Confusion has rocked parents with children in lower primary levels over the new curriculum which should come into force on Tuesday when the new school year starts.
Delays in getting the list of approved books to outlets is already disrupting preparations for 2018, with fears that the implementation of the proposed education system could be postponed.
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A major announcement is expected next week about the roll-out of the curriculum affecting an estimated six million children, from beginners to those who should be joining Class 3 in the new academic year.
Booksellers were by Friday evening still in the dark about which materials to stock, as anxious parents kept asking, compounding the usually busy back-to-school shopping period.
Many went on with shopping for books despite a Government directive on a new list of course books, in what the parents’ lobby refers to as “wastage spending”.
Publishers expect that the stock of approved books would be ready in at least two weeks, suggesting a likely delay to the start of proper teaching in the school term for the young learners.
Dr Julius Ouma, Chief Executive of the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development said he was still receiving feedback on the teacher training on the new education system.
“We will advise the Government depending on what has come back from the field,” Ouma said, adding that the teacher training was completed a week ago.
He expects that the feedback would be received by next Friday before the advisory opinion is shared with the Education ministry for further directions.
Roll out of the new learning programme would be tied to teacher-preparedness for the task, opening wide the likelihood of a delay should it be found that the training for tutors may not have been sufficient.
It would be the case specifically after Education Cabinet Secretary Dr Fred Matiang’i attributed the poor performance in national examinations to teacher capacity to disseminate education material properly.
170,000 teachers have been trained on delivering the new system which replaces the 8-4-4, after a sustained back and forth that caused previous postponements.
Ouma said a long list of approved books had been shared with publishers who would first make corrections before the books are produced.
“It is a long list of books which is already with the publishers,” he said, adding that the printing could be completed in “a week or two”.
Most parents with children in lower primary and pre-school classes had been advised, at the end of the last academic year, to wait for fresh directions before buying new text books.
Schools we spoke to confirmed they have not received any update from the Ministry of Education on the proposed books but confirmed that their teaching staff had been trained.
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Science and social studies have been collapsed into one subject, environmental studies, which is among the most radical changes introduced in the new curriculum for lower and pre-primary levels.
Lawrence Njagi, the managing director of Mountain Top Publishers and chairman of the publishers’ lobby, said the new books will be available to booksellers in two weeks.
“Publishers are now printing and parents can access them in two weeks’ time,” said Mr Njagi who expects no delays in the implementation of the new curriculum.
He termed the roll-out as being in full flight, citing his lobby’s involvement in the production of teaching materials including textbooks.
“Of course we expect teething problems but I expect that these will be sorted out; teacher-training and adequate funding for supplementary materials to support course books,” he said.
Nicholas Maiyo, the National Parents Association chairman, said he had witnessed many ignorant parents spending thousands of shillings in purchasing books which have been phased out and will be replaced by a new set.
“I met one in Eldoret town who had bought three chemistry books for her son, and all I could do is sympathise,” said Mr Maiyo, in a finding that indicates that booksellers could be misleading parents into buying unnecessary books.
A new policy has outlined that there would only be one course book per subject, unlike previously where parents bought several books in the belief that their children would be better prepared for examinations.
On the pending delay to the start of teaching, Maiyo said it was unfortunate that pupils will be idle for weeks even as the school term begins early.
Dr Matiang’i has vowed to implement the new curriculum starting January, ignoring strong opposition from several quarters including the teachers’ union.
Earlier this month, the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) demanded that the planned roll out of the new curriculum be shelved to pave the way for ‘intensive and extensive’ consultations.