Magoha, Sossion tiff risks masking need for rollout of new curriculum

Education CS George Magoha. [Standard]

The education sector has been thrown into uncertainty as the Ministry and the giant teachers’ union Knut, slug it out over the roll-out of the Competency-Based Curriculum.

The uncompromising positions taken by Education CS George Magoha, the Teachers Service Commission and Wilson Sossion the Knut Secretary General risk masking whatever is good about the new curriculum.

Lest we forget; there is a general consensus that though imperfect, the CBC system is a better option to the much discredited 8-4-4 system.

By any measure, 8-4-4 has run its course. In the nearly 40 years of its existence, 8-4-4 morphed from a practical, friendly and student-centred model to an exam-oriented system where the end often justified the means.

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Indeed, there was general consensus that 8-4-4 was no longer giving good returns on investment, especially in the modern workplace where according to employers, 8-4-4 graduates struggle to adapt.

There are very good reviews of the 2-6-3-3-3 system so far: that it enhances personality and character development;  is geared toward improving social and technical skills and lays more emphasis on lifelong learning and less on rote learning to pass exams; and that it promotes creativity. In a nutshell, the new system focuses on having a wholly developed learner by adopting participatory and activity-based learning from life experiences whereas the 8-4-4 model applies a top-down (teacher-to-students) approach and doesn’t accommodate the learners’ interests and other capabilities besides academic work.

Both Prof Magoha and Mr Sossion claim to mean well for the students and the teachers of the country. Why then is it hard for them to find a workable solution to this imbroglio?

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Even if he is well meaning, the problem with Sossion is that he is not providing an alternative and worse still, his beef centres on operational issues (training and equipment)- rather than on the actual substance of the curriculum.

Is he not bothered by concerns by employers and other stakeholders that 8-4-4 has churned out candidates who are unable to solve problems or critically think?

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Prof Magoha too should learn a thing or two about change management. Specifically that one outcome at another place and time doesn’t guarantee the same outcome elsewhere at another time.

As the chairman of the Kenya National Examinations Councils (Knec), he restored the integrity and faith in exams.

To succeed there, quick, drastic action that at times did not require general consensus was needed.

There are no two ways about integrity; the place had to be shaken up. The ministry is a different kettle of fish. To drive the reform agenda, he will need to have everyone on board. 

Teachers constitute a critical mass in the education sector. Without their buy-in, the envisaged reforms in the sector would be still born. Were he to leave out even 100 teachers, he would have done himself and the country a great disservice.

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He and Mr Sossion should look for more beneficial ways to work. The education sector is too important to be run noisily.

Perhaps the ministry was pressed for time, and therefore overlooked some critical concepts in the roll-out, but that is no reason to throw out the baby with the bathwater. 

Initially, Mr Sossion’s beef was that the roll-out was not anchored in law – as it ought to be, terming it illegal. But then, with last week’s launch of the policy framework and the submission of a Sessional Paper in Parliament, it will be hard for Mr Sossion to convince critics that his concerns are genuine and not political.

Now, Knut claims there were no stakeholder engagements - that is not true.

Mr Sossion purports that no needs assessment was done before the adoption and roll-out. That too is untrue.

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There is evidence that Knut was involved right from the beginning. No doubt, Mr Sossion has profited from his threats and ultimatums before. He ought to realize that the time for bare knuckled confrontation is quickly running out.

In fact, education experts observe that there is no radical departure from the 8-4-4 system. If at all, most of the experts who crafted the 2-6-3-3-3 are the same ones who developed 8-4-4.

The truth is; the train has left the station. If nothing, Mr Sossion should come to the table with a proposal that saves us the incessant melodrama.

Prof Magoha and Mr Sossion should also spend more of their time learning from best models in the world. Singapore's- rated the best education model in the world- has two lessons to offer Kenya.

One; Uncoordinated and piecemeal reforms where proposals are not tested and outcomes analysed to ensure that the tools for teaching – textbooks and other materials- are aligned with the teaching styles is a recipe for disaster.

Two; that teachers must be trained and paid well. In Singapore, teachers get up to 100 hours of training a year where they get updates on the latest techniques. Additional – critical to Knut- teachers are subjected to a rigorous annual performance appraisal to weed out the laggards.

The issues Sossion raised cannot be brushed off. Yet it is our contention that to stall what many believe is a better option for our children is to miss the point. 

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educationTeachers Service CommissionWilson SossionKnutEducation CS George Magoha