The Kenyan education sector is set for a major overhaul with the introduction of a competency-based curriculum. The Basic Education Curriculum Framework (BCEF) seeks to address the shortcomings of the 8-4-4 system which is more of academic and exam oriented.
A summative evaluation of the curriculum by Kenya Institute of Education in 2009 found that the current system does not provide flexible pathways that recognize the interests and talents of the learner. According to the Economic Survey 2014, the highest dropout rate (about 50%) is between standard six and form one and this is due to the rigidity of the curriculum.
There was a need for a system that prepares the learner early enough for work, career progression and sustainable development and the 8-4-4 wasn’t fulfilling that. The BCEF is aimed at enabling every student to become an engaged, empowered and ethical citizen.
The BECF is organized into three levels; early years education, middle school education, and senior school. Early years education is divided into two years of pre-primary schooling and three years of lower primary schooling. Pupils will join lower primary education in grade 1 at the six years of age.
Middle school education consists of three years in upper primary and three years of lower secondary education. Lower secondary is from grade 7 to 9, and it is at this point that the learner gets to explore their abilities, potential, and personality in order to be able to choose their career paths when they get to senior school.
At senior school, the learner gets to specialize in a career path of choice. They get to choose from three from three career pathways- Arts and Sports Science, Social Sciences, and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).
The proposed changes have elicited mixed reactions across the country. Some people feel the change has been long overdue while others are of the opinion that the current system only needed a little tweaking.
Those opposed to the changes say it is more like reverting back to the system whose shortcomings the current one was brought to address. While some of the reservations are justified others are just because change is not always welcome.
The proposed curriculum could be the savior the country needs in the education sector, though it could with a few tweaks here and there. What could work and what should be adjusted?
It is commendable that hygiene and nutrition are moved from being a topic in Science to being a subject on its own, and will be offered from as early as lower primary. This is aimed at promoting a healthy lifestyle and the ability of children to take care of their own wellbeing as well as that of others.
Topics that will be covered will include healthy eating, hygiene practices, regular monitoring of growth, oral and dental health, immunization and de-worming.
The world is becoming a global village and being conversant in more than a single language is becoming more of a necessity than a privilege. Students will be introduced to foreign languages in upper primary school. The BECF outlines four foreign languages to be included in the syllabus as French, German, Mandarin, and Arabic.
Mandarin is at the top of the most spoken languages with 955 million native speakers and 194 million non-native speakers. Given Kenya’s increasing transactions with China, it is also important to include it in the syllabus.
According to rocketlanguages.com, Arabic comes 5th (295million native speakers, 127 non-native speakers), French 7th (80million natives and 153 non-native speakers) and German 11th with 89million native speakers and 52million non-native speakers.
In a bid to become global citizens, we have abandoned home. Very few people in this generation are able to speak their ethnic language in its purest form. Some are even on the verge of becoming extinct. The introduction of indigenous language as a subject is a godsend move to the preservation of Kenyan ethnic languages.
How many linguists do we have in this country? The subject is expected to enable students to advance their learning in mother tongue and can later specialize in linguistics and orthographies.
Kenya Vision 2030 lays emphasis on Science, Technology, and Innovation (STI) as being one of the key drivers of industrialization of the country’s economy by 2030. For this to become a reality, science needs to be developed as a subject in learning institutions.
The constitution also emphasizes the promotion of science and indigenous technology and innovation. Integrated science as a subject will combine concepts of physics, chemistry, biology and environmental studies. It will provide the learner with an opportunity to gauge his or her ability in science in preparation for further studies and a career in science.
The teaching of Life Skills Education at lower secondary of education will enhance the appreciation of oneself as well as the need to value and promote good interpersonal skills.
It will also equip the learner with psychosocial competencies and interpersonal skills that would help them make informed decisions, solve problems, think creatively and critically, communicate effectively, build healthy relationships, empathize with others and manage his or her life in a healthy and productive manner.
The subject will move beyond providing information to the development of the whole individual. Perhaps this will help reduce cases of suicide and homicide among teenagers in Kenya. In upper primary, unlike lower primary, a spiral approach will be adopted to ensure relevance, age appropriateness and increase in complexity of the concepts and skills.
Last year, secondary schools experienced increased student unrest that saw destruction and loss of property. No one wants to be anywhere near university students when they go on a rampage. The inclusion of community service programs in the curriculum will help to channel knowledge on contemporary issues to the wider Kenyan community.
Community Service Learning will be compulsory to all learners and could perhaps help students understand how to coexist with neighboring communities. Combined with Life Skills Education, this could be perhaps the long needed cure to making students understand that conflict can be resolved amicably without any resultant destruction.
Special Needs Education
Students with special needs will no longer be lumped together. A functional assessment will first be done to determine their placement and the most suitable intervention to meet their needs and abilities. Depending on the outcome of the assessment, the child may be placed in a special school, special unit, regular school with support or home and hospital based program.
There are learners with special needs who may follow the regular curriculum. Adaptations and/or with enrichment and intervention programs may be made to match their needs. Learners with special educational needs who may not follow the regular curriculum will follow a specialist, specialized syllabuses and intervention programs including home and hospital-based programs.
Learning will be individualized and therefore time allocation will be dependent on completion and mastery of specific tasks. This will enable special needs students to exploit their interests and capabilities to the fullest
Growing up, I had a deaf and dumb best friend. Our interactions were always limited whenever we could not find a piece of paper to write each other notes. It was also difficult for him to make friends as few people could understand him. Kenya Sign Language should be compulsory to all learners and not only an alternative language for deaf learners.
This will help in bridging the gap between normal children of sound hearing and their deaf counterparts. If we are to build an all-inclusive society, normal students should easily be able to interact with special needs students.
Assessment will be done based on competency. No longer will students exposed to different learning environments be subjected to a standardized assessment cutting across the line. Using competency based assessment, the learner will be given an opportunity to put into practice what they have learned.
It is based on actual skills and knowledge that a person can practically demonstrate. The learner can be provided with a challenge and then be allowed to show how to resolve the problem. Learners in hardship areas will not have to try to match up to the standards of those in comfort zones.
The curriculum reforms are positively ambitious and could provide the long- needed cure to what is ailing the Kenyan education. All that is now required is to bring everyone on board, especially the teachers.
Their leadership should not only be seen in their words but also their actions. You are not going to train a student to become an ethical citizen when you are having an affair with their classmate, are you? The society should also measure up and address issues such as corruption and other vices that deny the youth equal opportunity.
It is expected that 15% of learners will take the Arts and Sports Science pathway. It is pointless to develop students’ talents in arts and sports if a few individuals pocket the money artists and sportspeople could be making a livelihood out of. It is giving hopeless hope.