Why you’re paying more under new curriculum

A teacher shows nursery school children (PP1) how to bury banana peels and cover them to manufacture manure. There is concern that some teachers are suggesting wrong learning activities under Competency Based Curriculum, thus unnecessarily burdening parents. [Gideon Maundu, Standard]

Parents are unnecessarily paying more under the Competency Based Curriculum (CBC) because many teachers still do not understand how the new syllabus works, the country’s curriculum developer has said.

Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) says wrong interpretation of curriculum designs has seen some teachers propose unnecessary, labourious and costly activities and items, which parents end up paying for.

While parents are expected to only facilitate the learning process, teachers are sending children home with questions that parents are helping to write answers, says KICD.

It notes that teachers have failed in interpretation of two objectives for each learning area: Specific learning outcome, referring to what children must do at the end of the lesson, and suggested learning experiences, explaining in detail the specific activities.

“This is what has pushed some teachers to come up with outrageous learning activities that have been costly to parents,” said Olive Mbuthia, deputy director in charge of primary education at the KICD.

“Many teachers have failed to correctly interpret the suggested learning outcomes. Either they fail to be creative or are too lazy to think out of the box without necessarily burdening the parents,” Mbuthia said.

For instance, under environmental activities, one of the learning areas is weather and the sky. The curriculum design says this topic alone is expected to have 10 lessons.

And under its specific learning outcomes, by the end of all the lessons, children are expected to describe the appearance of the sky during the day and at night.

They are also expected to observe differences in appearance of the sky during the day and at night.

They should also develop curiosity in observing appearances of the sky for their enjoyment.

The critical task for teachers is in the next stage, which is coming up with practical learning experiences that would make children achieve the set outcomes.

For example, a good suggested learning experience from teachers would be asking the parents or guardians to help the children observe the sky at night.

“Under this activity, parents are only supposed to provide security and a good environment for the children to stand outside at night and to observe the sky. The children are supposed to give feedback to the teacher on what they saw at night,” said Mbuthia.

She, however, said that some teachers misinterpret this part by coming up with a set of questions, which children take home, and parents help them to complete.

“This is wrong. Parents are expected to facilitate the learning process and not be the ones to write the answers,” she said.

Some teachers also make it an expensive affair by asking parents to download images of the sky.

“They (some teachers) ask parents to download images of the sky and to mount them on a manila paper, which children carry to school the following day. Some even ask parents to download videos. This is unnecessarily expensive and teachers can always get readily available practical ways of helping children learn,” said Mbuthia.

She said such suggested activities from teachers may be prohibitive to some parents who do not have access to the Internet or who cannot afford the manila papers to mount the learning aids.

Borrow learning aids

Mbuthia suggested that teachers could borrow some of the learning aids from neighbouring schools because lessons might only take place once a year.

“If in teaching children are supposed to use a wheelbarrow, why ask parents to buy them when you could borrow them from neighbouring schools? The idea is to have an experiential learning,” said Mbuthia.

She added that teachers might use readily available resources in schools for lessons.

“If it is about the use of a knife or a cooking pot or anything from the kitchen, why can’t teachers use the school kitchen for the lessons instead of asking parents to buy knives and all that?” she said.

It has emerged that some teachers do not consult their handbooks during lesson preparations.

“This makes it hard for them to be creative and to understand what is expected of them. End result are expensive suggested learning outcomes that burden parents,” said Mbuthia.

A teachers’ handbook for environmental activities, for instance, suggests various ways of sourcing learning resources, among them improvisation, borrowing, donations, buying and use of resource persons.

Under improvisation, the handbook directs teachers to be innovative and creative in making the required teaching resources.

“This can be done in collaboration with learners or members of the community using locally available material. Improvisation helps in reducing the cost of acquiring resources and involvement of learners in the making of resources helps in development of competencies such as creativity and imagination,” says the handbook.

In fact, the handbook suggests that some of the materials can be cleaned and kept safe for future lessons. By doing this, the handbook says that costs of acquiring the same material for next lessons will be reduced.

