Learners raising hands during a lesson at an elementary school. [Getty Images]

Learners under the Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC) can now breathe a sigh of relief after the government reduced the number of subjects and lessons.

In new changes, primary education has been divided into two– lower and upper– and the number of subjects reduced by two at each level.

In lower primary, learners will only take seven subjects spread across 31 lessons per week. This is a reduction from the present nine subjects covered in 35 lessons each week.

This means that Hygiene and Nutrition Activities that are currently independent subjects will be integrated within Environmental Activities with four lessons each week.

Art, Craft, Music and Physical Education subjects will now be taught collectively as Creative Arts with seven lessons lined up for this new subject per week.

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In upper primary, learners will now take only eight subjects that will be taught in 35 lessons per week.

Presently, learners in this level, take  10 subjects spread across 40 lessons per week.

Here, Agriculture has been integrated with Home Science into one composite subject referred to as Agriculture and Nutrition that will have four lessons per week. 

And just like in lower primary, Art & Craft, Music and Physical Education will now be a single subject known as Creative Arts with a total of 7 lessons every week.

The biggest reduction however, is in Junior Secondary where five subjects have been slashed. Students in this level will now only take nine lessons.

Integrated Science and Health Education will now be taught as one subject known as Integrated Science.

Social Studies and Life Skills Education have been merged and will now be referred to as Social Studies.

Pre-technical Studies, Computer Studies, and Business Studies are all merged into a new composite subject known as pre-technical studies.

Agriculture and aspects of Home Science have been integrated into one composite subject referred as Agriculture & Nutrition with four lessons per week. However, other concepts of Home Science have been integrated within Integrated Science.

Pre-technical Studies, Computer Studies and Business Studies have been integrated into one composite subject referred to as Pre-Technical Studies.

Physical Education and Sports, Visual Arts and Performing Arts have been integrated into one composite subject referred to as Creative Arts and Sports.

The subjects will be covered in 40 lessons weekly. Presently, these students take 14 subjects covered within 45 lessons.

However, there will be no changes in implementation of CBC at pre-primary level as the government retains the current five subjects and 25 lessons weekly.

The new changes were communicated by Basic Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang.

In the circular, dated December 20 the PS said foreign and indigenous languages will be taught as non-formal subjects and will not be tested.

This means that they will now fall in the category of sporting activities, drama and music festivals categorised as co-curricular activities.

Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu said changes take effect in January 2024.

The changes are a response to concerns by parents that CBC was overburdening learners. 

Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development Chief Executive Charles Ong’ondo said that teachers will continue using textbooks distributed under the current arrangements for learners in pre-primary to Junior Secondary.

“The content from the new learning subjects will be drawn from the current text books. Those in class eight will also use textbooks under the previous subjects in Junior School as they had already been printed,” said Prof Ong’ondo.

He, however, said textbooks for Grade Nine, moving forward, will conform to the new subject arrangement.

Ong’ondo said that the reduction in subjects will substantially reduce cost of CBC.

“Parents will now be required to buy only nine books instead of 14. And this alone will significantly reduce the amount spent on CBC. And this was one of the concerns raised under the new curriculum,” said Ong’ondo.

Teachers and parents have welcomed the news, expressing relief at the prospect of their children having more time to focus on core subjects and engage in extracurricular activities. 

National Parents Association chairman Silas Obuhatsa welcomed the changes, noting that it would ease the burden on parents who have been struggling since the onset of CBC.

Obuhatsa said the changes are in line with parents’ proposal to the presidential working party.

In 2021, parents took to social media to express their dissatisfaction over CBC, saying the system was burdensome to parents and costly. Parents poured out their frustrations on being forced to take part in the learning of their children.

“We are grateful that the government has listened to parents’ concerns and made the necessary adjustments. We support the reduction in subjects as it makes CBC more viable even to the poorest households,” Obuhatsa said.

The overhaul echoes recommendations from a presidential working party on education reforms, which highlighted concerns about curriculum overload and student stress.

KICD spearheaded the streamlining effort, with a focus on integrating subjects and minimizing redundancies.

“KICD has rationalised learning areas based on recommendations from the presidential working party. This aims at addressing concerns about content overload, gaps and overlaps in the curriculum,” said Kipsang in a circular announcing the changes.

Kipsang explained that CBC at the pre-primary level complies with the presidential team’s recommendation.

He further indicated that guidelines for senior school will be issued in the first term of 2024.

Teachers will also get a chance to familiarise with the curriculum design when schools reopen.

“Revised-curriculum designs for the rationalised learning areas shall be available on the KICD website from January, 2024 and will be distributed to schools in first term,” the circular reads.