Home | Education & Books | Who Should Control What Children Are Taught: Government or Parents/Children?

Who Should Control What Children Are Taught: Government or Parents/Children?

Font size: Decrease font Enlarge font
Posters inside Schools are Curricula. Regulations can subject every decision a school makes to Government approval.  Posters inside Schools are Curricula. Regulations can subject every decision a school makes to Government approval.

‘’A radical review of primary and secondary schools curriculum that will give the Government total control of what is taught in these institutions is under way. It will be mandatory for all schools to present their syllabus to the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) for approval,” two reported statements read. The constitution on the other hand reads Article 33 (1), “Every person has the right to freedom of expression, which includes— (a) freedom to seek, receive or impart information or ideas; (b) freedom of artistic creativity; and (c) academic freedom and freedom of scientific research.” The question that follows is: Who should control what children are taught: Government or Parents/Children?

Government Role in Children’s Education

Kenya Constitution Article 53 (1) states, “Every child has the right–– (b) to free and compulsory basic education.” The government based on this law has the responsibility to ensure that every child receives free basic education as their right. Currently the term, ‘’basic education,” is not clearly defined. No one knows whether it is 8 primary years or 12 years (8 primary and 4 High School). The second definition of basic education is the Curriculum which the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) has a role in creation. Currently Kenya has this system where all public and private schools in Kenya enroll, educate on the current curriculum that results to testing during National Examinations after 8 years primary school and 4 years of Secondary school.   

Parents Role in Children’s Education

A parent’s responsibility to educate their child is today a choice between public and private education system offered by the government and entrepreneurs. The public system is the minimum basic system and many a time free. The private system on the other hand is controlled by a parent’s decision through ability to part with money. Where a parent can only afford to take a child to a public school created to meet the constitutional right, then the parent should educate the child this way. The child would get the (KICD) basic curriculum requirement and tests. However, if an entrepreneur creates a school and brings in more resources that lead to a child getting the basic and other curricula courses, the question becomes: Is it the responsibility of the government to decide what extra education this child will get or is it the parents and child’s decision? Let's consider an entrpreneur who decides to teach dangers of drinking alcohol even through creation of a poster to hung in school. Who should regulate this curriculum: Is it the government that also benefits from exercise tax from every drink consumed, the alcohol industry or the parent and child? A private school’s responsibility to the country should be to meet the basic curriculum set by parents, industries and developed through Government and whatever each school thereafter adds becomes the parents and students decision based on Article 33 (1).    

Balance Between Constitution Rights Article 53 and Article 33

Reported Statement: “Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang yesterday warned local and foreign schools administering unapproved curriculum that they would be closed down. Dr Kipsang said what is taught to Kenyan children must be vetted and approved by KICD. “If there is any institution that is already offering such unapproved content then they should have been closed down already.” 

Education Principal Secretary should balance between the two rights that guide education. On one side the government’s right that creates the basic education per constitution article 52 and on the other side the right to freedom of knowledge acquisition as per the constitution, article 33. Whereas the constitution gave the government the responsibility to ensure basic education is achieved for all children; the constitution gave each child, parent and entrepreneurs the rights in article 33, “Every person has (a) freedom to seek, receive or impart information or ideas; (b) freedom of artistic creativity; and (c) academic freedom and freedom of scientific research.”

The P.S should also consider that private schools are also set up by religious organizations, these organizations may have part of their curriculum based on religion. Thus if a student is going to enroll in say a catholic private school and part of the curriculum is teaching the bible, the Government by regulating religious teachings could be subjected to religious rights violation or even accused of making a religious state if they approve one curriculum and reject another.  This is per Constitution Article 32 (2) Every person has the right, either individually or in community with others, in public or in private, to manifest any religion or belief through worship, practice, teaching or observance, including observance of a day of worship. And Constitution Article 8. There shall be no State religion.

Education Entrepreneurship 

Reported Statement: “These include private academies and high cost international schools that have not had their curriculum regulated but which, authorities say, would be shut down if they failed to comply. KICD has drafted regulations that will be presented to Parliament for approval once the House reconvenes next year.” 

If this statement is true then Jubilee Government through legislation would have a fundamental change of the exercise of Sovereign power without changing the constitution. This bill in the education sector would create a Government sovereign nation in place of a People Sovereign nation. Kenya Constitution Article 1 (2) states “The people may exercise their sovereign power either directly or through their democratically elected representatives.” All private schools today that are open and are operation are governed by this constitution article and words, “People may exercise their sovereign power directly.” Today each school operating is governed by the agreements, interests and commitments entered between the school administrators, the parents and the children based on constitution Article 1 (2). For the schools to be forced to shut down Constitution Article 1 (2) would have to be changed to remove the word, “directly,” to read, “The people may exercise their sovereign power through their democratically elected representatives.” In this case a country becomes a Government Sovereign State where all laws, rules come from those government constituted and the citizens have no right to directly chose what they desire as individuals should be.     

Academic Freedom and Freedom of Scientific Research

Reported Statement: “The KICD Act also says that any person who purports to develop any curriculum in respect of any institution shall have committed an offence and “shall be liable to conviction for a period not exceeding three years or a fine not exceeding one million shillings or both.” The Act says that no person shall develop or implement any curriculum or curriculum materials in respect to any education institution to which the Act applies.” 

