Universities still shun CBC reforms as clock ticks

EDUCATION |
From Left - Executive Secretary Inter-University Council for East Africa Gaspard Banyankimbona and CEO Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development Prof Charles Ochieng Ong’ondo and Chief guest Ken Obura Chief Administrative Secretary Ministry of East Africa Community and Regional Development during a two-day conference to discuss the future of higher education in the region in the context of CBC education in the era of artificial intelligence in Nairobi on Thursday July 29, 2021. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

Universities are lagging behind in the ongoing CBC education reforms.

Concerns have been raised that they may not be ready to receive students during the anticipated transition.

It is now emerging that the academic staff of universities are less interested to take part in the broad reforms plan aimed at phasing out the 8-4-4 education system even as the clock ticks to the grand changeover.

These revelations emerged during a major meeting of managers of universities in East African countries to take stock of their readiness to receive learners.

The Inter-Universities Council for East Africa meeting heard that universities are yet to institute new teacher training approaches, improve existing infrastructure and review curricular ahead of learners’ transition under the Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC).

The meeting was called to review preparedness of universities in East Africa to accommodate students.

The meeting also addressed how universities can continue to play their role in the region’s capacity to produce trained human resource capital.

In an elaborate presentation, Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD), the State agency driving the curriculum reforms, raised a red flag on the state of preparedness of universities and cautioned that the institutions may be caught off guard during the switchover.

KICD Chief Executive Charles Ong’ondo said the first cohort of CBC class was presently in Grade 5 and will join junior secondary in 2023. And by 2026, these students will be joining senior secondary and in universities by 2029.

“The first challenge is that these students will require graduate teachers to teach them when they join secondary schools in 2023. This means that universities need to urgently reorganise their programmes to be CBC-compliant so that they are able to teach the new areas such as sport, music and arts introduced by CBC,” said Prof Ong’ondo.

Ong’ondo said universities must change the manner in which they teach, noting that they still use the lecture mode, which will not work for CBC learners.

“These children, by the time they get to universities, will want to take charge of their learning and they will also be digitally complaint. Universities must start to reorient their lecturers the same way Teachers Service Commission (TSC) has been conducting training for its staff at basic education,” said Ong’ondo.

Commission for University Education (CUE) chairman Chacha Nyaigoti acknowledged the slow pace of embracing change.

“Universities must now prepare so that they are not caught pants down. This means they must come together and discuss to understand what CBC is all about and then review what they are currently doing to align with expectations of students when they join,” said Prof Chacha.

He said CUE was already spearheading the process together with internal organs of universities.

“We have started the conversations with the universities and what is needed is to galvanise all universities departments of education to produce a roadmap on how universities should prepare to face the challenges brought by the CBC,” he said.

CBC reforms project that from senior secondary, some 60 per cent of the students will be enrolled in STEM. Another 25 per cent will be enrolled to study social sciences and humanities. Only 15 per cent will do sports and performing arts.

And this, Ong’ondo said, requires universities to prepare adequately.

“But universities presently are operating in the opposite manner where most of their spaces are occupied by students who will study social sciences and humanities. Very little, about 10 per cent, are left for those who will pursue STEM,” he said.

Ong’ondo also said the ongoing reforms will require major adjustments on students’ admissions.

He said under the CBC, admissions criteria may be pegged on that which the learner has demonstrated competencies in.

“We shall be required to encourage them on that direction and grades may not necessarily be used to lock out students,” said Ong’ondo.

It also emerged that universities must work around the resources needed when the CBC students get admissions in 2029.

The meeting also heard that universities are yet to reorganise their assessments regime.

“Universities are still doing the formative assessments where a lot of students still try to cheat. These must be reformed so that projects or activities intended should be integrated within the learning process,” said Ong’ondo.

But even with these heavy demands, it emerged that the academic staff crucial in the reforms process are disinterested or not fully committed to the course.

It emerged universities academic staff did not fully take part in the critical stages of curriculum reforms and still continue to shun activities lined up.

Ong’ondo said most of the universities staff do not even take keen interest in curriculum designs to see how they are structured.

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