We must invest heavily in new technology for CBC to succeed

The Principal Secretary for Curriculum Reforms and Implementation Professor Fatuma Chege interacts with pupils at Kitivo Primary School in Mwaatte Sub-county, Taita-Taveta county when she officially launched access to the internet. [Renson Mnyamwezi, Standard]

Somewhere in 2030, Competence Based Curriculum (CBC) graduates will be in town looking for jobs. Better, as the system aims to, they will be creating jobs. In the latter scenario, we shall have no job seekers, no beggars, and no need for aunties, uncles and cousins to get government jobs, of course at a price. Therefore, the young women and men graduates will be our saviours. I cannot wait to see the new 2030 Kenya.

Well, that is as far as the good news goes. Many Kenyans have never gotten into a cinema hall to know the difference between watching a show on a big cinema screen and on a laptop. With advanced communication technology, millions of people with just a smartphone can watch movies as they drive or unwind in their living rooms. Let us contextualise the “millions” here. The millions who are able to enjoy the services of advanced technology are fewer compared to the millions who have no access to new technology such as a smartphone. Put more bluntly, many Kenyans have never owned a TV set. That is one reason radio is still the main medium of communication in developing countries.

The point is that education technology is critical in realising CBC. However, 'vitu kwa ground ni different'. The digital divide widens as we forge ahead to 2030. There is no evidence it is narrowing in spite of the cost of gadgets decreasing. The online learning during the Covid-19 pandemic drives home this point. CBC will necessarily require modern technology to bear fruit in this era of the highly competitive Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Let us do another reality check. Kenya’s Vision 2030 is far back in implementation. Education is a major component of the social pillar in the vision. Looking at a summative evaluation, there is high likelihood the vision will not be realised by the time our CBC messiahs will be in town. Why?

As a country, we have not fully internalised the vision nor have we resourced it as planned. Political regimes come in with their agenda as if the country has no roadmap to where it wants to be. In 2022 and probably 2027, we shall have new governments in power. From the pronouncements of aspirants for the 2022 elections, no one is meaningfully tapping into existing development frameworks and policies.

We are constantly in start-stop, stop-start modes. Currently, very expensive political promises are flying left and right. Education is not one of those premium promises. Who will fund all those promises given our debt burden? Are these promises a clever reason for more borrowing? In spite of our budget running into billions, a majority of Kenyans hardly meet their basic needs. It is not clear how the CBC graduates will find space for productivity with the governance mindset guiding the national development agenda if the campaigns are an indicator.

One more reality check. CBC requires heavy investments in laboratories and innovation hubs, beginning with secondary school. In fact, the defunct 8-4-4 system failed because all the selling points for its adoption, which are similar to the CBC goals, were under-resourced. The introduction of universal education, 100 per cent transition to secondary schools without matching resources brought the system to its knees. Here we are experimenting on an education system that rides on existing facilities that do not offer the necessary conditions for the CBC-intended goals. Notwithstanding low capitation in the education sector, developing countries have a real chance to leapfrog teaching and learning.

For CBC to succeed, the basic education technology such as smart boards, virtual simulation labs and maximum utilisation of modern technology is imperative. With high internet penetration in rural areas, the government will do justice to students on the margins by enabling them to access free online resources. Students in high-end schools in Kenya use that kind of technology. Technology advancement is most definitely revolutionising development paradigms. We should not lag behind. 

Dr Mokua is Executive Director, Loyola Centre for Media and Communications

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