CBC here to stay, High Court rules

The pioneer class of CBC grade 7 in Nyamachaki Primary in Nyeri during a Home science practical lesson on July 19, 2023. [Kibata Kihu, Standard]

A High Court three-judge bench yesterday unanimously agreed that it was impossible to abolish the Competency Based Curriculum (CBC) eight years after Kenya did away with the 8-4-4 system.

Although justices Hedwig Ong’udi, Anthony Mrima and Anthony Ndung’u threw out the larger part of the case, which had initially been filed by lawyer Esther Ang’awa and subsequently taken over by lawyer Nelson Havi, they ruled that there is need to amend the Basic Education Act to align it to the curriculum.

The judges directed that the Ministry of Education should amend Section 41 of the Act within four months.

“The first respondent to initiate the process of amending Section 41 of the Basic Education Act to align the structure with the CBC within 120 days. The first respondent will make regulations as mandated of him within 120 days,” ruled the bench headed by Justice Ong’udi.

The court also ordered that the Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu should appoint a working committee to ensure the recommendations of the Presidential Working Party on Education Reforms are fully implemented.

The CS was ordered to act within 90 days.

The three judges had flagged out at least 10 issues in the case. Among them was a claim that CBC was a system encouraging child labour and was environmentally unfriendly owing to the number of books required.

However, they found that there was no evidence to support the claims.

In addition, the court found that the concerns raised in the case ought to have been raised on the fora that had been provided for by the government before CBC commenced.

The judges also said it would be illogical to order learners currently studying under the system to revert to the old system. According to them, the best interest of Kenyan children is to continue with the system as the government continues to make necessary amendments.

In the case, the government defended CBC, explaining why the 8-4-4 system was seen to be deficient. Its lawyers argued that reverting to 8-4-4 would also amount to killing the country’s economic blueprint, Vision 2030.

The case was initially filed by Esther Ang’awa. In her case she argued that the CBC had placed a heavy economic burden on parents and its implementation should be halted until her suit was determined.

At the core of the lawyer’s case was the argument that the system was rolled out without proper preparations and consultations with key stakeholders.

Anga’awa later left the case to Nelson Havi who argued that teachers were ill-prepared and the implementation of the new curriculum would harm children’s future.

According to him, CBC did not “cater to the needs of the country”.

But in its response, the government argued the new curriculum catered for the needs of children and that secondary school leavers would earn knowledge, skills, competencies, and attitudes to succeed in the labour market.

Ang’awa had sued the then Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha, the Kenya Institute Of Curriculum Development (KICD), the Teachers Service Commission (TSC), Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut), the National Assembly and then Interior CS Fred Matiang’i.

The government explained the intense preparations and investments that had gone into the CBC since 2019 and capped it with the successful implementation of the curriculum in some counties, especially during the piloting stage.

TSC detailed how it had prepared teachers for the curriculum rollout through training and sensitisation.

Knut and the Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) also backed the government.

The main target of Havi’s case was the then Early Childhood and Basic Education PS Julius Jwan. In court documents, Jwan argued that CBC was introduced out of the need to have the right skills that would industrialise Kenya. The new system was benchmarked with countries such as Malaysia and South Korea, Jwan argued. 

The PS traced Kenya’s education reforms from 1964 when a commission was formed by then Education minister Joseph Otiende to craft a new system that would restructure the colonial system of learning, to the 2011 task force led by Prof Dauglas Okoth, which recommended a 2-6-6-2-3 system.

CBC was introduced through Basic Education Curriculum Framework 2017 and Sessional Paper No. 1 of 2019 on the policy framework for reforming education and training for sustainable development in Kenya.

“Asian and Latin America countries, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, and Mexico have reformed their secondary education and training systems focusing on the quality and relevance of learning outcomes,” Jwan argued.

But the petitioner argued that CBC could not stand without amending Basic Education Act No 4 of 2013.