A look at the curriculum designs for various stages of leaning reveals that under each learning area called strand or sub-strand, there are two critical areas that teachers must pay attention to.

The first one is the specific learning outcome that details what children must do at the end of the lesson.

The second one is the suggested learning experiences, which now explains in detail, the specific activities learners must do under the specific learning outcomes.

The teachers’ handbook explains the relationship between the two, indicating that learning experiences should be based on learning outcomes.

“By the end of each sub-strand, the learner should achieve the intended specific learning outcome after active engagement in the selected learning experiences,” says the guidebook.

It further explains that other than the suggested learning experiences contained in the designs, teachers are encouraged to creatively come up with other experiences that would facilitate desired learning outcomes.

KICD CEO Jwan Julius said parents were an important component in a child’s learning.

Jwan said parental engagement must be an active participation in their children’s learning and holistic development in collaboration with teachers and other stakeholders.

“Learning experiences at home should take place to reinforce what is learnt through various activities and provision of opportunities to parents to render services,” said Jwan.

However, it is emerging that some parents go beyond the expectations and even write the homework on behalf of their children.

“Parents are expected to provide a learning environment at home. They need to support children to learn at home, but not actually doing the homework,” said Mbuthia.

Jwan cautioned teachers that they must not be the “know-it-all” in the children’s learning process. “In CBC classroom, teachers are expected to facilitate individual learners to achieve learning outcomes. He or she interacts with learners, facilitating discussions and explorations and engaging in guided instructions,” he said.

At the start of the national roll-out of the CBC, attention of many Kenyans were drawn to pupils slashing tall grass, collecting garbage and conducting general cleaning of the market place.

Some of the learners wore sacks made from old carton boxes as aprons while others modelled paper shoes for protective gumboots.

In other instances, learners carried handmade bags for litter bins or garbage holders as they went about the cleaning exercises.

These are part of the suggested learning experiences that all children undertaking the CBC in public and private schools are to undergo.

The CBC is billed as more practical-oriented with boosted children’s learning experiences and little emphasis on examinations that led to rote learning.

The idea here is for teachers to understand the specific learning outcomes expected of each lesson strand and come up with creative practical ways that would enable the children to understand what they were taught.

This means teachers must correctly interpret curriculum designs and closely consult the teachers’ handbook to come up with practical and reasonable activities that would not burden parents.

However, as the government continues to roll out the CBC in schools, it is emerging that some suggested learning activities from schools are burdening parents with high costs of procuring learning aids.

Kenya National Parents Association chairman Nicholas Maiyo said some teachers unnecessarily ask parents to purchase items.

“The idea is to get readily available items for teaching and learning without necessarily burdening the parent,” said Maiyo.

The demand for expensive activities has led to silent but growing uproar among parents and guardians.

Parents who spoke to The Standard said in some cases, they have been pushed to cough up to Sh25,000 to buy computer tablets to undertake an assignment.

In other cases, parents are asked to download certain learning aids from the Internet, while others are asked to buy manila papers to mount some of the teaching aids as part of their homework. It emerged that private academies have the most cases of added costs, with parents being asked to even take and print images.

“My daughter was expected to conduct a thorough hand-washing exercise and after that take a picture and print it,” said a parent at a Nairobi academy.

“What about those parents who do not have a printer at home? Or those who cannot access a cyber café?” wondered the parent.

Another parent said they were asked to buy computer tablets for their children for playing videos during lessons.

Another one said she had to buy a carton box, sisal rope and beads for her daughter to make slippers.

“This one is easy…,” said the parent, implying that some of the take-away assignments for the child were costly. 

The Teachers Service Commission (TSC) does training for all teachers. Commission CEO Nancy Macharia said massive training exercise for 106,320 teachers was to end last December.

Dr Macharia said of these, 7,000 teachers were from Special Needs Education schools, while 18,000 were from private schools. “By the end of the exercise, the country will have 228,000 teachers trained on CBC,” said Macharia.