Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Article on Kenyan Education System

The article below was published in a Kenyan newspaper during a time of violent upheaval in Kenya. After the December 2007 elections, which were suspected to be rigged, there were riots and many people died or were displaced. The lead opposition candidate and the incumbent president both accused the other of wrongdoing, fueling hatred between the two tribes to which they belong and further aggravating the situation. The article raises the question, that if, in situations of turmoil, educated people chose violence as a means as much as those who have no education, then there must be wrong with the education system.

Please feel free to comment on the article or relate it back to your own experiences. Comments do not have to be about Kenya, but just your thoughts and opinions on the education system in general or in your own country.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Kenya’s education system needs to produce thinkers

Kenya’s education system needs to produce thinkers Print E-mail
Written by Laila Macharia

(Printed in Business Day Africa carries a selection of stories from the newspaper Business Daily, published out of Nairobi by the Nation Media Group.)
Laila Macharia
March 12, 2008:
The political and social upheaval of recent months has its roots in a flawed education system. Although our nation has invested billions in it, once passions are inflamed, there appears to be no difference between the illiterate and the well-schooled.

Those advancing flawed and self-serving theories, forwarding hate e-mail and stereotyping entire tribes were teachers, journalists, bankers, doctors, lawyers and engineers.

Our curricula, starting in primary school right through university, must be urgently overhauled to incorporate critical thinking — intellectual humility, substantiation, fair-mindedness, logic, tolerance for ambiguity and confidence in reason. Instead of rote learning (memorisation of facts), Kenyans must be taught to think.

The mature thinker works hard to discipline her own mind. Vigilant against flaws in reasoning, she is keenly aware that human beings, including herself, have blind spots, prejudices, biases, distortions and vested interest.

So, she practices intellectual civility which tolerates contrasting views and considers the rights of others. She is not intellectually lazy, clarifies premises, advances argument systematically and doesn’t over-simplify issues. She is intellectually honest and doesn’t twist herself into a noodle to win an argument that appears increasingly weak.

The first casualty of critical thinking is propaganda, which presents facts selectively towards a biased conclusion to provoke an emotional rather than rational response. On the campaign trail, for instance, the “We are being finished” message typically emphasises certain facts while omitting others to whip up audiences into a froth of fury.

The critical thinker is well-equipped to detect and debunk such messages, stripping them of their power. He will scrutinise the evidence supporting statement and its context, examine the motives of the speaker, whether the statement is balanced or seems incomplete or distorted, and if the language chosen is inflammatory or superlative. Skeptical of generalities, this mature thinker will challenge words like ‘always’ and ‘never’ and sniff out myths and stereotypes.

Had adult Kenyans been deliberately taught to think, the propaganda that fuelled the post-election violence would have fallen on barren ground and withered.

A democracy is, by definition, a marketplace of ideas.

With recent advances in communication, any given ideology, no matter how dubious, spreads like bushfire. We cannot handle these freedoms responsibly unless trained to use our minds to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Dr Macharia writes on institutional reform, with a focus on infrastructure and urban development. laila.macharia@gmail.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Thursday, March 13, 2008

We are in the Daily!

REACH continues to gain steam and I am just blown away. We had a really great Mixer with representatives from Stanford student groups and Bay Area organizations doing education development work in Kenya and Bangladesh - thanks to all the great feedback you all provided.

It was definitely invigorating to see how excited other people were about REACH and what could be done but I was not expecting for it to generate so much publicity on the general campus. One of the attendees wrote a brilliant editorial on what we are about - thank you Stanford Daily - and since then people have been randomly stopping us asking questions to know more about education in the developing world - way for all of us to REACH!

This is exactly why REACH hopes to collaborate intensively with the many fantastic groups already at work in our community and around the world - the support we have received thus far would have been impossible without you all!


Sunday, March 2, 2008

Inaugural Post

I am really excited - the first post on the REACH Blog! With growing members and a successful Mixer under our wing it is only fitting that cyberspace joins our mission.

One of the most amazing things about working at the helm of this movement is being able to see first hand what a little good idea and a whole lot of hard work (plus a significant number of merciful blessings) can produce.

In the early summer, REACH in its entirety was a couple of ideas on three college students' word processors - today, it is a student group with community partners in multiple countries around the world, a campus-wide awareness campaign in the works and - the thing I am most excited about - an upcoming fundraising extravaganza (I'm trying desperately not to keep my mouth shut but keep posted for details)...

Is it the power of an idea...or the power of people's hard work...or something more? And to what heights will we go from here?