The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) on 25th October 2014 held a workshop to chart the future of university engineering education in Kenya. This adds to the robust debates in the country surrounding the education of engineers and the making of useful engineers in Kenya.

 

Ideas exchanged in the workshop embodied the trends that shape and define university engineering education; these trends are constantly evolving worldwide. New technologies, both inside and outside of the classroom, industry, and employer expectations, social and societal challenges all impact how colleges and universities educate and prepare the next generation of engineers for practice. The workshop was coorganised by the IEEE Kenya section and IEEE Education activities, it aimed at bringing together engineering education stakeholders in Kenya; including faculty members and educators, academic leaders, business and industry leaders and policy makers to understand the current trends and to help chart a future to strengthen the Kenya university infrastructure and help students succeed. 

Regional academic experts representing the Kenyan and regional perspective as well as a global perspective came to the Intercontinental Hotel to share their thoughts and insights. Sessions topics covered included: Global trends in Engineering, Computing, and Technology (ECT) Education; the future of engineering and technology Education in Kenya; Graduate Attributes; sustainable Engineering Education, Pedagogical Practices and Faculty Development. The workshop included a breakout session where attendees were encouraged in facilitated discussions around the topic areas presented; enabling them  to help shape the conversation and develop their own strategies for improvement. The dinner keynote topic was, ‘Making Engineering Work for Africa: The role of the young African Engineer.’ This brought the workshop into perspective, the dinner guest Speaker was Dr Peggy Oti-Boateng, senior Programme Specialist for S&T, UNESCO Office, Nairobi.

The first speaker at the workshop was Dr. Michael Lightner. He is the Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs at the University of Colorado. He explored the global trends in engineering, computing, and technology (ECT) education. “How do you create an engineer who might be of use in the future?” He posed. In the talk, he examined eight universities from different parts of the world to determine how their engineering, and particularly electrical, electronic, and computing, programs are evolving. From this, he noted opportunities for further change. He discussed external pressures for change and evolving tools and technologies supporting this change. He also included discussions of technologies supporting personal rather than institutional labs, mathematical computing tools prompting changes within courses, the challenge of available textbooks and the growth of open education resources including Massive Open Online Course (MOOCs).

Prof David Some, CEO, the Commission for University Education (CUE) and Professor of Agricultural Engineering was the second speaker. His area of discussion was the future of engineering and technology education in Kenya. ‘You cannot make a computer science degree with 80% content in geology’ He emphasized. He explored the conflict of law with respect to university engineering programmes accreditation between the Engineers Board of Kenya (EBK) and CUE. This conflict plays out particularly when CUE accredits engineering programmes in universities yet EBK finds the institutions lacking in capacity. He highlighted the provisions of Sessional Paper No. 14 (2012), which forms the fundamental baseline, guideline, on Reforming Education and Training Sectors in Kenya.

Professor Hu Hanrahan was the third speaker. He is Professor Emeritus at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. His topic was engineering education programmes, along with post-graduating training and experience as essential components to the development of engineering professionals. Engineering graduates and professionals, he said work increasingly in a globalized environment; standards therefore converge to a global consensus such as that provided by the international Engineering Alliance (IEA) and its constituent Washington, Sydney and Dublin accords. His presentation outlined the IEA outcomes-focused approach to standards for and accreditation of engineering programmes.

Professor Saurabh Sinha, who is the executive dean of the faculty of engineering and built environment at the University of Johannesburg, then gave his presentation. His session discussed how to go from course objectives, through modules intended for learning out-comes, to lessons designs, using team based learning. He did highlight how engineers are lost in the pipeline from the first year in universities to actual practise. He observed several leaks in the pipeline and the resulting shortage of engineers.

 

Professor Koi Tirima an expert in curricula development, assessment and accreditation of higher education institutions, gave the final presentation. The presentation addressed the importance of embracing innovations in pedagogy that enhance and promote critical thinking and problem solving in STEM and especially engineering education. It covered the pedagogical benefits of systems based thinking, best practices for integrating critical thinking  and problem based learning (PBL) into teaching practices, and will elaborate on the learning challenges that many students face when transitioning into PBL. She did root for PBL and systems thinking in educational theories. ‘Systems based education is the way to leap-frog the world in education like we did in telecommunications’ She asserted.

In order for faculty members to provide quality education and meet their professions changing needs they must become lifelong dedicated to updating their professional knowledge, skills, values, and practise. This was the theme of discussion of the panel session. This was led  by Prof. Robert Gateru of Nairobi Campus, Kenya Methodist University, Prof Michael Lightner, Prof. Saurabh Sinha, and Prof. Meoli Kashorda, the CEO, Kenya Education Network; Prof, Information Systems, United States International University (USIU).

 

Before the dinner, the delegates were divided into groups for breakout sessions. In those sessions, they discussed and presented the issues arising from the discussions of the day and noted them down with the proposed solutions. These were then presented to the entire group in turns when the delegates reconvened.   

When all was said and done, it was still worth noting that a lot has been done, yet there is much more to be done especially in Kenya to improve the stature of engineering training. About EBK and CUE: Could EBK be left to regulate engineers and engineering and CUE to accredit university programmes?

 

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