New Curriculum Headache

After 32 years under the 8-4-4 framework, the Kenya education system is currently undergoing radical reforms that have seen the nationwide rollout and implementation of the new 2-6-3-3 ‘competence based curriculum’. The new curriculum is highly touted as the ultimate approach that will address the shortcomings of the 8-4-4 system ‘that churns out half-baked graduates’ who are not ready for the world of work. Many people view it as a paradigm shift in the education system that will nurture skilled and competent graduates and address the looming unemployment crisis. Yet, many questions and concerns remain answered.

Is the 8-4-4 system as bad as we are made to believe? What exactly are the problems of 8-4-4 system and how will the new 2-6-3-3 system address them? What will happen to the 8-4-4 graduates? How is the new curriculum different from 8-4-4? What learning materials will the teachers and students use? How different are they from the current materials under 8-4-4?

Parents are equally confused. What textbooks and learning materials will their children use? Will they buy the books or will the government provide them? What exactly will their children learn in schools?

The government is working tirelessly to implement a curriculum that has been met with many challenges from the onset. Although, the government through the Ministry of Education (MOE) and the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) has been working hard to train the teachers implementing the curriculum, stakeholders still feel that the teachers lack adequate capacity and skills to implement the new curriculum. How will the teachers, who are 8-4-4 products, be able to implement the 2-6-3-3 system? What exactly will be the role of the teachers within the confines of the new curriculum?

There is resistance from teachers, parents, publishers and other stakeholders, yet the government seems not bothered at all. Many stakeholders have complained that there was no consultation and that the implementation was a one-man show. Textbook publishers are concerned that the timelines provided were very limited to generate the right, adequate and quality content and learning materials for students. Teachers have also complained that the learning materials and textbooks have delayed, thus significantly affecting the academic calendar. Which textbooks will we buy for our students?

These are hard questions that need answers, yet there is limited information on the new curriculum. Many ‘experts’ are coming up with their own theories and explanations. The problem is compounded further with the lack of credible sources of information on the curriculum approach and its implementation. Moreover, the process is taking place quickly under very tight deadlines, and many people have reservations about its effectiveness. Have we taken time to gather insight and learning? Do we have time to make the changes and adjustments? What if the curriculum fails to take off? What will be the fate of our children?

My take is that until we address these questions, we will find ourselves with another failed curriculum that we will scramble to change and reform. In the next series of articles, I will attempt to demystify the new curriculum approach and the various skills that it seeks to nurture and impart in our children. Look out for my next article: “The Perceived Failures of 8-4-4”.

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