The phasing out of 8-4-4 system of education enters a crucial stage this week as the pioneer learners of the Competency Based Curriculum (CBC) transition from lower to upper primary level.
The learners joining Grade Four as schools reopen for first term this week will also be the first cohort to transition to junior secondary school after Grade Six without sitting for national examinations.
The transition will put to test the capability of teachers and school managements readiness to mould the pupils.
The Grade Four learners have eight lessons to attend every week, each lasting 35 minutes with the uphill task being the practical subjects that require proper teacher training and learning centres equipped with relevant facilities. The practical subjects include agriculture, art and craft, home science and music.
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Parents have already started feeling the pinch after schools gave them a list of new items required for the practical subjects.
The items include a tape measure, pieces of linen, sewing needle, tailoring pair of scissors and buttons for home science. Flute, children’s guitar and other items for music while gloves and gum boots were listed as items for Agriculture.
“We have also been asked to buy dust coats among other items. I think others will be required as learners progress with their learning,” revealed Priscilla Mwangi, a parent of a child joining Grade Four at St Mary’s Sports View Academy in Nairobi.
Ms Mwangi said she has no problem with the demands as long as her child receives the best education under the new curriculum.
However, some parents raised concerns over the requirements.
“When they were in Grade Three, my child could arrive home with instructions. For example, the child needed a photo of an animal to be printed, cut out and glued onto a page of an exercise book. That means you have to go to the cyber cafe or alternatively have a computer and printer in the house,” said Robert Oloo whose child studies at Brooks Academy in Nairobi.
For agriculture, some private schools with limited space will face challenges conducting the practicals and may have to be innovative.
“We shall come up with innovate ways in which we can train our learners to be better off than those in places with adequate space. We can use sacks stacked with soil or recycle bottles and other items,” said Mr Isaac Too who teaches agriculture at a private school in Nairobi.
For CBC to be successful, teacher training is crucial. There have been efforts by the Ministry of Education to train teachers during the holidays although the process has been receiving criticism as inadequate.
Approximately 100,000 Grade Four teachers received training last week with others expected to undergo similar exercise during the coming school holidays.
Despite the uncertainty, Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha has insisted the transition would be seamless. On Friday, the CS said books for Grade Four would be given to public schools when they open.
Teachers who spoke to Sunday Standard had mixed reactions over their preparedness to teach the learners with some dismissing the training as unnecessary.
“The training is very instrumental but even without it, teachers can maneuver because teaching materials have clear guidelines on how to do it,” said Too.
“The fact that many teachers will be required to teach learners even though they have not received the CBC training shows inadequacies in the roll-out. We have no option but to continue teaching as we wait for our turn,” said a teacher who sought anonymity for fear of being victimised.
Meanwhile, long queues have been witnessed at bookstores and uniform shops as parents rush to make purchases ahead of the opening of schools.