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How to save CBC from ending up in failure like in other countries

 Grade three pupils at Green Wood Academy in Kawangware, Nairobi. [Collins Kweyu, Standard]

Since the inception of formal systems of education, nation states have undertaken educational reforms to improve their systems.

As globalisation has intensified, educational policy borrowing and lending across country borders has increased. These reforms are borrowed and lent for a variety of purposes, not only for the express purpose of improving educational structures and practices, but also for political expediency.

'Best practices' lending is a central component of educational reforms. Many educational policies that travel across borders essentially become global reforms that no longer have a clear reference society of origin. Global governance institutions are advocating specific reforms, known as 'best practices', to multiple countries, resulting in the absence of any one country to serve as the reference society for reform.

These global reforms have a powerful impact, but they are not monolithic and countries can resist or borrow them with adaptations for the local environment. A 'best practice' reform that was influenced externally is Kenya's Competency-Based Curriculum strategy.

It is a component of the learner-centered education reform movement that has been advocated by aid organisations since the 1970s. The implementation of a competency-based curriculum in Kenya was done primarily to comply with and meet the expectations of the international community.

Each succeeding national education curriculum has since included various iterations of active learning. The reform's elements are not compatible with the nation's current educational culture and resources, which is largely why it continues to have little impact on classroom instruction.

The CBC has already lost popularity in many of the initial nations where it had been implemented, which is a stubborn fact. Imposed and non-voluntary policy changes typically don't adapt to the resources and cultural norms of the adopting nation. Most often, the imposition is contingent upon fulfilling requirements set forth by international monetary organisations and non-governmental organisations that finance such policy reforms.

Kenya's CBC policy was implemented just because it was thought to be 'best practice' or because it was intended to serve political purposes; the context in which the new policy was to be implemented was, however, disregarded. The government should anticipate the difficulties of implementing reforms abroad without first ensuring that the environment is conducive to their adoption. It is important to talk about broad contextual issues including copying reforms verbatim from one nation to another, diverse educational cultures, and the lack of consideration for whether the educational infrastructure is ready to sustain the reform.

The Kenyan approach to educational reforms is designed with only a minimal focus on individuals who will carry out the implementation. Since they fail to acknowledge the importance of support from educators or street-level bureaucrats, top-down strategies frequently fail to provide the desired results.

The fact that learner-centered education alters the power balance between teachers and students is another reason why teachers are likely to respond negatively to it. In the CBC setting, the government is seen as the originator, which has created many difficulties in the implementation process because the government neglected to take into account the educational beliefs of people who were assigned with executing the policy.

The current situation can only be salvaged by adopting a phenomenon known as vernacular globalisation that occurs when popular educational ideas are modified to conform to regional settings.

Local context continues to be a crucial component in the effectiveness of reform and the local needs moderate global imperatives. Dominance of international over national is neither a necessary consequence of economic globalisation nor does it necessarily belittle democracy or diminish the importance of the state. Local players can express their ideas and exercise their rights through the local power-sharing mechanism modification.

Educational reforms should be planned with the local context and local constituencies in mind. Street-level bureaucrats should be involved in all stages of policymaking, from agenda-setting to policy formation. Educators should be close to the ground in terms of understanding the needs and concerns of other affected groups such as students and parents. An approach to reform that involves backward mapping would ultimately prove more effective as street-level bureaucrats would have greater ownership over the reforms.

The implementation stage of policymaking should be given greater attention as change is a developmental process, not an event, and takes commitment. Planning and implementing educational reforms is a multifaceted endeavour, which is made even more complex when reforms are borrowed and lent across borders. Most reforms fail because they are not developed with effective planning and foresight, and policymakers should take greater care with planning reforms to suit the intended context and to ensure there are adequate resources available to implement them.

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