Chris Khaemba, Co-Founder of Nova Academies and former head of Alliance and African Leadership Academy, gives keynote speech about 21st Century Learning in Kenya.

Chris Khaemba, Co-Founder of Nova Academies and former head of Alliance and African Leadership Academy, gives keynote speech about 21st Century Learning in Kenya.

 

With the accelerated pace of global and technological change, experts predict that nearly half of today’s jobs will be obsolete in twenty years. Educators in Kenya and around the world have become increasingly aware that the current education systems are no longer adequately serving their students, who will graduate into a very different world than the generations before them.

On Friday, October 23rd, experienced educators from across Nairobi gathered at the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development for a roundtable to address this issue and discuss the future of 8-4-4 education.

The forum was hosted by Nova Academies, a pan-African network of schools that prepares students with the critical thinking skills and character development that they need to become leaders and innovators. (Nova operates two schools in South Africa and will launch its first Nairobi campus in January).

The event kicked off with a keynote speech from Chris Khaemba, Nova Academies co-founder and former head of Alliance and the African Leadership Academy. He galvanized the group by addressing the importance of transforming education to meet the needs of today’s rapidly changing world, and challenged this group of top educators to do more to bring new practices into their 8-4-4 classrooms. Khaemba emphasized practices he introduced at the African Leadership Academy, such as students designing and leading small businesses, a practice which is built in to the Nova Academies model as well.

From there, a spirited discussion about how to integrate 21st Century learning into the 8-4-4 curriculum ensued. The topics ranged from the most cutting edge research of how students learn, to strategies that can be used in the classroom to help students discover their unique abilities. “As educators, we must ask ourselves how we are addressing all of the different talents in the classroom,” remarked Patricia Echessa-Kariuki, Head Teacher at Rusinga School. Peter Ndun’gu, from Aga Khan, delivered a stimulating presentation on how educators can achieve that goal through inquiry-based learning.  “Inquiry-based learning is about nurturing a student’s innate curiosity,” Mr. Ndun’gu explained, “but we’ve structured curiosity out of the classroom.” From the number of nodding heads, it’s clear that many in the audience agreed.

The participants challenged the common wisdom that best practices like inquiry-based learning cannot be applied in the Kenyan national curriculum. They agreed that while the national curriculum determines what material must be covered and how it is assessed, there is a wide scope for innovation in how the material is actually delivered.

This sentiment was echoed by the innovative companies that were brought into the discussion, including Equity Bank and Eneza, who agreed that more needs to be done to equip graduates with the leadership development, 21st century skills, and technology and engineering training they need to shape their country’s future.

Taking advantage of the expertise in the room, the group also discussed how to prepare students not only to lead innovative companies, but also to launch innovative companies. “We must engender student-centered entrepreneurial spirit,” Said Mrs. Echessa-Kariuki of Rusinga, “Students must be thinking about how they can change the world.” Charles Tsuma, Principal of Nova Academies, talked about the importance of building a resilient attitude when challenges present themselves, and how to encourage young people to not be afraid of failure. “No breakthrough innovation has come to fruition without the many failed attempts that led to that success. Failure is something that should be embraced – it is an opportunity to learn more next time.”

This roundtable was the first of its kind and all participants agreed that continuing the dialogue as a group would be deeply important to transforming the educational system to meet the needs of the next generation of Kenyans.

“Change is hard, and no one school can do this alone. Innovation of this magnitude requires a group effort,” said Oliver Sabot, Managing Director at Nova Academies. “There’s a perception out there that private schools are competing, and therefore shouldn’t be sharing information and ideas. The reason for this forum today is that not only do we think private schools can collaborate, we think that they must.” Sabot continued by sharing that Nova would be making that the materials it develops in its new approach to 8-4-4 education would be “open source” and therefore freely available to other schools and teachers around the country to use and adapt (initial materials were shared with participants at the end of the session).

Kenya has long been known for the best education on the continent, and this group that met at the inaugural Roundtable demonstrated their commitment to continuing to collaborate to ensure Kenya leads not only Africa but the world in education innovation for decades to come.

For more on Nova Academies, visit their website at www.novaacademies.com

For resources on inquiry-based learning in 8-4-4 schools and for other materials shared at the session, please contact Natalie Coleman at ncoleman@novaacademies.com.

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