Kenyans: We need to talk about the new education curriculum

Kenyans, we need to talk about the new education curriculum!

There’s a lot happening in Kenya right now. While I’m at it, congratulations Zimbabwe, though I’m keen on knowing how Mr. Emmerson Mnangawa would take up his role, because if you have a military that’s powerful enough to propose a leader, then chances are the same military is in-charge. He’s got time to prove himself and his cabinet and I sincerely wish the people of Zimbabwe the very best!

Where was I, yes, the education curriculum with a pilot phase commencing January 2018. Here’s a tabular summary of the curriculum:

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The education reforms started as early as 2000 and over the years experts have been looking into enhancing not just the sector but also ensuring that students get the very best out of the system. The C S Rotich, tabled a budget  for the education sector,  in the National Assembly on 30th March this year. Some of the funds proposed in that budget included: 10.1 billion shillings for HELB, 83.8 billion shillings for University Education, 14 billion for free primary education, 33 billion for free day secondary education, 2 billion for recruiting teachers and so forth. I know not whether he was aware that the ministry of education would roll out the pilot phase of the new curriculum(2-6-3-3-3) in January next year with the hope of 2018 being the last year pupils would sit KCPE exams.

The budget is an ambitious one and now that the government keeps borrowing money that we do not comprehend where it goes, there’s a lot that could hinder the implementation of this curriculum and I for one, I’m already hurt just by thinking about it.

Coming from a Psychology background, I understand the eight theories that informed this reform ranging from Instructional design theory( Perkins, 1992), Visible learning theory (John Hattie, 2012) to Constructivism theories like Dewey’s Social Constructivism, Gardeners Multiple Intellegence theory, Piaget’s Cognitive theory, to Erik Erikson’s Theory of Psychosocial Development- just to name a few. But, you are not here for the theories, or to hear me go on about them, rather you are here to know how this break down works. So, I’ll try and explain it 2-6-3-3-3 will be as follows:

  • Two years in pre-primary school. The learners will start pre-primary at the age of four, not three or two, but four.
  • Six years in primary school. This is broken down to three years in lower primary (Grade 1, 2, 3) and three years in upper primary school (Grade 4, 5, 6). They’ll have some competency tests and then proceed to lower secondary school at age 12.
  • Three years in lower secondary school ( Grade 7, 8, 9). They will study 12 subjects in lower secondary: English, Kiswahili, Mathematics, Integrated Science, Health education, Agriculture, Business Studies, Social Studies, Sports and Physical Education, Religious Education, Life Skills Education, Pre-technical  & Pre-Career education. They will have the option of choosing 1 or 2 of these subjects too: Visual arts, Performing arts, home science, computer science, foreign language, indigenous language, Kenya sign language.
  • Three years in senior school. Here there will be three pathways that the learner can pursue. This system has been in place in countries like Canada, Malaysia, India, New Zealand and Sweden. It’s an attempt to introduce vocational, technical, talent and general academic pursuit in secondary school. How does it work? The three pathways are: Arts & Sports Science| Social Sciences| Science Technical Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). If a learner opts for the first category, they can pursue Sports, Performing Arts or Visual Arts. If they pick the second, they can pursue Language and Literature, Humanities or Business Studies. If they pick the last category, they can pursue Pure Sciences, Applied Sciences, Technical and Engineering careers or Technology studies. How will their competency be measured/ assessed? Teachers will assess the progress of learners during their three year study. The learners have to complete a mandatory 135 hours of community service, submit a project paper on their pursuit and duly filled journals that track their learning progress. They will also have short quizzes or assessment tasks as overseen by their teachers.
  • Three years in the university or a technical institution.

If you’re with me thus far, then you understand how involving this curriculum is. It cannot be solely placed on the shoulders of the ministry or the school management. Teachers will have to be fully immersed in this but even more so, the parents, and that’s where my concern lies. If you are a Kenyan and a parent and you are reading this, then know that for this curriculum to be effected you have to involve yourself in your child’s education 100%. At the moment, following the highly politicized Free Primary Education, most public schools are overpopulated, understaffed and parents do not contribute any development fund fee because they say “the government says it’s free education.”

Well, it is not free, it is subsidized.

Which begs the question, what about the promise to roll out subsidized fee for secondary school students next year?

