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New curriculum can re-engineer the workplace, economy

COMMENTARY
By Chris Diaz | February 16th 2021
President Uhuru Kenyatta at the launch of the Competence-Based Curriculum report. [Standard]

This past week, the revelation that is the Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC) was further laid bare as a structures, policies and implementation report was presented to President Uhuru Kenyatta.

At the official handover of the report, President Uhuru Kenyatta termed it as a turning point in our education system, and rightfully so.

While Kenya has had previous curriculum reviews in 1965 and 20 years later in 1985, it’s been nearly 35 years since the last changeover with plenty of water running under the bridge in the period.

While the CBC has been with us since 2019, it is only now that a clearer picture of the new curriculum is beginning to show.

The end of an era

While the 8-4-4 curriculum has been with us for the better part of four decades churning out thousands of Kenya’s current crop of professionals and experts, the system has been far from the best.

For starters, the system has been criticised for churning out jack of all trades but masters of none with the curriculum being broad in coverage.

Many adults have, for instance, argued against the system lamenting its unevenness to their respective career paths.

Secondly, the 8-4-4 system has been tagged for encouraging cramming over the mastery of content ending with graduates with high grades on paper but with little or no expertise on the subject matter.

The rigging of examinations through hacks such as the infamous and fraudulent school certificates have been traced back to flaws of 8-4-4.

Nevertheless, while some Kenyans have the curriculum to thank, change has been inevitable with the first cohort of the CBC now set to graduate into the workforce in 2032.

Progression

While accepting the implementation report, President Uhuru Kenyatta further may have termed the changeover as the old giving way to the new.

From the mastery of content to rote learning, the CBC sets the stage for a rebirth in the education of Kenya’s future workforce.

At the apex of the new education system is a tweak to the period of learning with children deploying the first two years of studying in a pre-school environment.

This to be followed by six years of what is now primary education, another six years in secondary school split into half and a further three years in tertiary learning.

Communication, collaboration, critical thinking and problem solving will be among the top pillars of the new system in addition to digital literacy and self-efficacy.

As part of the fix to memorialisation, certification currently represented in the KCPE and KCSE will be changed in preference for gradual assessments ridding the system of one-off and summative tests.

Learners will now be assessed yearly between grade four and six for a total score of 60 points before a summative test at the end of the period to round off the assessment.

Moreover, the new curriculum will blend in STEM courses (Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) with learners picking a specific career path after Junior Secondary School (JSS) which runs to the eleventh year of learning.

Leaners picking STEM courses will have the option to specialise in pure sciences, technical and engineering studies and technologies.

Students picking arts and sports science centred studies will meanwhile have the choice between sports science, performing and visual arts.

 The last cohorts specifying on social science will have languages and literature and business studies to choose from.

The new system also features pre-technical and pre-career education and better integrates technical and vocational education and training (TVETs).

To foster the new curriculum implementation, the government has created a new Curriculum Implementation State Department under the wings of the Education Ministry.

With benchmarking from similar systems in Canada, Israel, Japan, Germany, Netherlands, South Korea and even neighbouring Rwanda and South Sudan, the government will be hoping the change can tip the scales of imparting knowledge and expertise.

Economic trickle down

The education curriculum is among factors definitive of the country’s economic trajectory.

Just like in the exchange of goods and services, demand features widely in defining the labour force.

The concentration of workers in just one sector for instance has the effect of greater unemployment and lower compensation.

In contrast, greater and diverse training largely results in higher competencies and wages for workers with skills-intense companies for instance being concentrated around geographical locations with highly skilled workers.

Economists have argued that education is a major distinguisher between developed and developing economies around the world with highly competent workers being able to take up opportunities in new and emerging industries such as science and technology.

Not an easy road

The CBC can, therefore, be the ultimate game-changer redefining not just the education landscape but also the economy.

Overarching issues such as youth unemployment which has hit hard at demographics aged between 20 and 29 years can be partially fixed through a rejigged curriculum.

Today, Kenya for instance struggles under a growing graduate skills gap with employers being forced to re-train graduates to take up opportunities in the workplace.

Nevertheless, progress for the new model will be premised on avoiding pitfalls including the underfunding of the education docket.

The CBC will require heavy financial lifting to fit current institutions with required infrastructure including laboratories, sports and music facilities.

To succeed the new curriculum must be precisely executed for Kenya to reap the full complement of gains contained in the CBC.

The private sector drives the economies in Africa. Both education and health programs remain most important for future leaders to be employed or partner as entrepreneurs for private sector organizations

- Chris Diaz, Director EABC and Trustee Brand Africa

 

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