Review of 8-4-4 has been long overdue

Last year, the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development embarked on a review of the much-maligned 8-4-4 system of education.

To help chart a way forward, it invited the public to give views on the successes and failures of the 8-4-4 system introduced in 1985. This system was based on eight years of primary education, four years of secondary education and four years of university education. From the outset, the concept was noble.

There was much hope riding on the new education system, which was expected to equip dropouts at all levels of schooling, notably after KCPE and KCSE, with adequate skills for self-employment or gainful employment in the formal and informal sectors. As such, the new system was designed to promote self-sufficiency among learners.

Two decades and millions of graduates later, what was touted as a catalyst to Kenya's dash to prosperity is falling apart. Public confidence in 8-4-4 is at its lowest. Because, alas, the system does not equip learners with self-reliant skills, instead, it promotes dependency. The system is exam-oriented and promotes rote learning, which denies learners the power to think outside the box.

To keep up with the pace, cases of exam cheating to guarantee good grades are rampant. And despite the good grades, those who passed were woefully incapable of applying knowledge in practice and logic in solving problems at the workplace.

In 2012, a task force chaired by former Moi University Vice-Chancellor Douglas Odhiambo proposed measures to have the 8-4-4 system replaced. The task force proposed a 2-6-3-3-3 system that included two years of pre-school, six years of primary, three years of junior secondary, another three in senior secondary and three years at the university.

Another round of debate on the development of a new curriculum is welcome. It is hoped that candid discussions with all stakeholders will pave way for a superior system that prepares learners well for life after school.