It’s the same back-to-school madness

January is upon us, and middle-class Kenyans across the republic are choosing where to send their children to school for the next year of suffering and spoon-feeding. Poorer Kenyans don’t have any choice: it’s the public 8-4-4 system for them, until such time as the 8-4-4 is scrapped.

Similarly, the expatriate doesn’t have to worry: his children will all enter the ‘British Curriculum’ schools. His only decision is which school beginning with the letter ‘B’ he should send his pampered offspring to.

Still, some (American) expatriates will choose other routes, such as home-schooling, which is a posh way of saying, ‘A system where a private tutor visits for a few hours a day, leaving the other hours for Playstation 4’.

Home-schooling is more or less nonsense, and poorly-regulated nonsense at that. The expatriate who home-schools his/her child will claim that they’re doing it for ‘holistic’ reasons, for the good of their child who, they claim, needs more ‘arts’ than the 8-4-4 provides. In reality, though, we have to assume that they just don’t want their spoilt kids mixing with Kenyan children.

Or there are the experimental systems, such as the ‘Montessori’ or the ‘Waldorf’. I have no idea what the ‘Waldorf’ is; personally, I always thought this was a type of American salad, but there we are. And Montessori?

Isn’t that something that unprofessional schools just write on their external walls so as to sound knowledgeable and special? I don’t know. Someone once told me that it’s a system based on ‘play’. As far as I’m concerned, proper schools have ‘playtime’ or ‘breaktime’ for ‘play’.

Increasingly, the expatriate might notice that Kenyan parents are opting for something called ‘Accelerated Christian Education’, or ‘ACE’. Again, it would seem that the liberalisation of education in Kenya has led to the popularisation of all sorts of peculiar systems and schools, and perhaps the Ministry of Education needs to do more to make parents aware of the value and concerns surrounding the less established, imported systems of education, many of which might be utterly questionable on social and pedagogical levels, and discredited abroad.

From what I read, ACE won’t help a child to do much except calculate how many animals went onto Noah’s Ark if two giraffes and two elephants entered. Hardly the basis of a secure mathematical education, let alone an education that opens a child’s mind to the value of other faiths.

But there we are: it’s a liberalised sector, and Kenyan parents can take their children to Martian System schools, so far as their rights under the Constitution permit this.

The privileged expatriate watches all this from the security of an ‘international’ school’s ‘castle.’ Let Kenyans do what they will with their children, he arrogantly maintains, so long as I’m safe. Fortunately, it seems that the coming reforms to the 8-4-4 might enable more parents to send their children to mainstream schools, ignoring ACE and the like. Let’s hope so.

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