Lacking any good ideas on the way forward, the government appears to be buying time in response to the chaos surrounding implementation of the Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC).
This week, we learned that Grade Six “graduates” will stay in the same primary schools, for now.
This is a welcome concession to objective reality. The introduction of a new tier in the education system in the form of “junior high school” without serious planning always seemed like a bad idea that would generate unnecessary attrition.
Furthermore, the historical evidence suggests that such attrition would disproportionately impact girls and children from low-income households (especially in rural areas).
The government should not stop at scrapping the “junior high school” idea. It should not buy into the sunk cost fallacy of accepting CBC simply because too much has already been done about it.
It is in order to scrap the whole thing and rethink what it is that we ought to change about the 8-4-4 system. Is it the structure? Is it the curriculum?
There is no reason to think that the 8-4-4 structure is a problem. Many well-run education systems around the world have eight years of primary education followed by four years in high school and then university.
Therefore, we should not change the structure merely in service to reforms. There must be a sound reason, backed by evidence, to do so.
Thus far, there is no evidence in the public domain to suggest that we have reason to change the structure.
The curriculum is another matter. It is true that the 8-4-4 curriculum encourages rote learning and places too much emphasis on do-or-die examinations.
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It is also true that the content is colonial and unfit for our context or needs as a young multi-ethnic developmentalist democracy.
Therefore, the curriculum changes should focus attention to learning (especially learning to learn) and inclusion of new relevant content.
It is disappointing that amid all the huff and puff about curriculum reforms, we paid little attention to actual content. Where was the clamour for teaching our history, religion, and social studies in Kiswahili as a means of cementing our collective identity?
Why was the focus narrowed to producing workers rather than a more expansive conception of molding citizens?
-The writer is an Assistant Professor at Georgetown University