Towards employable graduates: Kenya mulls dual education system


Patrick Muthomi holds a placard on a street in Nairobi while searching for a job
Patrick Muthomi holds a placard on a street in Nairobi while searching for a job

The precision with which he guides the solder to put together tiny bits and pieces of metal and wires onto an intricately designed motherboard makes this 19-year-old from the Philippines a genius; at least in my eyes.

And as I ask myself how such a young man acquired the skills, “it’s for alternating current,” he quips.

I try to jog my memory and go back to the little to what I remember from my high school physics class. Not much, I must confess. Philip explains that he is training to be an electrical technician.

“Shouldn’t you be in school or college?” I ask.

“But this is part of school. I am a third-year student at the University,” he says as a matter of fact.

Seeing the myriad of questions written all over my face, Philip goes ahead to explain how the dual education system in Germany works.

It is a long story but in summary, it’s a model where a student’s time is equally divided between theoretical learning at the university while at the same time he is placed in an established firm for practical training.

The advantage being that in most cases, the student would be part of the company’s workforce.

This gets me thinking about the Kenyan situation as captured, in a nutshell, by the sight of university graduates holding signboards by the roadside hoping to catch the eye of a C.E.O. These are graduates with masters’ degrees who cannot find jobs.

It also makes me think about the efforts the Ministry of Education and stakeholders are making towards revising the curriculum to align it with 21st-century market needs.

Yes, we have Technical and Vocational Education Training institutions (TVET), which the Ministry of Education is in the process of reviving and changing attitudes towards the same.

“We are undergoing TVET reforms even as we undergo educational reforms. We have established 203 Technical Training Institutes across the country and are looking at having one in every constituency. We also want to have vocational training centres in each of the 1,450 wards,” explains Dr Dinah Mwinzi, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education.

“We need to end the stigma associated with TVET in the country and look at it as a tool towards employable graduates,” says Dr Kevit Desai, board chairman at Linking Industry with Academia (LIWA) Kenya Trust.

These are the reasons a group comprising ministry officials, private sector representatives, association of manufacturers, journalists and foreign affairs ministry representatives are in Germany: to learn how the dual education system works and how to replicate it back home.

Indeed, talks are underway about an “East Africa-Germany University of applied sciences,” the first one of its kind in the region.

“We don’t even need new laws. We only need to implement the existing ones,” says Professor David Some, the Chief Executive Officer of the Commission of University Education.

Of course making the education system work would require the private sector’s cooperation, seeing as the students would need to be placed in companies as they learn and get employed in those companies once they complete their education. Although training such students would be expensive for the private sector, it is seen as a cure to “unemployable” graduates in the long run.

“The student must be tested by the industry to make sure he/she has what the industry needs. This system makes sure we don’t have a mismatch between education and market needs”, says Dr Mwinzi.

“Relevance of skills in education and research depend on private sector and academia coming together. We need to make this a common agenda”, adds Dr Desai.

Indeed the dual system of education seeks to churn out a market force that is responsive to the industry and Vision 2030.

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Story By Faiza Wanjiru
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