Nairobi, Kenya | XINHUA | During an outdoor learning session in a school located some 13 kilometers away from the bustling downtown section of Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, learners cheerfully take part in an assortment of activities as teachers look on intently.
The teachers reveal that such outdoor engagements are crucial for the realization of the aspirations of a new school curriculum that seeks to harness every child’s talents and skills.
“The new Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC) understands that learners have varying strengths; some are good in sports, music while others excel in mathematics and other disciplines. It is a curriculum that caters to every child’s abilities,” said Catherine Nyangweso, the principal of Vineyard School.
Questions about the efficiency and success of the new curriculum being implemented in the education system have been rife in the past weeks.
The raging national debate was sparked by parents who lamented over the nature of homework being assigned to learners, the cost implication of executing the assignments as well as the burden of purchasing “too many textbooks.”
The debate has since taken a new direction after a parent who is also an advocate petitioned the courts to halt the implementation of the curriculum citing the economic burden tied to it.
“To be very candid CBC is expensive. The idea is good but the cost implication is great. For example, before my son closed school we had to buy some empty bottles, yarn, and loads of manila for him to do a school activity. The frequency of such requirements is regular and financially exhausting,” said Tom Asendo, a parent.
The aforementioned curriculum was introduced by the Ministry of Education together with other stakeholders in 2017 and rolled out nationally in 2019 at the pre-primary level and grades 1, 2 and 3 in the lower primary to address the inadequacies of the old curriculum.
The shortcomings of the old curriculum that has been in place since 1985, include unnecessary focus on examination overlooking learners’ talents and gifts, lack of adequate practical lessons, and absence of flexible pathways to align learners to their careers and interests early in their education.
The government has remained devoted to the curriculum despite the challenges being pinpointed by naysayers every so often reiterating the rich education diet it provides to learners.
The Kenya institute of curriculum development (KICD) which vets and approves curricular and support materials has asked teachers to consider the most appropriate course books to avoid forcing parents to buy many textbooks.
“Publishers have done a commendable job. We interact with great ideas during evaluation but we have to agree that not all of these books should be made compulsory to be bought by parents. Schools could purchase a few of these as reference materials by teachers and not necessarily as books that pupils must have in class,” said Charles Ong’ondo, the CEO of KICD.
Promoters of the new curriculum have emphasized repeatedly that its success is pegged on the collaboration among teachers, parents, and the learners.
The uproar behind the implementation may have revealed the lack of awareness of the role to be assumed by parents in the new curriculum.
“Parents bear misplaced fears because they lack sufficient knowledge on the CBC. For example, they should refrain from doing assignments no matter the perceived difficulty. The parent is only allowed to offer guidance,” said Nyangweso.
“As a school, we had to orient the parents because many were still having a difficult time wrapping their heads around the idea,” she added.
While the teachers have been adjusting to imparting knowledge using digital devices, analyzing learning outcomes using novel mechanisms, the learners have also been caught up in a state of confusion.
“I had one of our learners who is gifted academically enquire why her performance will not be graded against her peers. She did not understand why she had to work so hard and yet at the end of the day she was not assigned a number to boast of her academic prowess,” said Nyangweso.
Unlike the old system which assigned positions according to examination outcomes, the new curriculum utilizes more in-depth approaches in analyzing assessments, effectively eliminating examination ranking.