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Blanket condemnation not helpful, public participation informed the new curriculum

Director-General Ministry of Education, Mr. Chacha Mwita (right) launched the free ‘Teachers Companion’ resource to support the new education competency-based curriculum introduced this year. [Photo/Standard]

Public participation and stakeholder engagement has been at the centre stage of the ongoing healthy debate over the new system of education that is being piloted countrywide.

To some, though the Competency Based Curriculum (CBC) is a great thing to have happened in the country’s education history, public communication is low. Many Kenyans are yet to appreciate the beauty of the Basic Education Curriculum Framework (BECF) launched in January, last year, which is the software of the curriculum reforms.

Some Kenyans are skeptical that implementation of the CBC might fail because they were not directly involved in its development. There are claims that the country lacks the ‘enormous resources’ needed to guarantee a successful take off. They argue that the country risks sliding into the same quagmire that downgraded the current 8-4-4 system of education.

Billions used?

The naysayers have argued that the billions of shillings needed to roll out the new curriculum be placed on the table first, to clear doubts that the curriculum reform process might be financially starved and thus stall midway. Laboratories, classrooms, bookshops and libraries should be fully equipped and more teachers employed first.

It is Kenyans who suggested a review of the current 8-4-4 system of education on grounds that it was mainly examination oriented. This was clear from findings of a needs assessment study shared on March 2016 during a national conference on curriculum reforms at KICC, Nairobi. The CBC geared towards realisation of sustainable development goal number four-inclusive and equitable quality education- mainly emphasizes on learners’ acquisition of appropriate skills, knowledge, values and attitudes.

Various policy documents developed after the summative evaluation of 2009 have indicated gaps in the current curriculum.

These include; the curriculum for basic education is not aligned to the requirements of Constitution and Vision 2030; the curricula for some education levels is not appropriate for the age of the learners; the current curriculum does not provide for essential pathways and thus impedes pursuance of individual interest and development of talent; and that the education structure framework is rigid and does not facilitate entry and re-entry at different levels.  The reports are available at KICD, its website and simplified messages from the reports have been shared through our social media platforms.

The needs assessment study entailed learners being asked genuine questions about the kind of learning they could enjoy. Their views resonated well with the experts position that allowing learners in high school to specialize at grade 10,11 and 12 as captured in the CBC, is better than forcing them to study all the subjects. At that level, the student is able to point out his strong areas.

There are cases of graduates who have switched immediately after graduation to other careers not because of lack of jobs. They did not pursue the right courses due to parental pressure and lack of information on career choices.

During various stages of curriculum development, there was a call for suggestions. For instance, in January 29, 2016, an advertisement was placed in the leading newspapers as required by law, asking Kenyans to present their views either orally or through written memoranda. The response was overwhelming. Unfortunately, some of the critics of the curriculum did not present their suggestions. It is still not late for their input.

The launch of the first phase of piloting of the CBC in 470 primary schools-drawn from public, private and special needs education-happened in April last year. The piloting report is a public document.

The second phase of the pilot that started last month (January) being undertaken in all primary schools, was informed by feedback from Kenyans. Therefore, the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) is not averse to public views.

Review is global

The requirement to review the curriculum after every five years is a global requirement as outlined by UNESCO/International Bureau of Education (IBE). Ours is being reviewed after 14 years.

Raising awareness about what the CBC remains a continuous exercise, as the new education system is implemented in phases. KICD also as a public institution remains open to Kenyans keen to interact with the curriculum developers.

Though KICD is not directly involved in the production of the learning materials, it has been appealing to publishers who won the tender to fast trick printing of books needed in schools.

Kenyans are rightfully curious. Education just like food is a sensitive area of focus. However, much progress will be made if our scholars, parents, teachers and the rest of Kenyans pointed out specific areas that they feel need rejigging and go ahead to suggest the way forward. Blanket condemnation may end up choking a noble idea, whose time has come.