Preliminary results of an assessment of Grade Three pupils provides a reality check for the drivers of the Competency-Based Curriculum that is being rolled out in schools.
The findings, released last week, indicate that half of the pupils do not attain the 50 per cent benchmark in English, Kiswahili and mathematics and that a majority have weak comprehension skills.
It says the situation is much worse in semi-arid areas and that boys are falling behind girls in learning outcomes.
The survey raises serious questions as to whether the country is really prepared for the new curriculum.
For instance, the findings suggest a huge weakness in the school system, especially the quality of teachers, their pedagogical skills, pupil engagement in the learning process and infrastructure.
Granted, there is no perfect time to change a schooling system. But it is as if the government is putting the cart before the horse by prioritising the shift at the expense of addressing serious gaps in the system. If learning outcomes are already falling below average, would it not be more prudent to address the reasons for that in an incremental way instead of commencing on an overhaul that risks being bogged down by the same weaknesses?
Still, the findings have come early enough, just when teachers are being trained on how to handle the new curriculum.
It should be expected that the findings will inform the training so that it is pointedly targeted at the systemic and pedagogical weaknesses identified. They should also give curriculum experts a reason, and an opportunity, to reflect on the viability of the new curriculum before it is fully spread out to the entire education system.
It is remarkable that the results were released at the beginning of the nationwide county dialogues on the quality of the new system.
The only drawback is that these meetings have tended to be occasions for lectures by top education officials on the virtues of the CBC rather than a chance for candid and professional discussions on the viability of the new system.
Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha is on record as saying that there is no turning back on the change, effectively locking the door against any contrarian view. Such a hardline position is discouraging and negates the need for the meetings.
Education officials must encourage an open and free debate on the system because that is the only way to create a collective appreciation of it as well as encourage generation of useful ideas on how it can work better for the good of the country.
It is in the ministry’s best interest to accommodate the public’s views as much as possible because what is at stake is the future of our children.