A glimpse into what CBC means for young learners

Tuesday August 06 2019

When schools closed for the August holidays last week, more than 1.3 million Grade Three learners did not take home the traditional report forms their parents or guardians are used to.

The pioneer Grade Three learners under the competency-based curriculum (CBC) will be assessed through the Kenya Early Years Assessment (KEYA).

However, the assessment, which began on July 12, 2019, has been marred by confusion, ill-preparedness and logistical challenges. Some schools did the assessment before closing while registration is yet to begin in others. Meanwhile some schools have been unable to download the assessment tools.


Schools have until August 30 to register all learners and conclude the assessment by September 13.

According to the Kenya National Examinations Council (Knec) guidelines, “Each school with Grade 3 learners shall download the assessment tools from the Knec website using the relevant access credentials.”


After assessing the students, head teachers will send the scores to Knec. The teachers will also prepare a school year report (SYR) for every learner and hand it over to parents/guardians. Learner’s performance will be descriptive rather than quantitative.

Since Knec announced that Grade Three learners would be assessed, debate has raged on the appropriateness, timing, manner and content of the exercise, with many equating it to an examination. But Knec has clarified that an assessment is different from an examination, though it has done little to educate the public, with many even not aware that their children are being assessed.

In a belated bid to engage the public, Knec last Thursday held a conference at the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD). Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha, who opened the function, asked: “How do we package this assessment for parents to understand that it is not an exam?”

“The purpose of any assessment should be the most critical thing. The purpose of this assessment is to check the progress of learning. It’s like weighing a child when it’s born and progressively doing so in order to determine the nutrition it needs,” said Mr David Njeng’ere, an adviser at the Ministry of Education.

However, Dr Emmanuel Manyasa, the Country Manager of Uwezo, faulted Knec for delaying the development of an assessment framework. “It should have been developed before training teachers to implement CBC,” he said.

Many Kenyans have been sceptical of the exercise, since one of the major criticisms of the 8-4-4 system has been that it is too exam-oriented. This has been blamed for the   cut-throat competition, exam cheating, rote learning and drilling, and burdening learners.


Registration of the Grade 3 learners for the assessment began on July 1.

The chairman of the Kenya Primary School Head Teachers Association, Mr Nicholus Gathemia, told the Nation that despite the hitches, “no child will be prevented from doing the assessment.”

Head teachers have been tasked with this responsibility and are doing it through a portal on the Knec website. The portal uses data from the National Education Management Information System (NEMIS) to identify learners. However, this has been a challenge, especially for learners who do not have birth certificates.

Sub-county directors of education have been tasked with the registration and are expected to see to it that all schools are enrolled on the Knec portal, and issue codes to those without. They are also expected to have given feedback to Knec regarding the infrastructure required and schools’ preparedness to undertake KEYA.

The assessment will be in English, mathematics and integrated learning (all the other areas combined into one). The learners will carry out a given task, and develop and maintain a portfolio as evidence of learning. Assessment will be done on observable outcomes over time. The task for integrated learning this time entails cleaning up a market near the school.

Teachers will use the standardised assessment tools developed by Knec to give scores. The performance of the task will be measured against the expected outcomes of the teaching/learning process.

The scores range from 1 to 4, with 1 indicating “below expectation”, 2 “approaching expectation”, 3 “meeting expectation” and 4 “exceeding expectation.

Teachers will give the score sheets to the head teacher, who will upload them on the KEYA portal. Experts at the council will analyse the scores and give feedback to stakeholders like the TSC to build the capacity of teachers and KICD to assess the effectiveness of the curriculum and make amendments, if necessary.


Learners in regular schools will be assessed on the CBC areas they currently learn. English and mathematics will be assessed separately, while Kiswahili/Kenya Sign Language, environmental activities, nutrition and hygiene, movement and creative activities, and religious activities will be combined.

Learners who are visually or hearing-impaired, or have physical disabilities, will be assessed using adapted assessment tools.

Learners in the stage-based/SNE (special needs education) pathway will be assessed on communication, social and pre-literacy skills, activities of daily living and religious education, integrated learning (orientation and mobility skills, pre-numeracy skills and sensory-motor and creative skills).

There has been debate on the availability and cost of some of the materials suggested for use in the CBC. The assessment calls for creativity on the part of teachers, as it will involve activities like watching video clips, viewing photographs, pictures and identifying the activities.

Where activities are to be done away from school, the administrators, especially in state schools, will have to transport the eight- and nine-year-olds and ensure their safety.

Also, parents and guardians have a big role to play in providing some of the materials needed for the assessment.