Let's handle the transition in education keenly

Vihiga Cunty Education Director Alexie Muzame assisted PP2 learners during a learning session at their institution on October 2, 2023. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

The transition from the 8–4–4 education system in Kenya’s primary schools ends with the marking of this year’s KCPE exams.

But, with that, other transitions begin. They come with many grave focal issues, besides the regular logistical concerns.

This year’s Class 8 is the last 8–4–4 cohort all the way to university. The learners must go steady up to the finishing line. They have no room for stumbling. For example, what happens to a student who, in this lot, is referred to repeat a year in university?

For, this transition will go on until this year’s Class 8 child graduate from university from 2031, to 3034 for the longer courses, like Medicine and Architecture.

Then, few people will remember that there ever was such a thing as 8–4–4. Yet, it remains of interest to understand how the universities are preparing to manage the transition, both in the syllabuses and in future double intake, when the new Competence Based Curriculum (CBC) and 8–4–4 will intersect on campus. 

There is need for detailed planning, all through. This should be shared with the public. The Ministry of Education has so far done well, despite the criticisms.

For example, the Kenya National Examinations Council (KNEC) went out of its way to ensure all eligible children sat this year’s KCPE, regardless of whether they had registered or not. This was because there would be no future KCPE for such a child to write, had they missed out. 

KNEC gave these kids a critical lifeline. But is there risk of the lifeline getting lost, as focus increasingly shifts to the CBC?

Are we likely to lose the last four classes of 8–4–4, with close to 5 million children in all, according to Ministry of Education sources?

The ministry is to be commended for keeping these children in school thus far. Consider the fact, for instance, that in 2019 some 1,088,989 children wrote the KCPE exam. Of these, 1,073,191 joined Form One in 2020.

This year, 903,260 of these children are writing their KCSE. This is despite Covid-19, a harsh economy, caustic politics and sundry challenges.

We have had an 84.22 per cent transition from Primary 8 to KCSE. By any standards, anywhere in the world, this is an achievement.

But, going forward, is there need to navigate this population, consciously, into the national future that we want?  

At some point, the destiny of the nation will be, in the main, in the hands of these 5 million or so children. How we manage their transition and education is, therefore, critical. 

Equally significant is the need to make CBC work. CBC is now a reality. In the past, we have argued about its merits and demerits. That is no longer relevant. This aircraft is now airborne.

As a wise elder recently said, somewhere in the village, you cannot stop this CBC vessel in mid-air. Whatever reservations any of us have had in the past, we can only build on whatever is good in CBC. Most critical is the new notion of assessment that promises hope to every learner.

Dr David Njengere and his team at KNEC are talking of migration from ‘examination’ to ‘assessment.’ They have proposed that the name of the examining body should change to the Kenya National Assessment Council (KNAC), to reflect the new focus.

We have probably not listened to them. We need to. Parliament, especially, must listen to Mitihani House, and help them manage the transition. Whoever we are, we cannot afford to be indifferent, or cynical, to the ongoing changes in education. 

Dr Muluka is a strategic communications advisor