Divergent views useful in new syllabus rollout

Education Cabinet Secretary Prof George Magoha with teachers being trained on the Competence Based Curriculum. [Maureen Ongala, Standard]
We have had varied views by experts and other stakeholders on how to approach the implementation of the competency based curriculum (CBC). We have to thank this newspaper for the consistency it has accorded a constellation of views on the CBC.

There are those who have given the implementation of the CBC so far a clean bill of health. We have also had those who have had issues with the way the process has been undertaken.Both views are useful in curriculum implementation.

Unfortunately those in the first school of thought have tended to adopt an obsequious approach to what is being undertaken by the ministry. Theirs has been “see no evil, hear no evil”. This approach is inimical to curriculum implementation.

The truth is that curriculum development and implementation is never a hitch-free exercise. This is why at all the stages of the process, experts advocate close monitoring. We have to accept divergent opinion to improve the process. Otherwise we will be embarrassed by a child bringing our attention to the nakedness of the king!

The Government has gone through the stage of developing the curriculum quite well. Ours is an improvement of some CBCs I have had a chance to interact with in Africa and other parts of the world.

Most of these have paid attention only to the 21st century skills, cross-cutting issues and core values. Ours has gone further and brought other crucial dimensions for the betterment of our children’s learning. Worthy of note are community service learning, non-formal learning and parental empowerment and engagement.

Philosophical approach

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What is needed is to do the implementation, monitoring and evaluation with the best practices, and its management to the best of our ability. Teachers also need to acclimatise during the training with how the CBC resonates with the global and local development goals such as sustainable development goals and Vision 2030.

This demand is stretching our continuous teacher development. The truth is that our teachers need re-tooling. We can call it re-orientation or any other loud sounding nothing but the bottomline is that they need to be given new ideas on how to go about implementing the new curriculum.

This is due to the difference between the CBC and objective based curriculum which was the fulcrum upon which our teacher education was based. The two curriculums are different in their philosophical approach and practices and this is why we have to accept that the innovation thrust upon our school system in the form of the CBC represents a sea-change in most dimensions of pedagogical approach. Unless we accept this, we will be subjecting the process to a bad hairs’ day.

In all classes of teacher education, it is a known fact that from early years to the secondary level, the teacher’s role is to facilitate the learner through the instructional process, be it in the CBC, objective or content based curriculum. Learning in whichever curriculum is best where the learner is actively engaged in the instructional process. This is why teaching must be learner centred.

The implementers

But every change in a curriculum demands in-servicing of teachers. This is because of its innovative nature. Each curriculum has its unique approach. This stems from its philosophy and practice, pedagogy and assessment. Any continuous teacher professional development must therefore strive to completely re-tool the teachers. Calling for this does not mislead the stakeholders in anyway.

Experts in educational change argue that for the change to be successful, among other things, it must be made clear to teachers who are the implementers. Teachers must be re-trained, resources must be availed to the teachers and they must be given professional managerial support. Have these been done in our case? I doubt.

You need not be a rocket scientist or an education expert to realise that things are not going well in the implementation of the CBC. We have a big problem in how we have undertaken the implementation process.

Let me take the readers to the implementation of the social studies curriculum in the early 1970s. This curriculum was introduced without paying attention to the rules governing change and its management in education. It collapsed after two years of its piloting due to half-baked continuous professional teacher development and resistance from officers from the ministry.

A near similar fate may explain the problems we have had with the 8-4-4 system. This is why for us to get it right with the CBC, we have to listen to both sides of the divide and incorporate aspects of positive criticism that may improve the implementation process.

It is good that at least we have put continuous professional teacher development in process. However, we have to improve the curriculum which the training is anchored on. Let’s take the teachers through the philosophical underpinnings of the CBC, pedagogical content knowledge and practices and assessment principles and procedures.

This requires making the training longer in terms of time and content. On its part, the TSC which is the body spearheading the continuous professional teacher development, should tone down its bellicose behaviour towards the teachers’ union.

Teachers shouldn’t feel like the change is being pushed down their throats. This is the only thing that will make teachers embrace the change.

Dr Ndaloh is a curriculum and teaching expert at Moi University. [email protected]   

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CBCsPedagogyAssessmentAgumba Ndaloh