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Education reforms team should focus on content

Alexander Chagema

An empty classroom at Sinoni primary school in Mochongoi, Baringo south constituency on March 6, 2022. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

The Presidential Working Party on Education Reforms (PWPER) has been tasked with addressing critical aspects of education reforms. Proper canvassing of relevant information will undoubtedly enable PWPER to make recommendations that will resolve problems and challenges that have dogged access to inclusive quality basic education.

What matters in any education is the curriculum. Ideally, curriculum refers to the totality of what should be taught in a school system; knowledge, skills, attitude and values in each subject. This comes in the form of facts, principles and concepts that sharpen the thinking and reflections of students.

Curriculum content is to education reform what a bride/groom is to a wedding. Wedding plans, as we all know, oscillate around the bride, bridegroom or both. The rigour and coherence of a curriculum form the moving spirit in ambitious education reforms globally.

Parents have complained that CBC is expensive and burdensome to them. It doesn't sit well with many that they are compelled to get involved in the technical aspects of education - being required to help their children to tackle homework daily.

But while these are valid complaints, rationalisation of parental involvement in CBC, or stoppage of purchase of learning materials will not, of itself, address the question of quality of learning that their children must get.

Arguably, CBC has not solved literacy and numeracy challenges that the majority of learners face. Children in most schools, especially in rural and remote areas, still face difficulties in reading age and grade-appropriate books. Their reading and writing fluency are wanting.

The PWPER must treat this challenge as part and parcel of the education reforms and confront it. Undue focus on examinations, their value notwithstanding, has denied children the opportunity to read books for pleasure. Yet, leisure reading helps learners to explore the world of the written word where they widen their mental horizons.

PWPER may not have the mandate, technical capacity or the time to revise or formulate a national curriculum for basic education. However, the mandate is inherent in the wide-ranging tasks before it. The school calendar is very important. Children today spend more hours on a weekly basis in school than in former days.

Is the curriculum load too heavy to let the children go home or to rest? Why do schools keep children in day schools on Saturdays and Sundays? Why has teaching during holiday tuition become the norm rather than the exception in many public and private schools?

What gets taught and how it is taught is very important. The PWPER will make Kenyans proud if it addresses this aspect of education reform. Six months that the PWPER has been given is too short to deliver on a curriculum. However, you cannot talk about CBC without the raw materials that a country will rely on to develop the competencies. It will be half done if PWPER will not have touched or embraced the heart of education, the DNA of the curriculum, which is; content.

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