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Primary teachers better placed to teach in junior secondary

Opinion

 

 Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC) Trainer Virginiah Wangui takes pupils through CBC-based at City Primary School on Sept 27, 2019. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

Learners in grades 7 and 8 are not getting the right education almost two years since the Junior Secondary School (JSS) section was established under the Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC). Lack of trained JSS teachers, teaching and learning materials, laboratories, libraries and technical tools and inadequate number of teachers and teachers' strikes due to poor terms and conditions of employment are the main reasons why little learning is going on in the JSS.

A study conducted by the Kenya National Union of Teachers in 2019 on Teacher Preparedness for the Implementation of CBC recommended that the government, through the Ministry of Education and other stakeholders, should create an adequate framework of training programs to prepare learners for the paradigm shift since most components of the curriculum design had not been grasped by teachers, especially on delivery of content on learning areas and key competencies, assessments using rubrics, reporting and evaluating learners.

The same study also noted that adequate resources and facilities were paramount in the implementation of CBC. The study recommended that the Education ministry builds infrastructure for implementation of the curriculum.

Some of the recommendations were addressed but not satisfactorily. The Teachers Service Commission (TSC) posted teachers to junior schools without considering their subject combinations and numbers. The commission posted between one and three teachers to each JSS. These teachers are not enough and therefore the workload is extremely high. This has compromised quality.

Universities are still training teachers in the old subjects; subject combinations that are not targeted at CBC.  Junior school needs teachers trained for middle school education and not secondary school education.

Some teachers in the JSS are doing guesswork. Take for instance Pre-Technical Studies and Integrated Science. One would want to know whether those teaching these subjects have the right competencies. Teachers at the primary school level have interacted with these learners for the last seven or so years and have also gone through TSC’s tooling and retooling exercises and may be more of capable of teaching in JSS than fresh university graduates.

No wonder, under the stewardship of heads of institutions in comprehensive schools, primary school teachers have been helping to implement the curriculum at the JSS level. JSS teachers are on record complaining that they are being compelled to teach subjects that they were not trained to teach.

The Education ministry released a report on training needs in March 2024 in which they admitted that most school leaders, in both secondary and primary schools, were not ready to mentor and support teachers on CBC career pathways, assessments and frameworks because they have not been trained on the same.

The same study indicated that school leaders were not able to interpret curriculum designs for both secondary and primary schools. The report further showed that on learning approaches, half the number of school leaders in both secondary and primary schools have no capacity to mentor and support teachers on CBC learning approaches. On the integration of ICT in the teaching and learning of CBC, both secondary and primary schools expressed unpreparedness in mentoring teachers.

The Education Ministry’s report generally agreed that there is need to improve school infrastructure, sensitise local communities on their roles in CBC and to employ trained and motivated teachers. The report recommended that on curriculum designs, teaching and learning support materials need to be availed for smooth CBC implementation. The report also talked about streamlining policy matters in CBC and availing more funds for the implementation of the curriculum.

It is important that TSC employs JSS teachers who have trained in the subject areas they are supposed to teach. In the meantime, teachers who have been handling grades 1 to 6 and have been tooled and retooled, understand these learning areas better and are therefore well-placed to teach JSS. Teachers need middle school training with the right pedagogical skills and competencies to teach CBC and not the secondary teacher training being offered by universities currently.

In 2025, Grade 8 learners will be transiting to Grade 9, which is the highest class in JSS, and learners are expected to have been prepared well to face the three career pathways; Arts and Sports Sciences, Social Sciences and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. We need to have prepared our learners by then. It is the responsibility of the government to ensure that the right curriculum is given to learners so that they can provide the right labour force in future and contribute to national building.

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