Address bottlenecks in implementation of the new curriculum

Dorcas Odonya, teacher sprints as she takes Grade 3 East pupils at Central Primary school in Kisumu through Physical Education (P.E) lessons on January 09, 2020. Learning at the school started in high gear with the implementation of CBC in all Grade 3 pupils in the whole country. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

One afternoon, I saw a parent enter a cybercafé, and instruct the attendant to print an image of a rally car. His daughter would use it to learn about types of vehicles. “This is what CBC has come with. Making us parents discuss learning material with our children. It is expensive and time-consuming,” he said.

Let us agree that the Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC) is already bearing fruit. It will be remembered for instance, that in mid-2019, traders at Kwanthambi Market in Meru town, witnessed pupils of Kwanthambi Backstreet Preparatory cleaning up the environment, as part of their learning about problem-solving in the community.

Esther Mungai, a parent of a Grade Four child in Kiambu County, watched excitedly as her daughter made a scarecrow.

However, CBC is beginning to appear dramatic. The resource mobilisation strategy to support the sustainability of CBC is vague and the Parents Association of Kenya is discussing the burden of the curriculum with the Ministry of education.

Meanwhile, politicians are beginning to weigh in for an opportunity to embed transformation in the education sector in their manifestos as we draw nearer to next year's elections. Well, this is a reasonable discourse on the essence of the Competency-Based Curriculum. Incidentally, the Ministry of Education, through the Session Paper No.1 of 2019 stipulates clearly the philosophy behind CBC.

It has the focus on the provision of holistic quality education, training and research that promotes the cognitive, psychomotor and affective domains, as well as life skills and lifelong learning for sustainable development. Though the statement is well framed, stakeholders are still grappling with its actualization.

Parents are yet to internalize how competencies will be realized in their children. This, among other bottlenecks, can be answered appropriately when one understands how these competencies are conceptualized; nurtured and self-assessed by local communities. This is simply translated by programme development experts as ownership. Who owns and who implements the curriculum are basic questions that are yet to be answered exhaustively, by the Ministry of Education. 

A recent ethnographic study in Kenya by the Regional Education Learning Initiative (RELI), aimed at generating the participant’s understanding of a few competencies on Self-awareness, Collaboration, Problem-solving, and Respect among teenagers aged 13-17 brought forth findings that are food for thought for the Ministry of Education.

One of the key findings is that self-awareness is a characteristic of helping others resolve misunderstandings and this enhances peer learning. Self-awareness, among other values, also enhances the teacher’s ability to take on their new role as a facilitator. It is critical, therefore, that the education system supports teachers acquire these competencies.

Furthermore, Covid-19 has changed the learning pedagogy. The face-to-face mode of learning is reducing as online learning gains popularity. Much as it is a challenge, the government can turn around this into a learning opportunity.

On process delivery, Diana Marion, in her MBA thesis at USIU Africa titled, Challenges Experienced by Educators in the Implementation of Competency-Based Curriculum Programmes in Kenya: The Case of Primary Schools in Laikipia East Sub County, argues that in this region, where livelihood is tightly hinged on pastoralism, infusing Critical Thinking (CT) and Problem-solving (PS) had challenges with a good number of the teachers still developing their ability. Infusing digital literacy challenged the majority of teachers who needed technical support. It is also a fact that teaching online requires an additional set of skills which the overwhelming majority of Kenyan teachers are yet to acquire.

Admittedly, a key concern for parents is their engagement in the day-to-day learning of their children. KICD has produced a well-structured CBC guide on Parental Empowerment and Engagement published in 2019, whose preamble carries one of the key challenges. Many parents are less involved in the parenting and learning processes of their children due to changes in family structure, occupational challenges and technological advancement with media emerging as a strong influence on the family values and behaviour.

Sufficient and consistent engagement of parents will add reasonable value to the teacher and learner engagement.

The government could also consider comparing notes with other regional governments. South Africa pioneered it on the continent, in 1998, while Rwanda launched CBC in 2015. These collaborative learning efforts may catalyze a more realistic, contextual and sustainable approach to CBC.

Ms Kimani is an education development consultant-

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