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Secrets of new learning system as curtain falls on 30-year-old 8-4-4

By Augustine Oduor | December 5th 2016
Emmanuel Chivunira (centre) of Tender Care Junior Academy scored 429 marks. With him are his father Stanley Kibunja (left) and brother Brian Kimanyano M’mbwanga. (PHOTO: DAVID GICHURU/ STANDARD)

The clock is fast ticking to the end of the 8-4-4 education system, which is set to be replaced with a new curriculum whose implementation may start on a pilot basis as early as May next year.

The current system, characterised by cutthroat national exams for Standard Eight andForm Four, will be replaced with continuous assessment tests that will run throughout the learning process.

And to transit to higher classes, a standardised national examination will be carried out, but only on sampled candidates across the country to gauge the overall understanding of taught subjects.

These details are contained in the 'Basic Education Curriculum Framework' seen by The Standard. The document eliminates the 8-4-4-education structure and proposes new learning levels from pre-school to tertiary education, complete with intended age gaps per learning stage.

If adopted by Kenyans, the 2-6-6-3 system will effectively end the three-decade-old structure characterised with high-level wastage and protracted examination process.

This means that children will spend two years in nursery and six years in lower and upper primary, each section divided into three years. Secondary education will also be split into two – lower and senior – each section taking up three years.

However, in upper secondary, learners will be expected to specialise by taking up either of three paths – arts and sports, social sciences and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

This means that at grade four, learners will be introduced to the optional subjects offered at upper primary to enable them make informed choices at grade seven.

And learners in lower secondary will undergo a rigorous career guidance programme and be exposed to the related subjects to enable them to make informed choices as they transit to senior school.

The document, prepared by the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD), is a product of intensive consultations and stakeholder engagement. Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i said the document will be presented to stakeholders this week.

"We will present the proposed new curriculum to education stakeholders at a National Curriculum Conference to be held on December 8, 2016, after which we can plan how to implement it," said Matiang'i.

KICD Chief Executive Officer Jwan Julius said if stakeholders ratify the document this Thursday, piloting will be done from May.

"We shall start piloting of the lower primary, then do a national roll out of the classes in 2018. Other classes will be done on a phased out approach," said Jwan.

Nursery education will take a maximum of two years and will be attended by children aged between four and five. And while in school, children will be taught good manners.

"Throwing litter, washing hands, using courteous language; basic communication skills such as reading and writing; counting, mannerisms, knowing the environment, socialisation and religious values should be emphasised," reads the report.

And these will cover languages, which include indigenous (language spoken in the catchment area), mathematics, environmental, religious and moral learning areas.

Children in upper primary– Standard Four to Six – of age nine to 12 will be taught Kiswahili, home science, agriculture, science and technology, religious education, creative arts, physical and health education. Social studies such as citizenship, geography and history will also be taught. Foreign languages (Arabic, French, German and Chinese) will be optional.

"There will be two types of assessment in upper primary. Formative assessment from grades 4-6 will be continuous through individual learners' portfolios. To transit to grade 7, a national assessment will be administered at grade 6," reads the document.

The document says that national assessment will not be individualised but will aim at giving an overall picture on whether the learners have acquired the expected competencies for this level.

"Learners will be randomly sampled across the country and assessed using standardised tools, which will then be marked and analysed to get an overall picture of the entire population transiting to Grade 7. The results will help teachers to take appropriate action."

Jwan said the competency assessment does not only measure the progress and achievement of the learners, but also the effectiveness of the materials and methods used for teaching.

"So assessment needs to be viewed as a component of the curriculum with the twin purposes of effective delivery and further improvement in the teaching and learning process," he said.

This means that national examinations will not be sat by all students as is the current case with Standard Eight.

And for secondary education, the report says lower secondary learners – 13 to 15 years – will be exposed to broad-based curriculum to enable them to explore their own abilities, personality and potential as a basis for choosing subjects in the senior school.

Core subjects

The core subjects here will be English, Kiswahili, mathematics, integrated education, health education and pre-technical and pre-career education.

Also to be taught are social studies, religious education, business studies, agriculture, life skills and sports, and physical education.

Leaners will have to pick at most two optional subjects among visual arts, performing arts, home science and computer science. Others will be foreign languages and Kenyan sign language (language for those with impaired hearing).
Senior secondary education will mark the end of Basic Education.

Learners exiting this level will be expected to be "empowered, engaged and ethical citizens" ready to participate in the socio-economic development of the nation. They will be expected to be able to communicate effectively, apply mathematical, logic and critical thinking skills and also exploit individual talents for leisure.

They will be expected to uphold national, moral and religious values and apply them on day-to-day life.

The report says that the pathways will reduce wastage that currently sees thousands of students drop out of schools.

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