The competency-based curriculum currently being implemented is certainly one of the most radical attempts at reforming the education system in Kenya.
Though not the first such effort, it marks a bold shift with its singular focus on how learners can apply knowledge imparted to them in school, a departure from the largely exam-oriented approach of previous systems.
Starting with the Ominde Commission in 1963, there have been other major attempts at revamping the country’s education sector. The Ominde Commission led to the introduction of the 7-4-2-3 system to replace the European-oriented colonial learning system. With time however the 7-4-2-3 system came under intense criticism as being too academic and detached from the employment needs of society.
As the Gachathi Report of 1976 noted “The problem (of unemployment) is aggravated by annual outputs of school leavers whose numbers continue to swell following the enormous expansion of education.” A new learning curriculum was required, one that was attuned to the country’s ever-evolving social and economic needs.
Then 8-4-4 system was introduced in the mid-Eighties, seeking to redress the weaknesses of the 7-4-2-3 by producing learners capable of pursuing opportunities in entrepreneurship and the informal sector. But like its predecessor, the 8-4-4 system was strongly faulted for being too cumbersome and expensive for teachers and learners.
Despite several task forces formed to reform it, 8-4-4 lingered on for three decades, with disastrous results if the high numbers of unemployed and unemployable school graduates seen today are anything to go by.
Perhaps, the worst legacy of the 7-4-2-3 and 8-4-4 systems is in the failure first, to focus on the unique abilities and talents of the learner, and second, focusing too much on the individual without equipping them with tools to become better and responsible citizens in future.
Hence, corruption, negative ethnicity, violence and lack of patriotism, became endemic problems in Kenya. People were schooled to put their individual needs above the rest of society.
The Competency Based Curriculum (CBC), in my view, aims at reversing this situation. It meets the aspirations of Kenyans as espoused in the National Goals of Education. CBC was the result of a series of studies, notably a needs assessment review conducted by the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development in 2016. The new system aspires for radical new outcomes from the learning process.
At the core of CBC is equipping the learner with the ability to apply knowledge, skills and values taught in our schools. It is therefore a learner-centered system geared to improve the ability of students to use what they have learnt in school to solve life problems. Unlike previous learning systems, it is not just about what the student knows but also what they are capable of doing with what they have learnt in school for personal growth and national development.
But more importantly, and this where CBC is distinctly innovative compared to previous systems, is that it seeks to shape responsible citizens by inculcating values like patriotism, integrity, peace and social justice. Unlike the 7-4-2-3 and 8-4-4 that focused primarily on vocational skills and knowledge for the job market, CBC goes a step further to inculcate skills to enable learners to make a positive and meaningful contribution to the community.
CBC also focuses on principles of diversity and inclusion by ensuring that learners’ individual needs are addressed through individualized education programs (IEPs). This gives opportunities to learners with special needs to also acquire competencies and skills at their own pace to enable them participate in socio-economic development of our society.
Other than citizenship, other valuable competencies under the new curriculum include communication, critical thinking, problem solving, creativity and digital literacy. These 21st century skills are all geared to enhancing the ability of learners to engage in pursuits like entrepreneurship as well as social and technological innovation.
The bigger picture is what matters, namely, the transformative impact of CBC on present and future generations in this country.
The views expressed in this article don’t necessarily represent KBC’s opinion.