Education and Professionalism Under Attack: Professional Societies Can Save the Situation

In the current political season in Kenya, integrity has been put to question to a great extent partly in relation with academic qualifications of contestants running for respective offices in government. As much as this is worrying, the more reason for concern is that we have learned individuals question whether leaders really need academic qualifications in the form of degrees to be leaders. I believe the question we need to ask ourselves is what the basic measure or way of ascertaining one is able to conceptualize, apply his knowledge & judgement in making necessary decisions to act in the best interests of the persons they serve. I believe the universal standard as at now is academic credentials backed by the fact that our education system is set to ensure individuals are equipped with the skills to perform particular tasks and apply their faculties in making sound and intelligent judgements. As people are questioning the need for education and academic qualifications, they are not only attacking education but also professions which are anchored on the very education. This is the basis upon which I believe professional associations need to act and sustain their activity in this discourse. Unless professions are respected and given the latitude to operate and uphold professionalism in the space, every Tom, Dick & Harry will venture into these practices compromising the quality of outcomes while at the same time putting recipients of these services at risk. In Kenya we are not unaware of circumstances of quacks causing more harm in our communities under the guise of being doctors. None of us would want a quack to operate on us. Why would we then expect a quack to lead us?

These very leaders are the ones who will make decisions on whether your doctor has the necessary supplies to perform certain functions including surgical procedures on you. If your qualified doctor asks for what they perceive as too much, what security do you have that they won’t just ask for a cleaner to perform the procedure? Do they care as much if they can cheat their way to that status? We have to be objective and forthright about the value of education and professionalism.

In calling professional associations to the task, I believe their angle of action should involve:

  • Outspokenly defend education and academic qualifications as a requirement for leadership and excellence in practice. Sitting back and being complacent to the ills of the society does not only affect the masses but also the professionals who expect services from these very leaders. There is no way an individual can be masquerading as an Actuarial Scientist for the longest time possible without actually the professional societies questioning or trying to ascertain the authenticity of such claims. If genuine, they need to be registered as members otherwise they stop being considered professionals in that field.
  • Ring fencing their professional turfs to weed out quacks or any individuals who do not meet and abide by the academic qualifications of being in the practice. In so doing, any individual with an interest in practicing the profession will not only have to go to school but also abide by the professional code of conduct.
  • Foster a model of continuous professional development (CPD) to ensure that all their members are qualified and up to date on current trends & dynamics of the industry. This can be pegged on licensing for practice by any professional to ascertain they uphold excellence and continuous improvement as a core aspect of the profession.
  • Explore, envision and venture into new frontiers including in collaboration with other professions in the industry to drive development in the industry. This should be cross-cutting in terms of engaging other specialties and professions in alignment with the new ventures to ensure collaboration and sustainability of such ventures without lowering guard on what’s possible and what’s not possible within professional practice.

We have to hold ourselves to a higher standard if we need change in our societies. I believe professional associations have a role towards this future as argued for in my earlier articles here and here. Let us embrace professionalism as a guiding principle in our practices and call on every individual to respect, defend and uphold professionalism.

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