The Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC) ,which is the subject of a standoff between the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) and the Ministry of Education, is a product of a report of the Taskforce on the Re-Alignment of the Education Sector to the Constitution of Kenya and the Kenya Vision 2030.
The current debate is unhealthy for the implementation of CBC. As a member of the National Steering Committee for Curriculum Reforms since April 2016, I appeal for sanity in the debate.
The government should be saluted for the bold step of implementing a key recommendation of the 2011-2013 report of an education taskforce that was chaired by Prof Douglas Odhiambo.
I imagine that readers of the report of the first Education Commission chaired by the late Prof Simeon Ominde will agree that had CBC been implemented in 1960s, Kenya would have acquired a newly industrialised countries’ status like South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore and China.
In early 2016 when CBC was initiated by then Education Cabinet secretary Dr Fred Matiang’i, there was harmony among stakeholders, a majority of whom were represented in the National Steering Committee for Curriculum Reforms. Regular meetings provided opportunities for consultations on how to address emerging issues. This process worked well.
Considering that CBC is well rationalised and the roll-out was clearly spelt out through a consultative process, the current debate is not whether CBC should be introduced but how it should be implemented. Obviously, the effectiveness of the process is important, especially preparedness of teachers who are main implementers.
It is against this background that key agencies, including the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development, the Teachers Service Commission, the Centre for Mathematics, Science and Technology Education in Africa, Kenya Institute of Special Education and the Kenya National Examinations Council are actively engaged in the training of stakeholders, especially teachers to effectively participate in CBC implementation.
The process will take time, and any challenges faced can be addressed through collaborative efforts. It is remarkable that Kenya’s development partners such as the World Bank, Unicef, Unesco, among others, are supporting the new curriculum.
Kenyans must not lose the bigger picture. The 8-4-4 system, which we are walking away from, is characterised by teaching, marks, grades and certificates at the expense of learning and acquisition of skills, competencies and attitudes. This is why youth unemployment is a time bomb in the country. And with lack of values, life skills and inappropriate attitudes, the resultant phenomena includes corruption, homicides and environmental degradation, issues threatening our very existence as a country.
That the CBC is implemented on a phase–out, phase–in approach, where the 8-4-4 and the CBC are concurrently implemented till around 2027, when the CBC will be in full operation up to university level. Stakeholders amicably consult and avoid a situation where the ministry leadership is demonised instead of being supported for the remarkable efforts being taken to implement the CBC.
Few suggestions are in order, going forward. One, the ministry should reactivate the National Steering Committee for Curriculum Reforms for sober and incisive consultations on the CBC.
Secondly, all Kenyans need to appreciate that challenges faced in rolling out CBC can be gradually be addressed as we improve the quality of human capital through improved education and training.
Third, Knut should appreciate that the recently launched policy framework on curriculum reforms is a product of stakeholder consultations, including a National Stakeholders Conference. Kenya is a developing country that faces many challenges that can be addressed as we move forward.
Finally, teacher trainers, including universities, should rapidly position themselves to backstop the implementation of CBC by providing trainees with essentials of the new syllabus, among other strategic interventions.
For Kenya to realise her development aspirations, conversations on CBC should be on how we can improve the implementation process. The writer is a policy analyst and senior lecturer, University of Nairobi.