Kenya has best shot to finally get it right in new curriculum

Caroline Wamaitha Kimani of Vision Empowerment Training Institute helps Jadamy Elite Academy pupils learn computer skills, a key subject in the new curriculum. [File, Standard]
Going to college and getting a degree used to be equal to having greater chances of a better life. Students were paid to study and employment was guaranteed.

Over time, there has been push and pull changes in education policies which have somehow shifted these trends. The current clamour by the government to implement the Competency Based Curriculum (CBC) -- which is the model of learning the world over -- brings to mind many questions regarding how we got here and whether CBC will be the ultimate solution.

At one time there was a discourse on opening up universities for more entry. At that time the policy framework dilemma was on access vis a vis quality. Access won the debate. The impact of opening up university admission for more Kenyans was huge as universities were able to get more revenue.

Lost value

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But there were negatives such as the strain in university infrastructure, the rise in student numbers against student-teacher contact as lecture halls looked like public lectures. In addition, the middle level colleges lost value as every parent’s dream was to have his or her child finally get to university.

As a result, colleges that previously offered practical oriented skill development trainings were elevated to universities to meet the demand. Apart from teacher training colleges and medical training colleges, the others have remained less lucrative.

With many students joining undergraduate programmes, the job market became very competitive. Graduates’ quest for quick means of obtaining postgraduate papers rose. Today, we have millions of Kenyans with university degrees that most employers consider useless.

The questions that should linger in the minds of policy makers and implementers of the new curriculum is that; how can we reverse the trends highlighted above?

How can you institutionalise CBC implementation from early childhood education to the postgraduate level?

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How will this impact on the already strained education budget and the appetite for higher education? Is the Kenyan economy prepared for the numerical impact and the need to adopt non-college graduates?

One of CBC’s core tenets is the need for learners to take charge of their learning. Will institutions such as the Kenya Universities Colleges Placement Centre allow for student control? 

The time students take for learning is also key. In competency based learning, time is not the best measurement for learning. CBC asserts that a college degree for example is directly based on what the student actually knows, and not on how much time it took them to learn something. 

Whatever implementation gaps may exist in the curriculum as proposed by the Ministry of Education, many countries have adopted the competency-based learning because it has positive impact on students as well as faculty.

Time constraints

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If the ministry was to implement the CBC as per the requirement of competency based learning, it will allow the biggest degree of flexibility for students where they aren’t constrained by time.

In addition, it provides for more mastery as knowledge gaps will not exist as opposed to the current system where a small knowledge gap will lead to more, bigger knowledge gaps which eventually result in a student dropping out.

By allowing students to take ownership of their learning, the role of the teacher will be transformed. It will include more coaching and mentoring and less reminders of assignments due.

Teachers will set the desired learning outcomes in their areas of expertise, provide engaging learning materials, create addictive learning experiences and provide targeted support for students.

They’ll have their hands full. But they’ll also get more data on the student learning process, which means that they’ll be able to identify the strengths and weaknesses of each student.

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In other words, teachers can better adapt their instruction. In the end, educators will have the satisfaction of providing society with successful graduates that can prove their knowledge and worth.

The competency-based learning has a potential for engaging as many young people to acquiring needed skill and competencies for the market. Despite the pros and cons, it remains the best mechanism for teaching. The ministry must therefore be more deliberate and futuristic in approach as CBC is implemented.

- The writer is a Mandela-Washington fellow and director for alumni and international students’ office at JKUAT. [email protected] 

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