In Kenya, studying for a degree online is becoming more acceptable as many degree courses become available through local Universities. Students study online content and then meet the lecturers at designated times for face-to-face lessons and exams. This is making tertiary education cheaper and more accessible to students.
However, studying for a basic education online is a very new and strange concept in Kenya for primary and high school students. Nevertheless, online schools offering basic education are now available in Kenya. This is the future of education as more and more parents embrace the concept for the following reasons given below.
It is cheaper
The Cambridge British curriculum is now available in Kenya through CambriLearn.com. There are many private international schools in Kenya which offer this curriculum. However, their school fees are usually too high for most Kenyans. This is because teaching staff are specifically trained by Cambridge in the UK and sometimes, they hire expatriate teachers who are highly paid. In most cases, what a parent pays per student for one term in a private International school is what they would pay for a year with CambriLearn.
The impact of this is that now more Kenyans can afford to give their child an international education. And many parents who have been struggling to pay the high school fees can now relax and comfortably afford to pay for the same education online. CambriLearn’s online platform can be used in a school, tutor center or in a homeschool. This also means that even schools that offer the Kenyan National curriculum can now offer the Cambridge International curriculum as a second option for parents. All they need is a computer lab and some teachers, and the programme will run.
Education is individualised
With CambriLearn, a student studies at their own pace through written text, teaching videos, illustrations and animations until the content is mastered. Studying individually has a higher success rate than learning in a classroom with a group of students. Students in a classroom have to maintain the same pace whether they grasp the content or not because the teacher moves on to the next concept when the time allocated is completed. If a student is slow, they are left behind; if a student is fast, they have to wait for the others.
The students who are left behind have to go for further tuition lessons after school or in the holidays to keep up with the class pace. This causes discouragement in many students and the stigma of being ‘slow’ breaks down the student’s self-esteem. In the long run, a student becomes disinterested in academic studies and gives up hope of ever achieving their dreams. Studying individually at one’s own pace, gives every student a chance to do their best and achieve their goals and dreams.
Wholistic education – less time on academics
When a student studies individually, they generally cover more subject content than they would have if learning in a group. What can be covered in two or three days in one-on-one learning, would normally take one full week in a classroom setting. This means that the parent or teacher who is working with the student can have more time to engage a student in other non-academic activities. Morning hours are usually enough to cover academic content which frees up the afternoons for other activities such as: practical activities for better understanding, field trips, art, music, drama, sports, cooking, apprenticeships, information technology, library, and any other interests the student may have. This creates a more balanced and wholistic education which every parent wants for their child. Many parents today wish they had been given the opportunity to develop their natural talents and interests when they were young rather than trying to do it when they are adults. Today’s parents want more for their children than just academic grades. Online basic education can be a solution for this problem.
Wholistic education is a better way to prepare students for the future global society which is already a reality for the current young generation. Many young people today have multiple jobs and businesses which they operate to make ends meet. Full-time jobs are less and less available in today’s economy. Opportunities have to be created by offering a skill or service for a few hours to clients. A student who has fully developed their natural gifts and talents by age 18, will always have clients who need their services, and with innovation and creativity in marketing online, they can build future businesses.
CambriLearn offers blended learning which limits the amount of time a student spends on the screen. Students do not spend the whole learning session looking at a screen. Rather, this is combined with other off-line activities. There is an online teacher available to assist students in every subject and to mark submitted assignments. Communication with the teacher is done via live chat messages and live weekly video sessions. In addition to the online teacher, a physical teacher is required to give learning support to the student such as oral discussions, explaining concepts further, explaining vocabulary/instructions, following the timetable, performing experiments, guiding online research, submitting assignments etc. The CambriLearn online platform gives each student assignments to complete after each module, practice questions, experiments and exams which are done offline using workbooks and printouts, but which are then scanned and submitted online. Thus, the learning experience for the student alternates between reading on the screen, writing by hand on the workbook or printout, and interacting with the physical teacher. This experience is called blended learning.
Integration with other curricula
CambriLearn curriculum gives the parent or teacher room to add on other subjects that are beneficial for the individual student. The core subject requirements for Cambridge at the primary level are maths, English and combined science. These are the subjects available at CambriLearn.com. This leaves room for adding other subjects like social studies or geography and history, religious education, a language, art, music, IT, online courses and more.
In the Kenyan context, students need to know the national language Kiswahili, which unites all Kenyans from different mother tongues. The Kenya National Curriculum resources can be used to teach this subject throughout the primary years. However, in the high school years, the Cambridge curriculum textbooks are available if a student chooses Kiswahili as an elective in Year Ten, for which they will be examined in Year Eleven.
Religious education is a core subject of most importance to Kenyans. Again, resources for this are available through the Kenya National Curriculum for the primary years and Cambridge curriculum for the high school years. However, this being a most sensitive subject and one that requires a lifestyle of practice, it can be taught in other ways using other available resources such as Bible Study Fellowship, which runs for a seven-year cycle. There is a very wide variety of religious material available through various churches and organisations which regularly publish materials. This entirely depends on one’s own religious beliefs stemming from the large number of faiths like Christianity (for example, Catholicism, Baptists, Seventh Day Adventists) and Islam etc. Each of these faiths has their own way of examination and certification.
Social Studies is another significant subject in terms of culture. The scope of resources for this subject is very widely available because it involves local and international history and geography. It can also include one’s own family history and heritage. At the primary level, an eclectic approach is the most beneficial for the student so that they receive a wide base of knowledge on this subject before they have to choose electives in high school. Eclectic means that one can use a combination of things, for example, the Kenya National curriculum, Cambridge curriculum, non-fiction story books, biographies, magazines, newspapers, current affairs through YouTube, Social Studies curriculum from other countries and so on.
Online education with CambriLearn would just take up a few hours per day. The rest of the day can be spent integrating all these other subjects spread out in a weekly timetable. This builds a rich education programme for the student which is worth all the effort.
At CambriLearn, the student completes assignments, annual progression tests and/or mock exams when they are ready to, with the help of the physical teacher/parent/tutor and online teacher. As a result, most students do well because they are given ample time to prepare at their own pace. Final exams such as International GCSE and A Level are done externally at a testing center. The teacher or parent books the exams in advance when the student is ready to sit. International exams are offered twice a year so the student does not have to sit all the exams in one sitting. They can be staggered over time to obtain maximum results. They can also be repeated if the results are not satisfactory. Cambridge exams are recognised worldwide and, with the right grades, a student could be accepted in most universities in any part of the world.
Just as the growth of social media over the last decade has changed the way we communicate, do marketing and conduct business, so too will the growth of online education change the way we educate. Whether it is done in a physical school, tutor centre or homeschool, it is the future mode of basic education.