By Farah Mulji
Higher education is a key factor in a nation’s effort to develop a highly skilled workforce for competing in the global economy. In a developing nation like Kenya, an effective formal higher education system is essential for national development. The demand for higher institution of learning in Kenya has increased in the past few decades. This can generally be attributed to the acknowledgement that globalization has created tremendous impact on higher education in the twenty-first century.
Since independence, Kenya has experienced phenomenal growth in university education with the public and private sectors growing side by side and complementing each other in the drive to make higher education more accessible in the country. The growth in the number of public and private institutions of higher learning (universities) in Kenya has been accompanied by an impressive growth in student enrolments and a rise in new courses offered.
From the broader perspective, the expansion of university education can be understood mainly within the context of the undue emphasis that governments, the world over, have placed on education in general and on university education in particular as an engine of socio-economic growth and development.
Additionally, there has been pressure originating from a changing global higher educational landscape has had an impact on the delivery of educational services due to economic, technological, political, cultural, and scientific trends placing new demands on Kenya’s education system.
As a result, the education system in Kenya has increased its investment in higher learning institutions in research and development (R&D) activities with potential to foster growth in a globalized know ledge economy.
Yet with all this investment, Kenya still faces a dilemma: there are striking skills shortages in many sectors critical to the country’s economic prosperity. But how does this make sense in a country where unemployment is rife, even among graduates? The answer is that there is a mismatch between the skills needed and the skills being acquired by students at tertiary level.
Kenya is one of the youngest and fastest growing economies in the Sub-Saharan region, with a rapidly growing population and expanding labour force. As a result, the demand for education is becoming increasingly important to improve careers and acquire better jobs.
A recent study by online learning portal Educartis suggests that learners are seeing the light. The subject categories most searched for by students on the platform indicates the areas students are most interested in pursuing as careers. In many areas, there is a match between sectors with skills shortages and the courses that are being investigated.
For instance, the Information Technology sector faces such a shortage of skilled workers that Kenyan software firms often outsource work to foreign labour or must invest in training fresh graduates. Both scenarios increase operating costs and do-little combat unemployment.
Fortunately, learners are realizing where employment opportunities exist. Computer Science and IT is the field with the second most interest from students, showing an encouraging alignment between education and opportunity. Educartis’ data also suggests actions taken on the part of the government to disseminate information on the mismatch issue seems to be having the desired effect. While the data paints an optimistic outlook, there are still sectors where more engagement from learners could see benefits to both industry and job-seekers.
Another change witnessed today in the education sector in the recent years is in the area of actual teaching. Thanks to technological advances institutions of higher learning now provide personalized instruction for learners suited to their individual needs, rather than having to rely on the old way of delivering lessons in a single, prescribed way that all students had to cope with.
With the introduction of this portal, the idea of learning never ends and as more and more Kenyans look to move to the next level of their career, the portal gives you’re a myriad of opportunities to upskill in whatever field. Now, with customized teaching, educators can use a variety of learning methods to tailor activities to their students. As an example, on top of the rise in traditional online courses and other adaptive learning programs are now available which can be used to increase the knowledge and skills of students at all levels.
For instance, we all know the hurdle that learners go through when trying to pick up a course. They are bombarded with humongous information hence picking a professional course sometimes becomes a herculean task.
However, with a portal where all this information can be found, makes it easier for learners to connect and pick up information easily. This is the future of education. Where all information that a learner needs is at a one stop shop.
The writer is the CEO and Co-founder of Educartis– an online education platform for institutions and learners across the continent.