Minister for Education Prof Sam Ongeri (left) and Education PS Prof Ole Kiyapi

Four years will soon be the age at which children enter Class One, in a major proposal to strengthen child development.

And county governments will be tasked with ensuring quality education.

In the report, the Education review taskforce says childcare plays an important stage in a child’s growth and should be guided for it to be holistic.

It said formative education had been neglected and that if properly strengthened, early learning would help reduce costs in future.

The report suggests that children spend three years at daycare before moving to pre-primary.

However, parents and members of the community will have the responsibility of establishing baby care centres to ensure all children get the best foundation.

This level, according to the report, will focus on child protection, early learning, play and stimulation, child health and child nutrition. The instruction language will be the local language of the catchment area.

“Pre-primary will provide an opportunity for the development of the learner’s brain, which is most rapid during the first five years of life,” read the report. Education Minister Sam Ongeri said four- and five-year-olds had been neglected and that the recommendation would ensure they were well catered for.

“This will be good investment. If costing is done, it will be cost effective because the foundation will have been laid. This is the obligation of the State,” he said.

If all goes as per plan, all children would leave baby care centres and join pre-primary for about two years, before joining Class One. It is proposed that pre-primary children be taught only subjects that are in line with their growth and memory. “After a curriculum review, these children will be given only a package essential for their age,” said taskforce team chair Douglas Odhiambo.

The curriculum will consist of communication skills, manipulation skills, awareness of the immediate environment and play.

If the report’s findings are adopted, it would mark a major shift from the current practice where children as old as seven years are enrolled in Class One. The proposals, however, mirror findings of the Kenya National Examination Council (Knec) that indicated parents play a role in the failure of their children in national examinations.

Linguistic literacy

The study, ‘Recent Trends in KCPE Participation and Performance and some Implications for Policy 2010’, found that pupils who sat KCPE later than 14 years scored under the average 200 marks. But according to the new proposals, children will sit their first national examinations at age 11.

This will be after six years of study, thanks to the system that proposes two years in Early Childhood Development Education, six in primary, another six at secondary and at least three at university (2-6-6-3).

Those aged between six and eight will study at lower primary as nine to 11 will study in upper primary school.

Speaking at a ceremony to hand over the report, Prof Odhiambo said county governments would be tasked with ensuring that childcare centres are established. He said county education boards would be set up to supervise the implementation of education programmes at county levels.

“The Central government will have the biggest responsibility of ensuring all children receive equal education,” he said.

Prof Ongeri said the Government had made strides to mainstream early childhood learning, but noted that the proposals may have the key to its better realisation.

Under the new education system, teachers will be required to instill life and social skills, national values and encourage interpersonal relationships at a very early age. Children will also be encouraged to develop an independent personality, develop the capacity of treating others with respect and tolerance and accepting similarities and differences.

Mr Mzalendo Kibunjia, the chairman of the National Cohesion and Integration Commission, said if adopted, children would learn to live and respect one another.

The taskforce report said early learning would also encourage linguistic and symbolic literacy and acquaint children with technology and means of communication.

By AUGUSTINE ODUOR, The Standard

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