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Book sellers, publishers ask government to 'go slow' with new curriculum

By Graham Kajilwa | January 3rd 2017
From Left: Members Kenya Publishres Association (KPA) Mary Maina and Musyoki Muli, Vice Chairman KPA Simon Sossion and Chairman KPA David Waweru during a press conference.(Photo: Jonah Onyango/Standard)

Anxiety has gripped book sellers and publishers over planned changes in the school curriculum this year.

Education minister Fred Matiang'i is expected to push for more reforms in the education sector this year, including the expected overhaul of the entire 8-4-4 system.

The system is set to be replaced by a new 2-6-6-3 system - two years in pre-primary, six in primary, six in secondary and three in tertiary institutions.

The new curriculum, part of radical reforms in the country's education sector expected to be start rolling  out this year, will not only affect students, but also the entire school textbooks sector.

Book sellers and publishers now fear that any rapid changes in the curriculum will spell doom for their already struggling businesses.

The Kenya Publishers Association (KPA) fears new curriculum changes will not only call for quick churning out of new books, but render many of the old ones irrelevant.

The publishers warn that rushing its implementation might not just hurt them but the learners too.

"There must be no rush in implementation. It must be spaced out in way to allow the changes needed to sink in slowly," said KPA Chairman David Waweru.

Waweru warned that any rush in printing books on grounds of a new curriculum not only undermines the quality of the books but the whole system as well.

"In changing the last curriculum, because of the rush, the quality of books was compromised. Once a curriculum is released there must be research, writing and testing before publication. And this process cannot be compromised," Waweru said.

The publishers expressed concern that, coming hot on the heels of the recent imposition of a 16 per cent Value Added Tax on books that saw  their prices skyrocket, sudden introduction of new curriculum changes might sound the death knell for some players in the sector.

Waweru said while the organisation agrees that the 8.4.4 system has done more harm than good to students, the problem with the system has never been solely on its modules but rather the way it was implemented.

"The 8-4-4 system is not entirely bad. It is just that it was implemented in a hurry. For 32 years we are still talking on its merits and demerits because of very poor and rushed implementation," said Waweru.

According to Waweru, it is important that the country avoids similar mistakes done with the rapid introduction of 8-4-4 and come up with an education system that churns out critical thinkers

He said the current system has overloaded students that they cannot wholesomely grow to provide real solutions to the problems the society faces.

"We all recognise that the 8-4-4 system needs a complete change. It has concentrated a lot on delivering content to students who are overloaded from a very early stage," he said.

He added: "Students have just been cramming as much information as possible so that they can dispense it in the exam."

Book sellers agree.

Mr Pardeep Rehal of Savannah Book Centre Ltd said book sellers were not against the introduction of curriculum changes but the speed at which it will be implemented.

He wants this to be gradual enough to give bookshops a chance to phase out their stocks in a profitable manner.

"One single book is stocked in thousands in our shops. If a curriculum is phased out, where shall we take them? Should we burn them as they cannot be recycled? They will be simply valueless," said Rehal.

Still, all indications are that the impending curriculum changes might just have saved parents from further agony, as publishers hold on to stocks waiting to know their book's fate.

A spot check by The Standard revealed almost no further increase in prices of text books, which has been linked to the imminent introduction of new curriculum changes.

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