Since its launch last year, the new curriculum that seeks to promote skills acquisition and talent management has been dogged with controversies at every turn. One of the contestations has been the level of public participation in its formulation and roll-out. Critics have argued that the government has not adequately consulted the citizens yet public engagement is a constitutional imperative.
This is particularly critical given the fact the new system known as Competency-Based Curriculum marks a major departure from the past, creating a completely new teaching paradigm that puts the learner at the centre, provides various pathways to take care of learners’ abilities and interests, and demands full participation of parents and communities in the learning process.
Against this backdrop, Education ministry has organised a national conference Friday at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre, whose objective is to provide platform for public dialogue on the curriculum and through that generate ideas that could help to refine and enrich it. It is the culmination of weeks of consultations at the counties and at the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development.
The national conference is critical to the roll-out of the new curriculum. It provides singular opportunity to engage curriculum developers and implementers, ask tough questions and demand convincing answers. Equally, it a chance to assess the implementation and obtain feedback on what ought to change to ensure it works.
Curriculum reform is inevitable. Changing times dictate that education is revitalised and reconfigured to create skills that can meet emerging realities of the 21st Century. The current 8-4-4 system has been in existence for 35 years and to be sure, has served the country well as it produced well-grounded individuals who now drive the economy. However, circumstances have changed. In the intervening period, technology has shifted, creating economic and social disruptions as well as opportunities. The imperative, henceforth, is to reorient education programmes to reflect the emerging conditions.
But questions abound as to the level of our preparedness to implement the new curriculum given the heavy logistical demands it brings to bear against declining economic performance. Many schools suffer serious infrastructure deficits. Teacher shortage is a perennial menace and even among the existing, few are sufficiently equipped to handle the new curriculum.
Fundamentally, there is conceptual dissonance over the structure, especially at grades seven to nine — with questions being asked whether that should constitute senior primary or junior secondary. Moreover, there is no clarity on assessments, transition parameters and choice of pathways at senior secondary school.
The conference should therefore help to clarify the grey areas and provide directions on how to resolve the contentious issues.