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CBC proposals good for education sector

By Kalangi Kiambati | February 18th 2021 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

The launch of the Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC) taskforce report and the subsequent establishment of a State department for implementation of curriculum reforms marked a pivotal moment in Kenya’s education reforms.

The task force report contains many critical recommendations that, when implemented, will refocus our education system, making it more responsive to dynamic national and global needs  and challenges through inculcation of relevant hands-on skills and values.

One of the many important recommendations of the task force report is the emphasis on formative, as opposed to only summative assessment of learners. This is welcome for many reasons. First, if objectively and professionally administered, formative assessments can go a long way in familiarising teachers and learners with the various assessment tools and techniques, hence removing of exams.

Professionally administered continuous assessments can help demystify exams, framing them as tools for assessing one’s own progress over time rather than intimidating methods of gauging one’s position in a group of learners.

Granted, ranking of learners has its own benefits, but in Kenya, until recently, it had led to unfair competition that saw school administrators, teachers and even learners go to destructive extents in order to rank highly. 

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Before the radical changes in examination administration enforced by Dr Matiang’i, the quality of exams had deteriorated to the extent that there were allegations that students admitted to study medicine and other science-based courses on the strength of their grades were migrating to other courses for fear of facing the tough course work.

Secondly, continuous formative assessments are more likely to give a truer picture of a learner’s progress and potential. Let us face it; sitting a one-hour exam at the end of a learning level can sometimes be deceptive. I have come across very bright students who perform poorly in an exam because on evaluation day, they were either unwell or dealing with challenges outside the classroom.

Judging a learner’s potential based on a one-off exam may not be the most objective method. Only recently, social media platforms were awash with news of a young pilot who allegedly joined flying school on the strength of a fake KCSE result slip. While the said man should be dealt with in accordance with the law for the alleged crime, this incident could also reiterate the need for continuous, rather than summative assessment of learners.

With continuous assessment, a learner’s strength can be determined over a period, rather than at the end of the course. Besides, the incident underscores the importance of focusing on talents and passion in a skill-based, rather than rote learning approach to education. If the CBC is objectively implemented, it will be easier to identify such students early enough and guide them towards their careers of interest in the learner-centred approach.

Third, it gives the learner a chance to get feedback on their progress and, therefore, a chance to improve in their performance as they near the completion of their level. If conducted professionally and objectively, formative assessments will motivate learners to work hard by identifying true weaknesses and strengths. 

The assessment

Unlike in the now almost defunct 8-4-4 system where formative assessment results are not mainstreamed and therefore do not count in the long run, mainstreaming formative assessments in the CBC dispensation will allow learners more than one chance to act on feedback and improve on their individual performance.

University students can attest to the fact that having one’s formative assessment results as part of their final grade goes a long way in improving their overall score. Besides, learners can act on the feedback from the assessment to further develop their skills and knowledge, and prepare for summative evaluations.

The establishment of a State department to oversee the implementation of CBC reiterates the government’s commitment to curriculum reforms. With enough resource mobilisation to ensure enough infrastructural and human resource development in the course of implementation, there is no doubt that Kenyan learners will be equipped with skills and competencies that position them as global problem solvers rather than job seekers.

Dr Kiambati is a Communications lecturer and trainer, Kenyatta University

Competency-Based Curriculum CBC Education
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