Sharp differences between stakeholders in the education sector over the new curriculum played out at a public forum in Nairobi.
The speakers clashed during the Transform Kenya Basic Education forum that was held at the Strathmore Business School on Tuesday evening.
Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) Secretary General Wilson Sossion disagreed with education experts and representatives of parents on how the competency-based curriculum (CBC) should be rolled out.
Mr Sossion warned that implementation of the 2-6-6-3 education system would flop, just like the ambitious school laptops project unless the whole process was first validated by Parliament as required by law and all stakeholders, including teachers, actively involved in the exercise.
“A nation cannot engage in a huge undertaking such as curriculum reform without legislating the process. Up to now we don’t have a sessional paper to guide the whole process,” said Sossion.
Panelists at the high-level forum included the deputy CEO of the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) Jacqueline Onyango and the director of the Centre for Mathematics, Science and Technology Education in Africa Stephen Njoroge.
Others were chairman of the Kenya Publishers Association Lawrence Njagi, vice-chair of the Kenya Parents Association Sarah Githinji, and Jonathan Wesaya, who is an education development expert.
“Parliament and the people of Kenya have not debated and agreed on the way forward on this process. It is absolutely wrong to engage in curriculum design, produce materials and purport to be piloting when there is no policy. The whole process is illegal,” said Sossion.
But the other speakers challenged Sossion’s assertion, saying the new curriculum was the best for the country and that its implementation should not be deterred by teething problems.
Ms Onyango explained that the new curriculum was developed after it was established that there was a serious skill gap among learners, adding that it would be unfair to abandon the programme on technicalities.
“The major component of any new curriculum is supposed to serve the nation based on our status. We developed the new education system after conducting a thorough needs assessment and monitoring and evaluation of the old curriculum,” argued Onyango.
She said: “Personally, I think we are headed in the right direction. Let us be given time to implement the new curriculum. We should move on with the implementation as we solve the problems that are there.”
Mr Njoroge said they needed time to prepare for the new curriculum, adding that it was a process and not a one-time event.
Ms Githinji said parents were in support of the new curriculum, noting that the new learning system would be a remedy to limitations identified in the 8-4-4 system because it was entirely skills-based.
“As parents, we support the roll-out of CBC, which will integrate ICT at all levels of education. It will also instill good values and moral in our children,” said Githinji, adding that there were few role models in society and it was vital for learners to be taught values at a tender age.
But Mr Wesaya read from a script similar to Sossion’s, as he insisted that due process ought to be followed before the CBC could be implemented in phases, as planned.
“It is appalling that we are implementing an illegality. What is so difficult for the people who are sitting around President Uhuru Kenyatta to tell him that we need the process to be done in the right way by passing a policy paper in Parliament first?” he asked.
Wesaya added: “You cannot have a cart before a horse and keep whipping the horse for moving. This thing is not going to get right before we get it right from the beginning. There is need to have stakeholder engagement over the matter.”
The CBC is to be implemented in pre-primary one and pre-primary two (PP1 and PP2) and grades 1, 2 and 3.
Responding to the remarks by the panelist, Sossion was firm that the interests of the children was not prioritised before the roll-out of the new education system. He claimed commercial interests were put first at the expense of learners.
“As a union we are not opposed to it. But the truth of the matter is that teachers are not prepared for it. Why not allow us to discuss the new curriculum? Why is it being imposed on us?” he asked.
Earlier, before the deliberations got underway, Standard Group CEO Orlando Lyomu said basic education was an important subject for discussion.
“My belief is that this session will help us get more clarity on the role of basic education in the achievement of Vision 2030,” said Mr Lyomu, in remarks read by Joe Munene, the Group’s managing director, Broadcast Division.
This fourth edition in the Standard Group’s Transform Kenya campaign focused on issues facing the education sector and took into account input by stakeholders on the changes necessary for improvement.
Several other challenges were discussed at the forum. They included the high rate of teenage pregnancies and the attainment of equity in basic education. The highly interactive forum was beamed live on KTN news.
The first Transform Kenya forum was held on June 5, last year, in Kwale County, with the discussion focusing on environment. The second edition was held on September 6, last year, at Strathmore, Nairobi. The third edition took place on October 25, last year at the same venue.