 10 to 12).

The new education system, developed and designed by the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD), was guided by various local and international policies. These include the provision of free and compulsory basic education that is reformed to inculcate interest and skills in science, technology, and innovation as well as environmental concerns for the development of a prosperous economy.

 

(TOP: From left – Dr Vincent Ogutu, Deputy VC, Strathmore; Amr Kamel, Microsoft GM, WEAC region; and Edwin Macharia, partner and Regional Director of Africa at Dalberg Advisors after signing the MoU establishing the PIC). 

And to further help and contribute to the country’s efforts around policy development in education among other sectors, Microsoft launched its Policy Innovation Centre (PIC) at Strathmore Business School. The PIC, hosted by Starthmore University’s Law School, aims to provide a forum to promote dialogue around policy issues that affect current development challenges in the world as highlighted by United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

A key SDG here is goal number 8 which seeks to “promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all,” something that can only be achieved through the acquisition of relevant education and skills by those joining the job market.

Apart from Strathmore University, Microsoft’s other partner in the PIC is Dalberg – a global consultancy firm whose mission is to raise living standards in developing countries.

Microsoft has provided all equipment and work on the design for the auditorium facility, aimed at providing an immersive experience to students, participants and visitors. Microsoft will also provide software, solutions and training for the implementation of the project. The Policy and Innovation Centre will be equipped with Office 365, providing users with productivity tools, to enhance their day-to-day experience.

As a response to the technological trends as well as the use of ICTs in education and learning, the government has since early last year been distributing tablets to schools as part of the Digital Literacy Programme (DLP), commonly known as the school laptops project. The aim of the program is to enhance learning through the use of digital technologies, with the focus being on online content and not devices.

The above initiatives (or projects) – that is the curriculum review; the disbursement of tablets to schools as well as Microsoft’s Policy Innovation Centre – are all intended to ensure that students graduating from Kenya’s institutions are well-equipped for the challenges and realities of the current job market.

And through them, the government and other partners involved are responding to concerns – and persistent murmurs from potential employers – that graduates lack relevant skills.

A 2014 article published in The EastAfrican, for example, quoted a study conducted by the Inter-University Council for East Africa (IUCEA) and the East African Business Council (EABC) to establish employers’ perceptions of graduates which showed that more than 50 per cent of university graduates are “half-baked as they lack basic workplace proficiencies,” noting that students are graduating before they attain “basic and technical skills required in the job market”.

“Universities in the East African region are producing a theoretical, unskilled and unpractical labour force… Employers told us that graduates lack self-confidence at work, they can’t translate the knowledge they got in universities into work and they normally wait to be told what to do,” Mayunga Nkunya, executive secretary of IUCEA, said during the higher education quality assurance forum in Arusha, according to The EastAfrican.

The above goes to show that policies around education still need to be reworked, in order for them to be aligned and be made relevant to current workplace realities and requirements. And this is the reason why initiatives – and facilities – like the Policy Innovation Centre are crucial as they’ll help to spur the country’s digital transformation of the education sector and subsequently, the future workforce.




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