Why it will be very difficult to implement CBC effectively

Ms Evaline Ogesa, a teacher at Shauri Yako Primary school in Homa Bay town teaches grade four pupils agriculture on January 10, 2020. [James Omoro, Standard]

The President has directed the National Treasury to engage Parliament to appropriate Sh8 billion for the construction of 10,000 classrooms in public schools to provide additional learning space for one million Junior Secondary students.

Although the economics of Competency Based Curriculum (CBC) is still a closed book, it is worth noting that implementation of the curriculum goes beyond construction of classrooms – there is also need to retrain teachers, hire more teachers, acquire appropriate teaching and learning resources, develop digital content and curriculum designs for Grade four to 12.

Implementation of the new curriculum also includes other activities such as orientation of Ministry of Education officers at the county and sub-county levels and digital alignment of teachers’ programmes.

The question however is: Is our economy capable of sustaining the rollout of the new curriculum? Is the economy strong enough to ensure that the government adequately prepares the country for Junior High School and facilitate the 100 per cent transition from primary to secondary?

As the government confronts the huge challenge of implementing CBC, concerns are being raised over the high cost of scrapping the 8-4-4 system. There are even fears that the burden of rolling out the new curriculum could be pushed over to the parents.

If the financial burden of implementing the new curriculum is passed over to parents, that could make CBC a curriculum for the rich.

Billions of shillings are currently required at basic, tertiary and university levels to develop infrastructure, recruit and re-train teaching staff, acquire teaching tools and, more importantly, revamp the Quality Assurance and Standards directorates.

The Task force on Enhancing Access, Relevance, Transition, Equity and Quality for Effective Curriculum Reforms Implementation has already confessed that the government did not carry out a CBC cost analysis. This is the reason why the task force did not provide specific details on the CBC cost.

Without an approved budget, the government is appropriating Sh8 billion for construction of classrooms and recommending too late in the day that a detailed analysis be undertaken to establish a realistic need-based unit cost of all levels of education – from pre-primary to university.

It is indeed, irrational that the recommendations are being made after the rollout of the new curriculum. This is like putting the cart before the horse. The economics of the CBC should have been done long before starting to develop the new curriculum. At this stage, how shall we know who will shoulder what cost especially for parents, and how will those who are unable to bear the cost be helped?

It is worth recalling that the State-appointed external assessors had indicated that the government would require Sh365 billion to start phasing out the 8-4-4 system during the first four years of CBC implementation. The assessors had projected that at least Sh90 billion would be needed annually to roll out the CBC. No serious analysis was made by the government to come up with a realistic budget for the implementation of the curriculum.

A report tabled before the National Assembly’s Education committee in 2019 revealed that Sh500 million was needed to build the capacity, mentor and support teachers who were implementing the early years’ learning. A similar amount was needed to develop standards and evaluation of digital content for Grade four to 12. The same report indicated that Sh470 million was required to develop curriculum support materials piloting Grades four to 12.

Development of curriculum design for Grades four to 12 was estimated to cost Sh600 million with another Sh100 million for monitoring and evaluation. The highest apportionment was on evaluation and print curriculum support materials for Grade four to 12 at Sh1 billion.

Orientation of Ministry of Education officers and digital alignment of teachers’ programmes were to cost between Sh30 million and Sh50 million respectively. To date, the government has not made public the economics of CBC. We only hear roadside pronouncements such as the government's plan to pump Sh8 billion into the construction of classrooms.

Education economists estimate that a successful rollout of CBC would cost Sh265 billion per annum which is way above the current allocation to the Ministry of Education Science and Technology. Who will shoulder the extra cost or will it be passed over to parents?

In my view, overhauling of 8-4-4 curriculum was a backwards step considering that the government never considered the economics of the new curriculum.

Unless something extraordinary happens, it will be difficult to effectively implement CBC. Kenya should have bench-marked against the most successful school systems in Europe, Asia, Canada and USA. This should have been done with great care to avoid learning the wrong lessons from countries with very different cultures and economies.