The government seems determined to change our education system from 8.4.4 to competence-based curriculum (CBC) system popularly called 184.108.40.206.
It is not clear why an education system pioneered by Kanu overstayed. Some think CBC is part of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s legacy project.
UNESCO defines CBC as a curriculum that is learner-centred and adaptive to the changing needs of students, teachers and society. It implies that learning activities and environments are chosen so that learners can acquire and apply the knowledge, skills and attitudes to situations they encounter in everyday life. We would add, long after school. Another characteristic of CBC is blurring the lines between traditional subject areas.
One would expect that CBC will identify what each student is good at then nurture him or her to full potential. With CBC, aptitude tests would become the order of the day as parents try to find out what the kid is good at.
What is not explicit is the cost of CBC, just like 8.4.4. We have asked who will buy a golf kit if the child is found to be talented in golf. Who will buy a violin for a musically talented kid? Who will hire teachers for the gifted?
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In whispers, CBC is “welcome” because we have spent years discrediting 8.4.4. Some speculate that 8.4.4 was not that not bad, but A level graduates already holding power and influence in both public and private sectors realised selfishly that discrediting 8.4.4 could extend their lifecycle in the market. I know 8.4.4 graduates who went to Oxford and Harvard, and excelled!
Some background; 8.4.4 was celebrated as the panacea for the elitism of A level system which we inherited from Britons and is still alive in Tanzania and Uganda.
But it never solved that problem. It seems to have transferred elitism from public education to private sector. Give credit, by removing one hurdle to university, 8.4.4 increased the supply of degree holders, and its brand dilution.
Can we avoid the problem of 8.4.4? Can we avoid discrediting a whole generation. Will the Kenyan elite accept CBC? Here are my few suggestions on what CBC should entail. You are free to enrich the list.
One is more focus on student discipline. It is true that whoever hates discipline hates knowledge. I may be biased but we have noted the academic success of Asian students globally has a lot do with discipline. They make up of 20 percent of admissions to top American universities, the Ivy League though they make only 5.6 percent of the population.
The biggest nightmare to any teacher today is students indiscipline, which sadly is more common among the economically disadvantaged. In the past, students from poor background, used to be the most disciplined. Not anymore.
Two; will CBC content be the latest in science, technology and even humanities? Our curriculum tend to lag behind new development because textbooks must be written and knowledge packaged. That is why the use of tablets or computers was a great idea. We could update the content in real time. Will the content have the newest developments in biology like genome programming? What of superconductivity not conductivity in physics?
Interestingly, we get the latest technology in the market but not in the classroom. Does our physics curriculum in primary or high school explain the concept of touch screen which all kids use on their phones?
Three; will CBC inspire the students to dream big, beyond their county and country. Will they dream of exploring the solar system and exoplanets (is that in syllabus?). How do we balance the global aspirations of our kids with devolution and its local focus?
Four; will humanities too become relevant to our students and their lives? Shall they focus on contemporary issues not prehistory. Why study about Zinjanthropus and Kenyapithecus when we barely know enough about ourselves? Why do we fall in and out of love? Why are we so selfish? Why are we corrupt? Why is unhappiness replacing happiness?
Five; shall they learn about Protestant work ethic and how to take care of this planet? Shall they love work, not idleness? Shall we inculcate in our learners the belief that the world has no scarcity, the problem is about distribution of abundant resources.
Six; shall our kids learn to relate with each other, beyond cosmetic love and flirtation driven by cheap emotions? Will philanthropy bloom like flowers after summer rain? How shall we inculcate confidence in the next generation?
Seven; shall our students learn that economics is about people, not money? Shall they learn to earn before learning to spend?
Eight; shall they learn to compete globally? Remember how USA reacted to Russian launch of Sputnik, the first artificial satellite? Noted how Indians and Chinese are trying to land on the moon to compete with Americans? Shall we learn to compete with other nationalities not our familiar or envious neighbours?
Nine; shall CBC help in closing the yawning social economic gaps in Kenya? Will CBC become a bridge linking the affluent and the poor? Across tribes, races and genders?
Finally, CBC should transform a nation and a generation. It should be the bedrock on which Vision 2030, the 2010 constitution and big 4 should stand on.
-The writer is an associate professor at the University of Nairobi.