Towards a national philosophy of education: A conceptual analysis of the philosophical foundations of the Kenyan education system
Francis, Ndichu Murira
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This study seeks to establish whether Kenyan education system is governed by a specific philosophy of education, and, if such a philosophy indeed exists, whether it is being implemented. In order to do this, it studies several relevant official government reports and documents on education in an attempt to elucidate the philosophical foundations of the Kenyan educational system Four philosophical postulates informed this study: Plato‟s theory of education emphasizes the social role of education in preparing individuals to serve society in different capacities in accordance with their aptitudes. It also stresses the need to use instructional methods that befit a specific group, and to offer specialized education, (especially in higher levels) according to the natural abilities of individual learners. The Perennialist theory of education advocates for allegiance to certain principles, truths and facts that are considered to be absolute and binding to all people at all times and in all locations. Indeed, the perennialists argue that the educational ideals and values must not be transitory but permanent and universal. Such ideals and values are held to be essential for the well being of an individual as well as for social stability and prosperity. The Progressivist theory of education, on the other hand, advocates for a new kind of education based on social change. Education ought to be designed in such a way that it primarily caters for the needs and interests of the learner while it‟s social role is relegated to a second position. Frankena‟s theory of “the good life” holds that the ideals and values that are upheld by an educational system should be supportive of its theory of good life, and this theory of good life is, in turn, defined in terms of the aims of education. As such, therefore, a society‟s conception of good life will inform its philosophy of education. The study employs the method of conceptual analysis in explaining the philosophical determinants of Kenya‟s system of education. The core conception of analysis is breaking down a concept into simple parts so that its logical structure is displayed. This method is based on the proposition that human beings use language to express their reality. Several policy documents and reports on education in Kenya that were found relevant, were studied and critically analyzed. Certain ideals and values were considered as key ingredients for an appropriate philosophy of education for Kenya upon which educational objectives, practices, planning and reforms could be based. These include: social cohesion, moral integrity, happiness, national identity, national development, democracy, freedom, self-reliance, a sense of mutual social responsibility, good citizenship and the promotion of good life both for individuals and for the society. The study notes that education systems based on, say historical, sociological, or psychological theories alone are likely to be weak and unsatisfactory to the societies they are expected to serve. Therefore, the sociological, historical and psychological foundations of education should be supported by philosophical foundations. These philosophical foundations or principles are usually expressed in social statements that are based on metaphysical, epistemological, logical or axiological postulates. It concludes that the ingredients of a philosophy of education are available but have neither been formulated into a philosophy statement nor effectively implemented in the Kenyan education system.