The Competency-Based Curriculum was introduced to the United States in the 1960s in reaction to concerns that learners did not have life skills needed after school and, therefore, were social misfits. It was felt that they needed a curriculum that imparted knowledge, skills and attitudes that built broad competencies to solve everyday problems.
The application of knowledge and skills includes collecting, analysing, organising and synthesising information, communicating effectively, working with others in teams, using mathematical and scientific inquiry techniques, pursuing creativity, innovation and problem-solving. The CBC has since spread its wings around the globe and has withstood tests.
The new curriculum in Kenya is designed to meet the national goals of education. These include promoting national unity, fostering the learner’s individual development and self-esteem and having ethical values and a positive attitude towards health, the environment, diverse Kenyan cultures and towards people of other cultures, races, ethnicities, religions and nations.
According to the CBC design posted by the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development, the curriculum seeks to make learners competent in seven key areas: communication and collaboration, critical thinking and problem-solving, creativity and imagination, citizenship, digital literacy, learning to learn and self-efficacy.
Let us consider one of these competencies, self-efficacy. It is an idea that encapsulates self-awareness, confidence-building, taking initiative, volunteerism and high self-esteem. It produces assertive, influential and authoritative communicators, attracting following and emerging as leaders. Self-efficacy is nurtured by action and movement, when learners are given an opportunity to speak, perform, sing and so on.
Another competency, critical thinking, is a feature that encompasses logical reasoning, evaluating, comparing and contrasting, analysing, synthesising, problem-solving and evidence-based decision-making. The product of critical thinking may be creativity, innovation, discovery or invention.
The learner in the CBC keeps abreast and is keenly aware of pertinent and contemporary issues, which include citizenship, health education and life skills.
The inculcation of values is central to this curriculum. It shapes attitudes so that learners become empowered, ethical citizens who will drive a hardworking society that lives in harmony with itself and with others. There are eight core values: love, responsibility, respect, unity, peace, patriotism, social justice and integrity.
Competency-based learning is based on measurable objectives that empower the learner and increase awareness of self-worth. The learner adopts a ‘yes, I can do it’ attitude, exploring the realms of possibility with a curious, inquiring mind, driven by an urge to know. Learning outcomes and learning experiences emphasise creation and application of knowledge alongside vital skills and positive attitudes.
Nurturing and building competencies or the ability to do, is at the heart of the CBC. Can the learner communicate, in terms of speaking, listening, self-expression in both spoken and non-spoken language, such as sign language, in reading and writing or in communicating at a distance through digital media?
The role of the teacher in the CBC shifts dramatically from the teacher’s traditional function in the old curriculum of teaching, telling, lecturing, chalking and talking to, taking a far less central role of facilitating, guiding, supervising, overseeing, prompting, demonstrating, directing.
In the traditional curriculum, a story would be read, and followed by simple “wh” questions requiring mere recall. Such a story would have no impact and would be soon forgotten. Under the CBC, a learner is required to identify where and when the story takes place, who the characters are, what the problem in the story is, what events lead to the conflict, how the conflict unfolds and how the main characters are affected and how the conflict is resolved. The CBC prepares learners for life and career skills and addresses leadership, interpersonal, and skills flexibility, adaptability, initiative and self-drive, leadership and responsibility, productivity and accountability, social and cross-cultural skills.
The CBC fosters positive attitudes to fellow learners. The learner is made aware of human rights and respect for and courtesy towards others. The learner avoids all forms of discrimination. Teachers are made aware of disability mainstreaming, so that learners with disabilities are accepted and treated with respect, equality and dignity.
The CBC is subject to three types of assessment by the teacher: diagnostic, which takes place before teaching, formative, which is done during the lesson and summative, done after the lesson, the outcome of which is the answers to the questions, what do you know? What can you do?
The teacher will build and keep learners’ data of individual skills and weaknesses through regular assessments. It is a record of a learner’s efforts, progress and achievement through which the teacher keeps parents and guardians informed. The portfolio feeds the learners’ end-of-term reports.
The traditional curriculum is concerned with objectives whereas the CBC is concerned with outcomes and experiences. The traditional curriculum (TC) is teacher-centred while the CBC is learner-centred. Under the TC, learning is passive while under the CBC, it is active and learner-driven. The CBC is not for you and me, the products of the lecture and chalk and talk learning method. It is for generations next that comprise learners born into the world of personal computers, tablets, iPads, cell phones, social media and the internet. This curriculum is for digital natives or the digitati. The learner is exposed to multimedia elements — photographs, animations, illustrations, sound and video — engaging all the senses on the tour of learning, for a lasting impact. This is certainly not the kind of education you and I went through. So we need to change gears in our thinking, and catch up with the rest of the world, which has been on the CBC for over sixty years. Mheshimiwa Thomas, beg your pardon, Wilson Sossion, do you read me?
Hukka Wario, PhD (Reading), is a member of the Moran Publishers Writing Team for the CBC and deputy secretary-general of the Creative Writers Association of Kenya, as well as chair of the Egerton University Governing Council. [email protected]