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Science and technology gets new footing

JAPAN, Kenya, Oct 4 – Higher Education Minister William Ruto says high priority should be given to Science and Technology courses in institutions of higher learning.

Mr Ruto, who spoke on the sidelines of the ongoing 7th annual Science and Technology Society Forum, in Kyoto Japan,  said innovations in this field would contribute to the economic development of the nation and the attainment of Vision 2030.

His sentiments come amid plans to review courses offered by the country\’s public universities, with more emphasis now shifting to science and technology.

"Innovation, science and technology will influence the development of policy initiatives and the economies of the future for any government, nation and region that is prepared to play a leading or significant role in the national or global economy of the 21st century," he said.

According to Mr Ruto, this shift could see dozens of popular courses scrapped with only science and technology students at public universities being assured of government funding.

The Higher Education Minister said that priority for funding should be based on the actual cost of mounting the course and how it contributes to the achievement of Vision 2030 – Kenya\’s long-term economic blueprint.

Mr Ruto further outlined the steps the government is taking to promote science and technology.

"The new policy initiatives complete with new legislation that we have already proposed – the Universities Bill, the Technical Innovation and Entrepreneurship Bill and the Science, Technology and Innovation Bill –  are all geared towards putting science technology and innovation in the driving seat for development of the 21st century," he said.

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Meanwhile, the government is being urged to do more to fund science and technology institutes in the country.

Jomo Kenyatta University of Science and Technology (JKUAT) Vice Chancellor Professor Mabel Imbuga said innovations in science and technology would contribute a great deal to the attainment of Vision 2030.

"At JKUAT, we are a science-oriented university but we are funded less than other universities which are training more in humanities than in the sciences," she said. "I think we need more funding, because Vision 2030 is going to be driven by innovations through science and through technologies."

She said that a significant amount of funds should be put aside to fund science and technology.

"We know the ministry is doing a wonderful job in trying to fund the institutions of science and technology. They should put aside now one percent of our GDP to fund science and technology," she said and added, "Education is very big but that 1 percent GDP should just go on science and technology."

Currently all courses are funded on an equal basis yet some, like medicine and architecture, cost more.

The policy shift means that students could soon find themselves footing the entire tuition fee for courses that are downgraded in the new priority list.

Less than half of Kenya\’s 100,000 plus students in public universities are enrolled in science and technology-related courses, according to government statistics. This means the shift could face stiff opposition from educationists and students alike.

Proposals that public universities should increase emphasis on courses such as engineering, medicine, architecture and physical planning have been made in the past, with policy-makers citing the need to boost technical skills in the economy.

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The proposal on review of courses comes at a time when Kenyan universities are reeling from a quality crisis – they are weighed down by overflowing classes, strained facilities and a shortage of lecturers – watering down the quality of learning.

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