We have not overloaded the curriculum, says Ong'ondo

Chanels Manager Christine Mucheke interacts with a pupil from Nairobi Primary School during the launch of the Newspaper in Education that aims to help learners improve their language and comprehension skills. [Denis Kibuchi, Standard]

Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development chief executive Prof Charles Ong’ondo has allayed fears that the Grade 7 learners are overburdened.

He said no new content has been added on the new Competence Based Curriculum (CBC) in relation to the last two previous education systems.

‘‘Both the 7-4-2-3 and 8-4-4 systems, the number of subjects are the same. Even if we are to reduce the learning areas, it means that the content has to be pitched on another subject to meet the 45, learning hours in a week,’’ he said.

He observed that if the CBC system is critically analysed, it contains the same number of subjects as in the previous.

Last month while flagging off the Grade 7 text books distribution at KICD, Education CS Ezekiel Machogu observed that the government is looking into the learning areas the students in JSS are going to cover.

He said, this will be informed by the recommendation of the Presidential Working Party on the way forward.

‘‘As a ministry, we are also concerned with the number of learning areas the children are going to cover in the new set up. They are many and we will work on it so that it will not look like it's going to be a burden to the learners going forward,’’ CS stated.

In the current set up, the government has approved 12 compulsory learning areas with learners expected to choose a maximum of two optional subjects.

They include Mathematics, English, Kiswahili, Agriculture, Integrated Science, Health Education, Social Studies and Religious Education.

Others are Pre-Technical and Pre-Career Education, Business Studies, Life Skills, Sports and Physical Education.

In addition, learners will be required to do a minimum of One and maximum of two optional subjects from Virtual Arts, Performing Arts, Home Science, Computer Science, Foreign Language (French, Germany, Arabic), Indigenous language or Sign Language.   

‘‘The Junior Secondary has a broader curriculum where we have 12 learning areas with several optional subjects. Considering the age of 13-15, it is intended to give the learners an opportunity to explore before they settle into the fewer pathways,’’ Prof. Ong’ondo said.

He noted that learning areas are advised by the eight national goals at every stage of learning with students given an opportunity to experience that which will address the goals.

He cited the main goal as Communication and integration.

‘‘The learner should be able to communicate effectively and respect other peoples’ cultures. That will rope in English, Kiswahili and a foreign language,’’ he stated.

‘‘When you start unpackaging all the goals of education, you realise they will give a broader range of learning.’’

Ong’ondo further observed that with the introduction of foreign language at an advanced stage, the learners will be able to learn matters of international relations and integration.

‘‘When you think of learning areas, there are learning areas that are meant to help learners advance as they progress in their education system. But there are learning areas that are there to help learners operate today,’’ he said.

The CEO noted that the government is in the second phase of the new curriculum dispensation which is structured to give direction to learners before they take the next stage of learning.

‘‘CBC is structured that the pre-primary is to offer the learners an early opportunity to interact outside the home. The primary school is a stage which gives learners an opportunity to socialize through numeracy, literacy and social studies,’’ Prof. Ong’ondo said.

The 12 core subjects and optional assessment will be referred to as the Kenya Junior Secondary Education assessment.

At Pre-Vocational level, the assessment will be referred to as Kenya Pre-Vocational Level Education Assessment, with learners being assessed in nine subjects

At JSS and pre-vocational level, both formative and summative assessment will be conducted. The formative assessment will be offered in the form of School-Based Assessments (SBAs) while the Summative Assessment will take the form of national assessment.

Kenya National Examination Council shall provide guidelines for standardised SBAs to be administered by subject teachers in Grades 7, 8 and 9. The teachers shall then score the learner’s work and provide immediate feedback to the learners. A school year report shall then be issued.

The scores for each learner shall then be uploaded to the KNEC assessment portal, with the agency then using the reports to provide a national report. This report shall highlight areas that need intervention and give specific recommendations to education stakeholders.

The end of Grade 9 national summative assessment and the SBAs scores shall be used to guide placement of learners in the different pathways in senior secondary school.

Ong’ondo said, KICD is mandated to develop curriculum and curriculum support materials to evaluate before they reach the final consumer.

Stakeholders include Kenya National Union of Teachers, Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers, and Universities Academic Staff Union representatives.

He noted that although it might not be a smooth and seamless transition, he urged stakeholders to have some patience.

‘‘Let’s acknowledge that change has one main characteristic, a lot of discomfort. The discomfort we are experiencing in the introduction of JSS will ease,’’ he advised.  

Ong’ondu challenged those condemning the new Competency Based Curriculum saying if there was any burden in the new system, the unions should also own it.

‘‘We are powerful partners in the whole process. If we criticize the CBC and say it is expensive and chaotic, then we are submitting that we are part of the chaos in the system. Engage us robustly in the process that produces the curriculum,’’ Prof. Ong’ondo stated.

He observed that so far, the government has reached six Counties in books distribution to schools across the country noting that before February 17, they will have reached every corner of the country.

‘‘We have done six books in 10 counties. By the end of the week we will be able to reach 20 counties, which will be half of our target,’’ he said.