#EdTechMondays: Equipping and Emphasizing Digital Learning in Schools

Kenya, as a developing nation, has for decades struggled to improve the education system, lagging behind the global surge towards technological integration in learning.

The government made a bold decision in 2017 when it introduced the competency-based curriculum (CBC) in primary schools as a new educational system.

Being a new technology not only to learners but also to teachers and parents, the new learning model that transitioned the Kenyan education system from the traditional system to the new technology received criticism because it seemed to be challenging and hard to implement.

Teachers did not have the skills to equip learners with the new curriculum because they had not received any training regarding the same, something that emerged as a concern in schools.

In September 2022, President William Ruto formed a Presidential Working Party on Education Reforms to develop recommendations that would improve the new education system.

The working party had one role: to address concerns raised by the public about the implementation of the competency-based curriculum.

In July 2023, the presidential working party on education reforms released a report that entailed 20 key recommendations, including reducing primary and junior secondary schools’ learning areas and lessons and introducing new financing plans for tertiary education.

The working party noted in their report that to transform education for sustainable development, Kenya must reform its educational institutions, hold an institutional revolution, and adopt creative ways of teaching and learning. Try to develop skills for organization, research innovation, and intellectual property in TVET and university education.

The February EdTech Mondays Kenya program unveiled a new host, Lilly Bekele-Piper, Ed.M., who hosted two guests on this first show of 2024. EdTech Mondays is a monthly show on NTV Kenya, produced by EdTech East Africa and supported by the Mastercard Foundation. 

The show features different players in the Kenyan EdTech ecosystem, discussing the developments, challenges, and opportunities for technology-enabled teaching and learning in Kenya. 

Dr. Robert Juma, a member of the Presidential Working Party on Education Reforms, said that after the launch of the report last year, they received feedback that learners were happy with the learning areas because the number of subjects was reduced. Teachers were happy because they were trying to cope with the changes.

“The burden has been lessened, and the stakeholders, who are the parents, teachers, and learners, are happy. They are now okay with the changes,” he said.

He said that teacher training has been part of the reforms, and the training and retooling of those teachers has been going on by TSC, which took up the mandate to play that role. Dr. Juma said that the training of the teachers is going on because retooling is not just a one-off thing but an ongoing exercise.

Stephen Gatei, founder and Chief Executive Officer at Mwalimu Connect, an organization that helps in up-skilling, recruiting young teachers, and giving access to school devices at a fee, said that technology comes in handy when it comes to teacher training. At Mwalimu Connect, they have a partnership with Microsoft to deliver up-skilling programs to teachers that involve 21st-century skills. An opportunity for education technology to prepare teachers for either the new changes or continue to empower them to implement the current curriculum.

“We have a model whereby the teachers, it does not matter where they are, can be trained and up-skilled from the comfort of a simple mobile phone; this helps them to be able to trickle down the skills that they have in their classrooms,” Mwalimu Connect CEO Gatei noted.


Embracing Digital Learning Program

In its quest to implement the new technology in schools, the government has trained 70,000 teachers through the Digital Learning Program (DLP). Dr. Juma noted that the government is working towards integrating it within the broader curriculum and emphasizing its skill development.

He said that students can acquire not only technical proficiency but also the ability to navigate the digital world responsibly and ethically, preparing them for success in various aspects of their lives.

Dr. Juma said that the integration process also brings relevance to the new CBC curriculum because the current and future job market demands learners to be well-equipped with skills that are in high demand across various market industries.

On his part, Mwalimu Connect boss Getai said that integrating DLP within the curriculum will help learners be equipped in 360 degrees with today’s skills. They will be able to adapt quickly, identify problems, and solve them.

“On the digital skills, imagine if our learners are equipped with skills from pre-schools and the foundation of education; by the time they are getting to the tertiary level, they will be in a good place to know what is supposed to be done.”

“So I believe we stand a lot to gain with that combination, and looking around, we all talk about problems in our communities. By equipping our learners with these skills, there is a solution to these problems,” Getai noted.

On the landscape of education technology in Kenya, Getai said that he believes that Kenya is on the right track. He said that as a nation, we are progressing well, but there is a need for more training to be done on teachers because it is the teacher who is handling the whole program.

