Doubts surrounded the roll-out of the new education curriculum on Saturday as schools prepared to open for the first term on Tuesday.
The Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD), which is charged with developing and implementing the new curriculum, was yesterday tight-lipped on whether it will be rolled out this week as stakeholders called for its postponement to allow for better preparations.
KICD Director Julius Jwan remained cagey regarding the roll-out expected to replace the much maligned 8-4-4 system, only stating that a decision would be made in the course of the week.
“We have done our report (on the curriculum) and submitted it to the ministry and a decision is likely to be made in the course of the week,” he told the Nation.
“This is a policy issue that can only be issued by my seniors,” said Dr Jwan, who declined to disclose the findings of the evaluation report.
Last week, the institute concluded the training of 170,000 teachers in readiness for the roll-out.
But a source within the ministry expressed serious doubts about the possibility of the curriculum being rolled out immediately following serious questions by various stakeholders about the level of preparedness.
Education experts and the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) have proposed that the roll-out be moved to 2019 to allow teachers time to prepare for it and for preparation of learning materials.
Last week, Knut issued a harsh critique of the proposed curriculum, describing it as a tragedy.
In a detailed analysis, the union maintained that the Education ministry did not carry out a comprehensive survey of international best practices and that no research was done to prove that a competence-based curriculum is more effective than the current learning-outcome-based framework.
In the analysis, dubbed A critical examination of the competence based curriculum reforms, the union stated that the testing of the new system was hurried and was done without the appropriate syllabus, pupils’ books and teachers’ guides.
It noted that curriculum specialists had not stated the expected learning outcomes such as knowledge, skills, attitudes and values.
“The technical training courses should be removed from the curriculum, which should not be implemented before teachers’ concerns are addressed,” the document says.
It added: “The government is the problem. It must work for the speedy raising of the standards in schools, colleges and universities and has to learn from China, Korea, Finland, Singapore, Japan and other countries that have used education to promote rapid social economic development.”
The union noted that no study had been conducted to identify dialects of indigenous languages that should be taught.
“The glaring gaps call for a quick fix of the entire process and that is the reason we have brought the matters to your attention in a rather detailed form,” Knut Secretary- General Wilson Sossion said in a December 19 letter to Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i, which accompanied the report.
And last week, the Kenya Publishers Association chairman Lawrence Njagi also cast doubts about the immediate implementation of the curriculum, saying more time is needed to publish learning materials.
Questions regarding the roll-out this term further compound serious challenges facing the sector as schools prepare to open on Tuesday.
Already, parents are grappling with increased levies outside the fees guidelines set out by the Education ministry as well as the escalating cost of school uniform and text books.
There is also confusion over the introduction of hybrid boarding schools, the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) cover for students and the mass transfer of teachers.
On Saturday, NHIF board member Akelo Misori told the Nation that the fund was ready to bring on board the three million students in public secondary schools and was only waiting for students’ details from the education ministry and schools in order to prepare the special cards which the students will use to access medication at NHIF accredited health facilities across the country.
Meanwhile, parents have remained in the dark regarding which books to buy since they are not sure of the new curriculum.
The new 2-6-3-3 system is replacing the 8-4-4, which has been discredited for being too examination-centred. It places emphasis on continuous assessment tests (CATs) over one-off examinations.
It also replaces the current Standard One to Form Four with Grade 1 to Grade 12.
According to KICD schedule, in 2019, the roll-out should be in Grade 4 and 5 and the training of teachers in those classes would be done in 2018, while in 2020 the focus would move to Grade 6 — the end of primary education.
In 2021 and 2022, the system would be introduced in Grade 7 and 8 with the last stage of junior secondary school — Grade 9 — being dealt with in 2023.
“At the end of this stage, there will be a national examination to help place the students in different pathways,” Dr Jwan said in a past interview.
According to the proposed timelines, KICD should in 2024 roll out Grade 10, in 2025 Grade 11 and the last one — Grade 12 — in 2026.
This means that the last Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education exam should be in 2025 by those who will join Standard Five in 2018.
As such, the new curriculum would take seven years to be fully rolled out. The curriculum places emphasis on continuous assessment tests (CATs) over one-off examinations, for a long time criticised as being too mechanical and results-oriented.
KICD has already vetted the books to be used for the new system.
Dr Jwan is on record as clarifying that national examinations are not being phased out as students in Grade 9 and 12 will have to write tests. However, national examinations at Grade 6 will be eliminated, although there will be assessment in sample schools across the country.
Students in secondary school will specialise in the subjects they wish to pursue in tertiary institutions as the learning areas have been divided into three categories: arts and sports; social sciences; and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem).
Under sports, students will pursue sports, performing arts and visual arts, while social science options will be languages and literature, humanities and business studies. The Stem option will have pure and applied sciences, engineering and technical studies.