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Education ministry should fully welcome criticism of curriculum

Monday May 29 2017

Education Cabinet Secretary  Fred Matiang’i addresses stakeholders

Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i addresses stakeholders at the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) on May 19, 2017. The proposed framework presented to stakeholders early this year should be discussed widely. PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

EVAN MWANGI
By EVAN MWANGI
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I was shocked to read in the Press that the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) has urged Kenyans to ignore criticism of education reforms ahead of piloting in some 470 schools (Daily Nation, May 23).

One wishes that the official espousing this position was misquoted, as constructive criticism and evaluation of the proposed curriculum should go on before and after the pilot phase. 

KICD Director Julius Jwan was quoted as saying that the reason the critics should be shut down is that “many countries have adopted such a competency-based and learner-focussed curriculum approach, which is one of the education reforms envisaged to make the education system more globally competitive”.

LEARNER-CENTERED

What kind of reasoning is this? Critical thinking, which the curriculum pretends to embrace, encourages sinewy deliberations and contrary viewpoints backed with data before one reaches a conclusion. 

While it is his duty to tout the curriculum, Dr Jwan shouldn’t discourage criticism.

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The proposed curriculum is based on such vacuous notions as “Vision 2030”, and in spite of the grandiose language the document uses to claim that it is learner-centered, probably none of its writers believes a thing. 

MINISTRY INSENSITIVE

It doesn’t surprise me that the expression “nurturing every learner’s potential” to capture the philosophy of the curriculum is itself in scare quotes. 

The lethargy in the Education ministry is legendary.

Bureaucrats either don’t read the materials they push down the students’ throats or, like the colonialists in the 1930s, are insensitive to indigenous cultures. 

For example, the main character’s name in one of the texts being read in our schools is the word a good number of Bantu communities use for the female genitalia, a taboo expression that debases women and which the pubescent learners are likely to now use with a degree of legitimacy as a term of insult. 
TRIAL RUN
The director should remember that the new curriculum framework is still at a proposal stage.

It is a “pilot” programme, a feasibility study, or an experimental run.

It is an experiment to help us see how the large-scale project will work out.

There is a chance that it might fail or its approach tweaked to make it more useful.

There is also a possibility that critics might be unhappy with the way the study is being conducted. 

CRITICISM

By precluding further deliberations, the director gives the impression that the ministry is determined to adopt it even if it fails at the piloting stage.

The proposed system replaces the current Standard One to Form Four with Grade 1 to Grade 12.

The learners will take two years in pre-school and get two years of primary education.

Critics argue that it has been imposed on Kenyans by its funders and uses oriental philosophies instead of indigenous approaches.

It is also criticised as the brainchild of failed British education experts.

The critics say it was written by a British kindergarten teacher. This is nationalistic posturing. 

NEEDS ASSESSMENT

Focus should be on the content, not the author. 

It doesn’t matter who the government contracted to write the curriculum as long as the approaches to learning are appropriate.

Some of the best education books — Jacques Rancière’s The Ignorant Schoolmaster, Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, and bell hooks teaching community — are not Kenyan, but are relevant in Kenyan contexts.

The needs assessment study on early childhood development, primary and secondary education, including special needs, was undertaken and findings disseminated at a national conference on March 30 last year. 

The proposed framework presented to “stakeholders” early this year should be discussed widely, as all Kenyans are stakeholders in the education of their children.

Prof Mwangi is a seasoned educationist and a proponent of participatory pedagogies. [email protected]

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