Many issues that education stakeholders thought were weighing down the quality of education over the years may soon be behind us. These issues include the ever-disturbing curriculum whose design and implementation was largely criticized for being too costly, overloaded, and for failing to provide learners with practical skills and adequate competences relevant to today’s dynamic local and global job market.
Away with malpractices
Major education stakeholders had reached a point of compromise and the only thing that seemed to matter to many parents, students, and teachers was good grades in final examinations. It did not matter to many teachers and parents whether a grade ‘A’ student had life-skills or not; many people did not care about the morals and values held by this ‘A’ student. And the question of whether grade ‘A’ was attained genuinely through hard work or shortcuts remained unasked yet exam buying, exam cheating, and skewed moderation practices were the order of the day in which some Kenya National Examination Council (KNEC) officials, school principals, teachers, exam supervisors, students, security officials, and parents took part. No doubt, we had gone too far down the road of destroying the future of the young generation.
The issue of examination malpractices may have, partly, found a solution in the recent changes of examination processes instituted by the former Education Cabinet Secretary, Dr. Fred Matiang’i. Although the changes have left many people grudgingly uncomfortable, they may be the kind of changes we needed after all. The cartels in KNEC that were said to be behind examination misconducts have substantially been done away with, thus leaving Kenyans more trustful about the examination procedures. However, since the changes in the examination processes were adopted, there have been complains about the mass failures in national examinations and there have been grumbles about huge number of candidates failing to qualify for university education, a problem whose best solution, in my view, is the newly launched Competency Based Curriculum (CBC), launched in January 2018.
New vision and curriculum
It is hoped that with the Competency Based Curriculum, no learner will again be branded a failure as we shift from summative assessment to formative assessment criteria. The assessment will also be more holistic focusing on the whole individual rather than on the cognitive aspect alone.
Technically, the CBC should be able to produce creative citizens with skills to solve their problems; it will equip learners with applicable skills, relevant knowledge and wide range of competencies to become innovators, entrepreneurs, agents of change, and ultimately become global citizens in the 21st century. Simply, the curriculum aims at developing the diverse potentials of learners so that they no longer become consumers of knowledge but rather creators of knowledge.
Unlike in the curriculum that is currently being phased out, a learner who has gone through Competency Based Curriculum should be able “to do”, “to be” and “to think”. This means that it will mold learners into productively active citizens who are able to think critically, act innovatively and live harmoniously with others. This would, consequently, fast track the development of an individual and of the country. It is a curriculum that is likely to help in changing the general culture of the citizens as it puts emphasis on character formation. In a fresh way, it places emphasis on ethical, moral, patriotic, peaceable and responsible citizenry.
The new 2-6-6-3 education system aligns itself with the 2010 constitution and vision 2030. According to the Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) Policy of 2017, the new curriculum is a response to the call for countries to promote “sustainable development and quality education by implementing the Rio Conventions, UNESCO Global Action Programme (GAP) and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.” It is designed to propel sustainable development in adherence to other universal sustainable development frameworks. As such, it responds to issues relating to climate change, sustainable environment, global citizenship, human rights, health and lifestyle, cultural diversity, peace and security, HIV & AIDS, biodiversity, gender, inclusion, and disaster risks.
The CBC, emerged out of long consultative processes involving virtually all education stakeholders. The steers of the process always made calls to the public at various stages of its development for citizens to give their input. Therefore, being a product of highly participatory process there is no doubt the curriculum may easily be embraced by Kenyans.
However, the effective implementation of this system of education will be determined by the availability and quality of resources. This being the takeoff moment of our plane, the current government and successive governments must give priority lest our plane may crash even before it is up and stably flying.
All teachers will need to be trained in line with the new curriculum and will require more tools to implement the curriculum whose content should majorly be delivered practically rather that orally. That the government should employ more teachers to cover the already existing deficit of more than 80,000 teachers is imperative.
Infrastructure is likely to remain the greatest challenge to the CBC. Although the government has made significant effort in championing the laptop project and in supplying electricity to schools all over the country, most of the schools lack essential learning facilities such as modern classrooms, sports facilities, science laboratories, furniture, and water. In some parts of Kenya, we still have learners studying under trees sitting on rocks! It is observed that even in schools where facilities are available, they are often dilapidated. Besides having poor infrastructure, schools in Northern Kenya and around Mount Elgon are adversely affected by insecurity an issue that must also be resolved urgently. Mass withdrawal of non-local teachers from North Kenya due to insecurity continues to deny children from the region their right to education.
Shift in thinking
According to the CBC senior school learners will be required to follow a particular pathway (area of specialization) based on their talents, skills, personality, and individual passion. The three pathways are arts and sports; social sciences; and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). These specializations have a huge implication on the costs. For instance, for a senior school to effectively take care of arts and sports science pathway, it must have adequate art and sporting facilities. Amongst other things, such a school must have multiple playing fields, swimming pools, theatre halls, music rooms, recording studios, as well as drawing, painting, ceramics, sculpture, and photography rooms fully equipped with necessary materials. This is not to mention that the school must have well-trained teachers in sports and arts. If it is a 21st century curriculum, its implementation should be supported with 21st century kind of facilities.
It is worth noting that degree courses will run for three years and not four years, meaning that all universities will need to start preparing for comprehensive overhaul of their programs. Fundamentally, all education stakeholders will have to readjust in one way or the other because the changes in the curriculum will affect nearly all sectors. It means that we all need to shift our thinking and our priorities to education sector. Focusing on the youth now is necessary because at no other time have the youth needed our attention than now. We all need to appreciate the great opportunity the youth have to revolutionize development in Africa through progressive quality education.
The deeply rooted challenges affecting the youth today are hoped to be curbed substantially. By the time CBC hits a full cycle some perennial challenges such as unemployment, alcoholism, drug abuse, early marriages, irresponsible sex, drug trafficking, environmental degradation, female genital mutilation, tribalism, corruption, poverty, hooliganism, and outlawed gangs should have been reduced significantly.
Although, the new curriculum should not be seen as a cure-it-all medicine for a myriad of troubles that ail our society, its positive results should clearly be visible because any education system must do what it is meant to do to an individual and to the society – namely, to transform.
This article was first published in New People (May-June 2018)