When the constitution gives the right of academic freedom and freedom of scientific research to a person, what does this mean?  Condoleezza Rice, who as Secretary of State would come to Kenya early 2008 to aid in ending the post-election violence, accomplished her first degree by the age of 19 years due to academic freedom. A curriculum regulated by government could mean the earliest a person can attain a degree is say 23 years. Many students gifted like this lady would likely not have success based on the KICD Act that regulates academic freedom. However, an act is not more powerful than the Kenya Constitution and many Kenyans will challenge this Act as infringing on their rights of academic freedom and freedom of scientific research. The fact is human beings’ brains are different, some advance faster than others while others require more training. When a Government body comes between students, parents, and education entrepreneurs trying to advance academic freedom and freedom of scientific research then they should be told they are acting unconstitutionally. The only motive that a government of the day would control education curriculum is captured by the words of Lord Brougham: “Education makes a people easy to lead, but difficult to drive; easy to govern, but impossible to enslave.” When Government inspects what is taught then this makes those taught easy to drive and easy to be enslaved. Freedom in education and indeed press is what enables citizens to enslave themselves from poverty, disease and hunger.         

Parents & Children Rights

Reported Statement: "Any school teaching our children must have the right curriculum,” said Nathan Barasa, the chair of Kenya National Parents and Teachers Association.

Whereas every child is born a free person with independent individual rights given by God and guaranteed by constitution; God and indeed Kenya constitution gives the parents the first rights to protect and act in the best interests of a child. Constitution Article 53 (1) states, “Every child has the right–– (e) to parental care and protection, which includes equal responsibility of the mother and father to provide for the child, whether they are married to each other or not.” The first obligation of the wellbeing of a child is with the parent. While the government’s role is that of setting the minimum standard for every child; the parent’s obligation is providing the maximum and best standard achievable for their child. Where a parent is compelled to ensure their child gets compulsory basic education; the government’s responsibility is to define the basic education.  However, the parent’s responsibility is not limited to just basic but the best education possible over and above the basic. This is what leads to entrepreneurs setting up schools. When a parent decides to pay for their child’s education in a private school and the child accepts it; the decision made by the parent and child should not be subjected to government approval if these citizens made the decision without influence. The pursuit of education for children should only be regulated to protect them from harm and not to control their pursuit of education. Kenya today has an estimated 13 million students in schools from about 14 million parents and another 6 million grandparents; Nathan cannot speak for all. If Nathan Barasa wants to stop parents from exercising their constitution right in any school today created he should file a legal case against the parents taking children to private schools based on wrong curriculum and not cheer on in condemnation of private institutions. Again the ministry and KICD should be careful not to infringe on the rights of an individual parent, children and any citizen exercising their constitutional rights.   

Child’s Interest

Reported Statement “Education Permanent Secretary Belio Kipsang yesterday warned local and foreign schools administering unapproved curriculum that they would be closed down. Dr Kipsang said that what is taught to Kenyan children must be vetted and approved by KICD. “If there is any institution that is already offering such unapproved content then they should have been closed down already.”  

Kenya constitution article 53 (2) sates, “A child’s best interests are of paramount importance in every matter concerning the child.” Today the capacity created for education both by private and public schools does not meet 100% enrolment in primary education. In high school the enrolment falls to about 75%. Further compared to best standards of ratio of students to teachers probably just a couple of schools have reached the level of developed nations. If the schools created by private sector especially the international schools close and even one Kenyans child’s best interests were not taken to consideration; the Principal Secretary could be sued by the child for violating the child’s constitutional right as guaranteed by Constitution Article 53 (2).    

Regulations Can Deny Opportunity, Violate Property Rights & Create Corrupt Systems

Reported Statement “It will be mandatory for all schools to present their syllabus to the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) for approval!”

Let's assume an entrepreneur like say Oprah Winfrey, who set up a girls school in South Africa, has employed a consultant to shop around so she can open another school in an African country. If the consultant when doing their reaserch reads these statements in an article, the next question the consultant will silently ask is: How hard will it be to get a curriculum approved? If the consultant then sees a law in another African country that simply reads: “All private schools must teach the minimum basic curriculum provided by the government and register students to be tested in national examinations offered by the government. Private schools shall not be limited to teach students to apply for other tests or to advance their creativity, art, or passion provided the students pass the basic curriculum and the parents or guardians approve the curriculum offered and the curriculum complies to the constitution." The consultant after reading these two statements would likely give an opinion like: "Even though your first choice was Kenya, I think this other African Country offers better laws that encourage entrepreneurship, do not infringe on Intellectual property rights and further do not encourage corruption. If you choose Kenya you should be prepared to be limited in freedom of advancement. Indeed this law reminds me of the scene in the movie “Cry Freedom,” starring Whoopi Goldberg, Denzel Washington and Kline. You should watch the scenes of limitations by government through regulating the curriculum. This approval system also creates a room for corruption.” When one states all schools shall present their syllabus for approval, this regulation opens the chance for corruption, denies freedom and can lead to Intellectual property rights infringement. 

Kenya Constitution in article 11 states “(2) The State shall— (c) promote the intellectual property rights of the people of Kenya.” Many regulations if not carefully crafted can lead to violation of intellectual property rights. All private schools are created with some intellectual property rights. Every entrepreneur who assembles capital to start a private school and opens a school has to create an intellectual answer that is acceptable to the parents they require who shall ask: “Why should I bring my child to your school and pay rather than take them to public school?” This answer is normally based on the curriculum system of the school. This curriculum is the intellectual property of the entrepreneur taking a risk to advance education and economic growth.  

Conclusion

Government role should be to set the basic curriculum to be applied by all schools operating in Kenya and thereafter the education system should be driven by academic freedom where parents, children and innovative ideas can improve on curricula without being subject to unnecessary regulations. However, regulations should be there on safety standards and enforcement of agreements made through the judicial system.  

Article Referenced: State plans Sh6 billion radical review of schools’ curriculum


 

DUT
  • email Email to a friend
  • print Print version
  • Plain text Plain text
Tags
No tags for this article
Rate this article
0