Despite the gains coming with the DLP, Dr. Juma said on his part that there are also losses because when the subjects are combined, there will be depth sacrifice, meaning that the time one would have taken to understand one subject is divided, so less time is devoted to each subject.

“Another thing is teacher expertise; it is a loss because it is hard and challenging to find a teacher who has expertise in computers, business, and other technical subjects. There is also a standardization challenge when it comes to the assessment of learners; coming up with a standard to measure the level of understanding for each learner becomes very difficult, so that one is also a challenge from my point of view,” Dr. Juma noted.


Ceiling the existing gaps

Mwalimu Connect CEO Getai said that Kenya needs infrastructure and that there is already connectivity where schools have electricity installed, and a lot of work is going on to have internet installation in schools, even in remote areas.

He said that the next discussion or step is to have the resources spread across the country, and this includes the devices because, in some of the privileged schools, they can share content among themselves, unlike schools in remote areas.

“The tools are needed, especially the devices; the teacher needs to be skilled so that they can handle the tools,” Getai noted.

On the digital space and tertiary education, one of the mandates of the working party group was to recommend a framework for operationalizing the national open university of Kenya with a framework of open distance e-learning. This is an important option for students because they will be able to access education at the tertiary level, no matter where they are in the country.

Dr. Juma said that Open University proves successful; there is a push to implement similar models at lower levels of education, and this expansion could focus on making quality education more accessible to a broader range of students or learners, especially in remote areas.

He said that the shift towards tests at different education levels presents a transformative opportunity for technology to play a central role in initiating the future of education.

He said that educational technology companies will have the chance to be key players in this transformation by offering innovative solutions, enhanced technology, accessibility, and inclusivity in education across the board.


Way Forward

With the newly established Kenya school teacher education management that will be charged with in-service and training of teachers, Dr. Juma said that this is very important because it will help in the appraisal of teachers on what is expected of them after every given time.

He said that retooling teachers in the digital area is very key.

“Coming up with collaborative learning is a way that will enable teachers to gain these skills and be able to use them with the learners in class. And when it comes to assessment and monitoring, we need to keep them, getting to understand the measure at which they have gained the experience so that they can be in the right position to impact the same on the learners,” Dr. Juma noted.

On teacher training, he said several tools need to be used, and these include digital training platforms, webinars, and virtual workshops. This will allow them to learn even when they are in school.

He said that there should be the implementation of discussion forums and collaboration tools within the digital platform to encourage communication and knowledge.

According to Mwalimu Connect CEO Mr. Getai, recommendations by the working party team present new opportunities that will help in creating employment in the EdTech space. They should be able to think outside the box, be creative, look at the problems around them, and come up with solutions.

In the EdTech space, the CEO said that they need a lot of collaboration so that they may be able to come up with solutions that will better the EdTech space.

Among the participants at the 2024 Pwani EdTech Summit was Muthoni Gakwa, the interim executive director at Metis. She chimed in with her thoughts on the Presidential Working Party on Education Reforms, saying that the outcome was very interesting because the government is aware that it is impossible for one person to implement education reforms alone and that other players in the ecosystem must work together to achieve that learning outcome.

“The government is acknowledging that this is a big piece for us to achieve the education reforms that we are aiming for. The fact that the government is willing to collaborate with other practitioners like EdTech and all organizations that are working to improve learning systems to just scale this and impact the learning outcome is really interesting to me, and I hope that there will be implementation to that effect. These will enable us to achieve this collective impact of creating a world where learners thrive and have tangible learning outcomes,” she noted.

On her part, Mourine Ondicho, research and program officer at IREX, said that there are so many opportunities, and one is to look at what is working in the regions because what may work in Mombasa might not work in Kajiado or Homabay. Therefore, they need to focus on what is working and also network with several people so that they can share success stories for people to be able to adapt to different areas and different regions, especially when they come together from different areas of life.

She said that there are educators, researchers, policymakers, and donors in the space who are working together to ensure that EdTech succeeds in several ways.



About the author

Aura Ruth is a communication consultant, a storyteller, and a writer. She is a journalist working with Radio Africa Group, where she writes for The Star Newspaper. She writes general human interest stories with a focus on health, the environment, and education. 

Email: auraruth8@gmail.com website: https://muckrack.com/aura-ruth 

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