Without adequate funds, we'll not achieve much from CBC

CBC is strong in experiential learning. [Christopher Kipsang, Standard

Do we need more graduates from our learning institutions? Have we saturated the job market?

Parents invest in educating their children only for a majority of them to languish in the streets, stay home jobless, lack opportunities to intern and put themselves at the service of some political bigwigs who use them as a means to an end.

In about four years, the first batch of Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC) learners will join university. This breed has benefited from a very different type of examination and progression from primary, Junior Secondary and then Senior Secondary before being admitted to university.

Their mindsets are very different from the current crop of students. A major distinction would be that they are less competitive with peers, a departure from the traditional exam-driven education in which schools compete to produce top results that do not necessarily reflect quality in learning.

This CBC student too are likely to graduate like their 8-4-4 predecessors to join the thousands of job-seekers, some of whom have moved on to reinvent themselves and are acting as if they had no university education.

The Kenyan CBC system borrows heavily from education systems in developed countries such as Canada, the US, the UK, Germany, and Australia. The system's education philosophy is anchored in great educators like John Dewey (experiential learning) and Plato - developing strong critical thinking capabilities, that is, developing skills in reasoning.

Given the turbulence the CBC system has gone through in its inception phase, one would be hard-pressed to explain how different CBC graduates will be from their 8-4-4 counterparts. CBC is meant to be stronger in experiential learning, enabling students to link empirical knowledge to generating rational thoughts. The hands-on approach to teaching and learning is also meant to inculcate values in self-discovery and development. The goal is to graduate job creators, employable employees and not job-seekers.

To date, there is no substantial research evidence showing how the development paradigm has shifted as a result of the 8-4-4 graduates getting into the job market. If anything, we have ended up destroying the middle-level colleges that were known for specialised practical programmes. The graduates are neither innovating on a large scale nor are they transforming industries.

With low capitation, school administrators are pushed to the corner to figure out how to sustain a system that is poorly thought out, and worse, poorly implemented. From a global perspective, the Ministry of Education by itself cannot remedy, a national programme of such a magnitude. Education provision requires a highly powered inter-ministerial and multi-sectoral approach to place the interest of the child at the centre of current and future national development.

John Dewey is a strong believer that education is not a preparation for future life but that education is life itself. The implementation of CBC could have been planned better. Since this did not happen, the chaos surrounding Junior Secondary School (JSS) teachers and pupils, for instance, is a natural consequence. Failure to plan is planning to fail. The street battles involving JSS teachers with their employers could have been avoided had the government planned better on how to roll out the curriculum from a longitudinal perspective.  

Instead, the government has put energy and resources into political activities, events and meat the expense of critical developmental agendas like education. We risk churning out graduates who will neither be critical thinkers nor innovators. Consequently, the CBC generation might not develop individuals, communities and the country because our priorities are in money and power-grabbing.

We owe children quality education which the government must provide.

It is not too late to reconsider increased capitation to save the long-term intent of CBC. This is not about CBC as a system that somehow must work. It is about children in the system. They deserve the best a responsible government can provide. We on the verge of ruining the lives of thousands of children with an experimental system that promises so much but is founded on shallow ground. Children should not be victims of government's poor planning.

Dr Mokua is the Executive Director, Loyola Centre for Media and Communication