The abcd of the 2-6-6-3 education system

Teacher Vivian Ruto with her pupils during a class at Namudet Nursery School in Loyamorok ward in Tiaty, Baringo County in October 2017. The CBC system takes effect today from Pre-Primary to Grade 3. [File, Standard]

After 12,420 days, Kenya will try the 2-6-6-3 education system.

Starting today, the Competency Based Curriculum (CBC) is to be implemented in pre-primary One and pre-primary Two (PP1 and 20 and Grade 1, 2 and 3.

The idea is to phase out the 8-4-4 system introduced by President Daniel arap Moi, 8-4-4 in 1985 which was touted as suitable for the changing aspiration of Kenyans who were embracing technology.

It had replaced the 7-4-2-3 system which consisted of seven years of primary education, four years of secondary education, two years of high school and three years of university education except for courses such as architecture and medicine.

Exit 8-4-4 and enter the new skill-based 2-6-6-3 model. Its proponents have argued it will solve the inadequacy of its predecessor – churning out only ‘book-smart’ graduates for formal employment.  

Then, how different is the CBC system whose introduction after a year of piloting has been marred by bureaucratic flip-flopping?


According to a circular on its implementation released by Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed, lessons will last 30 minutes, 10 minutes lesser than during the 8-4-4 era.

There shall be five lessons in a day for pre-primary school pupils and seven for their lower primary counterparts.

Pupils take a nap at Xaverian ECD Primary School in Kisumu on August 28,218 after lunch. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

Across the first term, pre-primary school will have five lessons on language activities, five on mathematics activities, five on environmental activities, eight on psychomotor and creative activities, one on religious activities and another on Pastoral Programmes of Instruction (PPI).


A pupil from Olympic Primary School in Kibra sit his 2017 KCPE mathematics exams. [File, Standard]

Unlike before when learner sat one-off examinations (KCPE, KCSE) at the end of each stage, they will be evaluated through Continuous Assessment Tests (CATs) on the skills acquired.


In lower primary; pupils will learn Literacy, Kiswahili Language Activities/Kenya Sign Language for learners who are deaf, English Language Activities, Indigenous Language Activities, Mathematical Activities, Environmental Activities, Hygiene and Nutrition Activities, Religious Education Activities and Movement and Creative Activities.

According to Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development, ICT will be a learning tool in all areas.

When they move to the next phase divided into three years of upper primary and three years of lower secondary education, learners will be introduced to an exploration and experimentation stage.

A teacher takes pupils at Xaverian Primary school in Kisumu through a physical Education (P.E) lesson [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

Upper Primary

It will have 10 subjects: English, Kiswahili or Kenya Sign Language (for learners who are deaf), Home Science, Agriculture, Science and Technology, Mathematics, Religious Education (CRE/IRE/HRE), Creative Arts, Physical and Health Education and Social Studies.

Four optional foreign languages (Arabic, French, German, and Mandarin) will also be introduced at this stage.

Lower Secondary

In lower secondary (Grades 7, 8 and 9) subjects will be divided into core and optional subjects. The 12 core subjects include English, Kiswahili or Kenyan Sign Language for learners who are deaf, Mathematics, Integrated Science, Health Education, Pre-Technical and Pre-Career Education, Social Studies, Religious Education, Business Studies, Agriculture, Life Skills Education and Sports and Physical Education.

They will pick at least one subject from Visual Arts, Performing Arts, Home Science, Computer Science, Foreign Languages, Kenyan Sign Language or Indigenous Languages.

Senior School

Student at Eastleigh High School during a past Biology class. [File, Standard]

At senior school (Grades 10, 11 and 12), expected to last another three years the learners who are now between age 15 and 17 will have three pathways to pick based on their competency, talent and interest.

A student can settle on Arts and Sports Science, Social Sciences or Science Technical Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

Graduates from this level will have the option to join vocational training centres or pursue university education for three years.


Teachers at the various grades will incorporate practical sessions as opposed to oral teaching. At least 170,000 teachers have been trained in the CBC with the education ministry saying plans are underway to do intensive in-service teacher training.


KICD had listed a list of approved textbooks but the confusion caused when Education CS Amina Mohamed announced the postpone of the new system to 2022 threw parents of the track.

Now at least they know which books to buy.