Report has revived hopes for equitable quality education

Education CS Ezekiel Machogu speaks at DP Rigathi Gachagua's Harambee Annex offices on November 24, 2022. [DPPS, Standard]

The interim report of the Presidential Working Party on Education Reforms offers a ray of hope for Kenyans adapting an educational model that would be cheap, affordable and accessible to all and sundry.

The recommendations in the provisional report demonstrate beyond doubt that the team is committed to creating an educational system and structure that supports and promotes knowledge-based curriculum.

Domiciling Grades Seven, Eight and Nine in primary school, which is more close to the 8-4-4 system, certainly offers children in primary and junior secondary a unique opportunity to establish a firm foundation in education, and shape their own future.  

In essence, this means that education shall be offered on day-basis up to Grade Nine, making it affordable to all households as three years of boarding in junior secondary has been avoided. The education structure has effectively been changed to 2-9-3-3 which is close to the 2-8-4-4 structure.

If the recommendations are examined from both sides, the new system encourages day schooling, and each secondary school to be attached to a primary school. In the worst scenario, each secondary school will be hooked to at least two primary schools to facilitate smooth transition from primary to secondary school. With this arrangement, the cost of basic education will be less expensive as boarding costs and related bills will be reduced. The concept will make education affordable to all families.  

In fact, what is now remaining is for the Working Party to carry out reforms in the syllabus, but maintain knowledge-based curriculum. This model of curriculum, for close to six decades, has helped the country to respond effectively to emerging issues at the basic level of learning.

The knowledge-based curriculum which in Britain, Singapore, Canada, Japan among many others is referred to as knowledge-rich curriculum, provides students with a broad understanding of traditional academic subjects such as arts, languages, arithmetic, sciences and humanities.

Knowledge-based curriculum is an effective and robust syllabus that sets quantifiable goals and keeps track of student development throughout the year. This model of curriculum assists teachers to have a greater understanding of what is going on in the classroom, it enables students to reflect on their performance, and parents to be conscious of the ongoings in school, particularly the academic performance of their children.

An excellent curriculum values every learner regardless of their social affiliation, religion, tribe or race. Moreover, acceptable syllabus comprises quality and up to standard content that contributes to the development of competencies and rich academic knowledge in students. The Working Party should review CBC with these values in mind. 

The task force should borrow a leaf from the British government which in 2017 discarded competency-based education and reverted to knowledge-based curriculum. The review of the British curriculum was based on analysis of high performing education systems around the globe which included a scrutiny of curriculum models of USA, Canada, Australia, The Netherlands, France, Denmark, Japan among many others. Finland which had adapted CBC is now in the process of rolling back to knowledge-based curriculum after their educational standards took a nose-dive.

Countries that embrace CBC still put much emphasis on cognitive abilities such as applications, analysis, evaluation, synthesis and effective domain (values). A curriculum that emphasizes on acquisition of competencies (skills) to the neglect of cognitive abilities lacks purpose, and adds no value basic education.

In sum, a curriculum that stresses on areas such as personal, social and emotional development; communication, language and literacy; problem solving, reasoning and numeracy; knowledge and understanding of the world; physical development and creative development is not appropriate for basic education learners.

-Mr Sossion is former Secretary-General of Knut