What to consider in changing education system, curriculum

Tuesday February 21 2017

Education is the foundation stone for a nation’s progress

Class Four pupils of K K Nkengecia Primary School, Tigania West, listen to their teacher during class time on January 9, 2017. Education is the foundation stone for a nation’s progress. PHOTO | PHOEBE OKALL | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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A new education system is set to kick in.

The 2-6-3-3-3 system promises to radically change education as we know it. 

Since independence the education system has been changed twice and we are on the verge of yet another change.

These changes are always welcome, as a good education has to conform and keep pace with the dynamic needs of the society.

Just after independence in 1964, the country came up with the 7-4-2-3 system.

However, 21 years later, it was found to be too academic and incapable of addressing the society’s rapidly mounting challenges.

In 1985, this pioneering system was overhauled and 8-4-4 born.

The new system was meant to address the shortcomings of its predecessor by ensuring that education was responsive to the people’s needs.

It had been crafted to equip students with employable and practical skills.

Thus, school dropouts would not be abandoned, but would be armed with vital skills to either be self-employed or secure jobs in the informal sector.

The 8-4-4 system has also proved inadequate, with educationists, teachers and parents lamenting that it is burdensome to the students as it is loaded with too many subjects.

Besides, experts say, it lays disproportionate emphasis on exams at the expense of practical-oriented learning. 

Education is the foundation stone for a nation’s progress.

It is one of the most effective weapons against poverty and a vehicle to a shared prosperity.

As we roll out the new system, it is worth noting that when 8-4-4 was introduced, it was heralded as the panacea to the ills that afflicted its predecessor.

Our primary objective should be consolidating the gains made and exploring ways to strengthen quality.

One of the milestones in our education sector is the introduction of free primary and secondary education.

Thousands of children who would have been locked out due to exorbitant fees can now access education.

Education, which is rightly described as an equaliser, has opened windows of opportunities to transform their lives.

In a nutshell, they have a ticket out of poverty.

It is also inconceivable nowadays to talk about a sound education system without ICT.

We must provide our children with the tools to enable them to keep pace with others and be global citizens.

The provision of laptops to Standard One pupils is thus an important step.

The 8-4-4 system had been envisaged to be instrumental in creating jobs.

However, decades later, it has been found inadequate in a number of respects.

A good system must be responsive to the needs of the society and squarely address challenges.


Another indispensable strand in a good system is quality.

And for quality to be achieved there should be sufficient resources.

Teachers should not only be enough, but also well-trained.

Books and other learning materials should be of top quality and sufficient.

Every child, regardless of their background, must be able to go to school.

Children from poor families and marginalised areas face severe challenges. Some, especially from conflict-prone areas and pastoralist communities, have been entirely shut out of the system.  

A modern education system must prepare and position learners to take advantage of global opportunities.

Only those who have imbibed critical thinking skills and have innovation as well as entrepreneurship wired in their DNA will call the shots in a highly competitive world.

For our education system and curriculum to measure up to these critical challenges, we must first get the basics rights.

We have to provide enough resources and ensure that they are effectively managed to produce optimum results. 

We must firmly shut the door on the corrupt elements in the procurement of materials who compromise quality.

We must also tighten regulations and quality-assurance standards.

Mr Gicharu is the founder and chairman of Mount Kenya University. Email: [email protected]