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Time running out for CBC implementation

By Augustine Oduor | July 28th 2021

PP1 pupils at Aga khan Nursery school assist each other in planting and watering a seedling in a greenhouse during the school's Science Fair on Climate change.[Gideon Maundu,Standard]

Four years after Kenya ditched the 8-4-4 education system, a look at its predecessor shows that there are still major gaps and time is running out for a smooth transition.

Questions are also arising over preparations for the grand shift from 8-4-4 which had been in place for 36 years to the new education system even as the clock ticks towards the complete switch in 2023.

A government report providing transition road map to the new 2-6-3-3-3 Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC) system outlines reforms that must be undertaken ahead of the changeover.

Part of the proposed reforms include expanding existing infrastructure, hiring and training of staff and reviewing courses in all universities and middle-level colleges as part of the robust preparations for the transition.

The details are contained in the report of the Task Force on Enhancing Access, Relevance, Transition, Equity and Quality for Effective Curriculum Reforms Implementation released in February.

However, several months after the report was given to President Uhuru Kenyatta, some of the planned activities are yet to start, raising questions over the transition plan.

A peek into the timelines shine a spotlight on the newly created State Department for Implementation of Curriculum Reforms in the Ministry of Education, headed by Prof Fatuma Chege.

Additional classrooms

All planned activities aim at facilitating smooth transition of learners from primary to secondary and to universities or colleges under the new system that puts less emphasis on examinations and promotes skills development.

According to the implementation framework, between January and last month, the government should have audited existing schools’ infrastructure and created a database.

Also by end of June, the government was supposed to have fast-tracked development of the infrastructure norms and standards for basic education institutions and technical training colleges.

Still from January this year, the government should have started construction of additional classrooms to cater for the anticipated double intake in 2023.

This means the Ministry of Education should have generated a list of schools with additional classrooms and reformed their equipment production unit and enhanced its budget.

Between January and December this year, the report says the government should have expanded the capacity of schools’ equipment production unit to also provide science kits and other equipment for the junior and senior secondary education curriculum.

Under the 2-6-3-3-3 system, children will spend two years in pre-primary, six years in primary, three years in junior secondary, another three in senior secondary and three in tertiary or university education.

According to the report, the government is required to create 1.5 million new places in secondary schools to plug the looming shortfall that will be caused by double intake in 2023.

This is the year that CBC pioneer learners will be admitted to junior secondary schools after sitting the Grade 6 national examination.

It is also the year that present Standard Seven learners under the 8-4-4 education system will join Form One, after sitting last Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examination.

Under the new plan, one national examination will be developed, managed and marked under firm supervision of the Kenya National Examinations Council (Knec) at Grade 6.

In secondary, national examinations will be administered at Grade 9 and 12 for the remainder of basic education journey of the children.

The CBC report reveals that these transitions will present a huge infrastructure challenge, especially in 2023 when about 2.6 million children will be hosted in secondary schools.

“Approximately 1,250,649 learners enrolled at Grade 4 in 2020 will transit to junior secondary school (Grade 7) as the first cohort of the 2-6-3-3-3 while the 1,320,395 Standard Six cohort of 2020 will transit to Form One under 8-4-4 system in 2023,” reads the CBC task force report.

The report says the total number of Grade Six and Standard Eight learners expected to join secondary school in 2023 will be 2,571,044.

The report however reveals that available secondary school spaces for those joining the new level of education will only be 1,081,900. “This indicates a significant shortfall of 1,489,144 places in secondary schools in 2023,” reads the report.

The report identifies 2023 and 2024 as critical years that will require proper planning as the number of students joining secondary schools will overstretch the existing infrastructure.


“The pressure will only ease off in 2025 when there will not be any 8-4-4 cohort transitioning from primary to secondary schools. The task force recommended rationalisation of the existing infrastructure and resources that can be converted or absorbed to be optimally used in meeting demands during the transition.

To do this, the team proposed merging under-enrolled primary schools, in close proximity, and improve the infrastructure in one to create a junior secondary school.

It also proposes developing a framework to facilitate sharing and management of infrastructure among primary and secondary schools that will be established in the same compound.

“This may include the utilisation of vacant tuition blocks in primary schools that neighbour secondary schools, making multipurpose use of existing tuition facilities and rationalisation of the use of dormitories, which may not be in use after the designated junior secondary schools are re-organised to day schools,” reads the report.

The report also proposes making provision for primary schools that have adequate infrastructure to establish a junior secondary school.

Implementation timelines show that by December this year, government should have mapped out the capacity of secondary schools to establish the need to apply double track. By 2024, universities too ought to have conducted an audit of infrastructure to determine capacity to host CBC pathways and tracks.

During the same period, the government must have constructed requisite infrastructure and equiped universities, especially in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), arts and sports pathways and tracks.

On placement of learners to secondary schools, the report says between January and December the government should have put guidelines in place.

The ministry should also have developed criteria for senior secondary schools to host the various pathways and tracks during the same period of time.

And by last month (June), the government should have developed and operationalised a framework for infrastructure management and sharing among primary and secondary schools, and TVETs.

On staffing needs, the report says that from May this year, the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) should have prepared projections on teacher requirements for junior and senior secondary schools.

TSC should have also commenced continuous training of teachers on the CBC.

The government should have also started the process of expanding the mandate of Centre for Mathematics, Science and Technology Education in Africa (CEMASTEA) to also provide in-service training on STEM for curriculum implementers.

At university level, recruitment of additional academic staff to match demands occasioned by CBC must be done by December 2023.

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