Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid — Albert Einstein.
What is unique about the Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC) rolled out early this year? In what ways is it different from the 8-4-4 system?
One of the features of CBC is that it recognises that human beings are differently endowed in abilities, interests and orientations.
Implicit in the 8-4-4 curriculum is the idea that intelligence is an indivisible quality within the human mind. The traditional notion of intelligence, based on IQ testing, dominates content, pedagogy and assessment.
CBC has embedded the principles of differentiated Curriculum and Learning, and diversity and inclusion in the organisation of curriculum content and instructional approaches. This takes care of the different abilities and interests of each learner.
It will provide for parallel and complementary tiers: academic, vocational and talent. The government will introduce a multi-track system to take care of the differentiated learning needs and orientation of all categories of children.
The second feature of CBC is that policymakers have cut back and redefined the curriculum. The principle behind this reduction is having an appropriate balance between breadth and depth of curriculum coverage in terms of student learning outcomes.
This is with a view to ensuring that students retain mastery over the core knowledge and concepts in a prescribed learning area. Learners easily forget what they have learned if exposed to vast amounts of content that they don’t understand. A persistent complaint about 8-4-4 is that it has a heavy curriculum load.
CBC is not about content only, important as it is. It is not about knowing, memorising or remembering content. Content is a means to an end, not an end in itself. Students should not just know a fact but it is using that fact to solve problems.
CBC, therefore, emphasises on teaching approaches that engage learners in an exciting process of discovery, of exploration of knowledge and be able to apply it inappropriate situations.
The 21st-century work environment demands far more than content knowledge. It needs critical thinking and problem solving, creativity and imagination.
Third, the Basic Education Curriculum Reform Framework proposes a significant departure from tradition by introducing a new learning area known as Community Service Learning (CSL).
CSL allows students to gain practical experience and apply academic knowledge and skills to find solutions to specific issues in society. Countries such as the Netherlands and Canada have a strong CSL that adds credits to the learners overall assessment.
Schools such as Starehe Boys Centre have for decades had and stressed a programme where students serve the community during holidays and even during school days.
We have not had an institutionalised CSL programme in the current curriculum. CSL will strongly complement the overarching objectives of CBC. It might also help address some of the roots of unrest and indiscipline in high schools.
The ultimate purpose of schooling is learning. Teaching is a means to that end. CBC emphasises less on schooling but more on education, less teaching but more learning.
Education and learning imply that children are going to have more opportunities to gain knowledge. The knowledge and understanding gained will develop their minds and character.
The fourth feature of CBC is the reduction of school-based assessment load. This policy will similarly de-emphasise school level exams.
CBC will address the problem of too much testing at very short intervals that have been the hallmark of 8-4-4. The assessment that CBC prescribes is not aimed at labelling learners with grades but will be an assessment for learning.
CBC is designed to be fun for learners. It is a curriculum for understanding and not memorisation. It is a curriculum to stimulate the minds of learners and not stuff them with facts and figures.
The curriculum is rigorous but the methods of teaching are meant to make it as effortless and as exciting as possible. — The writer is the communications officer, Ministry of Education