New curriculum is Greek to parents

My father, who he is over 70 and has no single white on his head, says he wrote the Kenya African Preliminary Examination (KAPE) in the '60s.

Back then, they had 4-4-6-3 education system; four years of primary schooling, four years in the intermediate, six years of secondary school and three years in university.

KAPE was the nightmare every pupil had to face at the end of the intermediate level.

To date, whenever we have a discussion on matters education, dad shakes his head and says: Son, KAPE was a real examination-you passed that, you can pass anything in life.

"I scored a distinction," he always emphasises.

I never knew what a distinction meant. But I was determined to pass all the KAPEs in my life-which I did. Still, even after emerging top in my class, dad said: "Congratulations-but you haven’t sat KAPE yet-son, if you passed KAPE, you would have passed all examinations in life".

What is my point here? I must admit that I have a youngster in school, under the so-called Competency Based Curriculum (CBC). Problem is, I have been trying to understand the entire thing for a year now, and it still sounds, feels and looks like Greek to me.

And I have to retell the KAPE story all over again. See, this small guy comes home and demands for clay. I try to explain to him that in our days, we made clay from soil and water.

He gives me this look that says: Dad, you must be a Martian or a distant relative of Vasco Da Gama. He comes home and tells me his teacher told him to upload pictures of the family dinner time, I ask him, "for what? What if we did not have any dinner?" Again, I get that dad, you must be a Martian look.

I could go on and on, but I have had conversations with parents who have no idea what CBC is all about, who, like my father, believe we should all go back to KAPE.

Many complain that CBC makes them do more homework than their children.

I agree. I have found myself making a toy car from a plastic bottle and helping draw a picture of a dinosaur so many times that I have begun to think the inventors of CBC must have designed it purposely to make parents do stuff that we did when we were boys and girls decades ago.

But the biggest question which I believe Education CS and his education officers need to answer is: What exactly is the difference between CBC and good old 8-4-4?

We used to make our own toys, we used to learn how to bake and sew and even make bricks. By the time we were 10 we knew how to build and thatch huts.

What changed? Except for its highfalutin definitions in boardroom conversations, what is new in CBC?

Granted, the concept of having children start developing their gifts from an early age is noble. But those of us who once were teachers will tell you that a child may be passionate about modeling or agriculture today and suddenly want to be an astronaut the next day.

This is precisely why we still do not have enough neurosurgeons despite all those grandiose declarations by top national examination candidates that they want to be neurosurgeons when they grow up.

Besides, how do you tell a parent in Turkana to upload a family dinner as part of his child’s homework unless you live in planet mars?

Years after dad grew tired of telling me about KAPE, I cleared university, and guess what? They said I was half-baked. Dad never told me this point blank, but I always remembered his KAPE.

Now I am looking at my son making, of all the things-dinosaurs from plastic, Chinese clay, all in the name of a new curriculum, and I am tempted to tell him: Son, you should have sat KAPE in the '60s.

But then, I am afraid I will only get that 'dad, you must be Martian’ look.

What needs to be done? Simple. Call parents to a meeting and teach them what this CBC business is all about. Explain to them why they must help their children make dinosaurs from Chinese clay and toy cars from plastic bottles.

But above everything, explain to them like three-year-olds why they must do more homework than their children every evening while the kids watch cartoons.

Either that, or we might as well bring back KAPE.