I’ll take you back to the curriculum I have shared above, in secondary and senior school, the focus is on more practical, visual and hands-on learning and this costs a tonne! I know most secondary schools face budget cuts especially during the music festivals because the first term spending is on sports, and come the second term, the schools have to focus on drama and music and then there is also the education trip or trips which set the school back in terms of funding. Now, the pathways system, is ambitious, but it is also important, my concern is that schools will provide one or two but not three because of staff, infrastructure and funding. Take for example, STEM, how many secondary schools have fully equipped labs? How many Chemistry/Physics teachers are recruited per year?

I could write a whole paper on my views on this new curriculum, but the first step is talking about it and being fully informed about what’s going to take place. I’ll state this again: I am fully for this new curriculum. I am also aware that it’ll need lots of funding and parental involvement.

On the other hand, it will create opportunities for those who are skilled in the Arts, Technical engineering and more so, it will ease on the pressure students feel leading up to exams.

Finally, the proposed grading system for this curriculum is:

  • 80% and above| Grade A| Excellent| Student is deemed competent.
  • 60%-79%| Grade B | Very good | Student is deemed competent.
  • 50%-59% | Grade C | Good |Fairly competent
  • 40%-49% | Grade D | Sufficient pass | Competent
  • Below 40% | E | Not sufficient/ Fail |Not yet competent

I’d love to know your thoughts on this because it’s 37 days to 2018 and there’s a lot going on and before you blink, your child will be taking on classes that you need to be aware of and to support him/her.

PS: I understand the pilot phase will start with Grade 1 next year.

7 thoughts on “Kenyans: We need to talk about the new education curriculum”

  1. Thank you for bringing this up. I think it’s a great idea on paper. Free primary and secondary education nearly swiped the whole system clean rendering the underprivileged helpless/drowning. The privates schools are already a few steps ahead in this sector so again it’s a “let’s wait and see. As a parent I intend to make this work for my son.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. First of all, i just want to apologize, because i´m not Kenyan. I was born in Angola. I use to teach Statistics at angolan university for nine (9) years long.
    1) My experience is: we must put so much energy in the early years of education. To do so, my opinion is that we have to hire the best teachers of the country in that level, by paying them very well. I think the way we can do it, is by create one simple method like that: The carrier of a teacher must start at university (7 years) – then he moves to Middle school education (more 7 years) – finally, he moves to the Early Years Education.
    a) The framework for those proposal is that the whom teaches at the early years must be able to visualize a plenty view of subject that is going to teach at that level;
    b) How better students are been prepared at the early stages, the best is the quality of students that achieve the university.
    2) Regarding to the method of grading system, i propose for reading the book “The New Economics for Industry, Government and Education” by Dr. W. Edwards Deming ( https://www.amazon.com/New-Economics-Industry-Government-Education/dp/0262541165/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1511538498&sr=1-3&keywords=deming ) where he shows how better is preparing students for cooperation than competition.
    Sorry for my english! I need to improve it.

    Regards
    A. Komba

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello A. Komba, I appreciate your insights on the importance of quality early childhood education. In Kenya, there has been quite the emphasis on this and the concern lies in middle school through to higher education with many calling for critical thinking, innovation, creativity and self efficacy in learners. Thank you for recommending Dr. Deming’s book. I will seek a copy and read it. I’m glad you’re from Angola and I’d love to know about your education system mostly your experience of it.

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  3. Our educational system used to be very similar to this although four years at the university level. Now there are only two years in middle school and four years in high school. I, personally don’t understand the change.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Having been part of the team at the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development some time last year and engaging with the guys working behind the scenes to ensure this curriculum becomes a reality, I have faith in it. What I do not believe in however is the amount of involvement of people that will be directly affected by it; particularly parents, teachers and most of the students.
    I believe a lot more sensitisation can and should be done instead of rushing to pilot a program the pupils won’t even be able to relate to.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am so glad to know that you participated in the reform process. You are right, it is a different more engaging and learner focused curriculum. On involvement of parents, schools and teachers, you are spot on because the cry of most heads of schools is that the school management cannot implement the curriculum fully without 100% parental engagement. 😏 How many parents show up for school events? How many follow through their children’s homework and curriculum, or even follow the handwriting progress of their children?
      On time, well, it’s like they had to do it not or never, but sadly speaking, most parents are not even concerned the booklists for next year have not been released! I’m following this.

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