Uncertainty and confusion are reigning in public and private primary schools as teachers and parents are unsure of how the new curriculum will be implemented in lower classes.
The state of confusion surrounding the new 2-6-3-3-3 system, which is being piloted in all schools across the country before the roll-out next year, has been compounded by delayed delivery of learning materials.
Consequently, three weeks after schools opened, hundreds of thousands of pupils in public and private schools are yet to get adequate learning materials for the new competence-based curriculum.
Some education sector players have raised concern that the implementation of the nationwide pilot study was rushed without proper planning.
Kenya Primary School Heads Association (Kepsha) chairman Shem Ndolo told the Ministry of Education to put its house in order for smooth pilot and learning to take place.
Mr Ndolo was categorical that the new 2-6-3-3-3 system should not be failed by the same institutions that failed 8-4-4.
“The teachers are in the schools but there are no learning materials. What do you expect the teachers to do?” posed Ndolo.
The Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) criticised the process, saying teachers had not been sufficiently trained to carry out the pilot phase tasks and make the learners ready for the full overhaul of the current 8-4-4 system.
Knut boss Wilson Sossion said: “Nobody is ready to effectively roll out the national pilot study. Fundamentally, nobody is ready unless Matiang’i is ready in his mind. Confusion is inevitable when things are done by force.”
Mr Sossion argued that initially, curriculum development specialists and teachers were supposed to be trained in 2016 so that pilot would start from term 1 of 2017, and thereby allow time for the study.
“Regardless of what we are piloting, should we not start with the school year in January, to take advantage of the entire school year? Knowing that we still have a very short and exam-focused term 3, does it mean that we shall now just allow pilot for one term?” posed Sossion.
For effective pilot and the ultimate roll-out, Knut had proposed that the ministry should develop and implement a sound communication strategy around the education reforms, and allow time to listen, debate and integrate the framework.
The union also proposed that the ministry should ensure the curriculum development team members are well trained, and are allowed enough time to develop, debate, validate and review the scope and sequence, curriculum framework, syllabuses and learning materials.
“Observing the progress made, we feel that the process is being rushed. We plead that this step be given few more months so that we assure quality and tag the education fraternity along. These processes should be allowed 4-6 months,” reads part of Knut’s proposal.
There was also a proposal to take time to train teachers, and even have them try out some of the things as part of training.
According to Knut, it is the teacher who needs to understand the reforms more than the curriculum developers, because curriculum experts will never implement it.
Knut also proposed that there should be time for good pilot – even if it is just piloting key components of the curriculum other than the entire thing (proposed competency-based, value-based and parent-education to be subjected to pilot).
But Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) explained that more than 170,000 teachers for lower primary schools both from public and private had been trained.
According to the institute's Director Julius Jwan, the roll-out of the national pilot study was an ongoing process and schools would start receiving learning materials from Saturday.
This means that since the schools opened, serious learning has not taken place for lack of learning materials.
“I met the Kenya Publishers Association on Tuesday and we agreed that Kenya Literature Bureau will start distributing textbooks and other learning materials on Saturday,” said Jwan.
The publishers, through their chairman Lawrence Njagi, confirmed the final approvals were done yesterday and that learners and parents should expect to see the materials in bookstores as from next week.
“We are in tune and in line with the content given that this is a pilot study. The final approvals were done today (yesterday) and we expect the books to be in stores by next week,” said Njagi.
“We have been given the go-ahead to print all the books in all learning areas from pre-primary to Grade III.
Already, KICD has approved textbooks for pre-primary 1 and 2 as well as for Grade I, II and III.
The Standard has learnt that although the new education curriculum is progressing steadily in some schools, teachers are now cautioning that it is too early to assess the impact.
With almost three weeks into the new school year, a visit to lower primary levels in public schools piloting the 2-6-3-3-3 system showed energized teachers who said the system will develop individual talents, unlike the old 8-4-4 system that focussed solely on academics, leaving out other key elements of learning.
The new curriculum is touted to increase interactivity in class.
The needs assessment exercise was finalised and communicated during a conference at the KICC in March 2016 and a curriculum policy document shared later in the same year though not yet gazetted.