Let’s not abandon CBC but run it on the existing education system

Education Cabinet Secretary Prof. George Magoha puts a Construction Block at Bomu Secondary School.

Education Cabinet Secretary Prof. George Magoha puts a Construction Block on one of the walls of a Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC) Class at Bomu Secondary School in Mombasa on July 21, 2022. 

Photo credit: Kevin Odit | Nation Media group

What you need to know:

  • Think tanks across the political spectrum project that about half of all jobs will be lost to AI and robotics in the coming decades, which could make human-specific skills obsolete.
  • Employers will be looking for ‘soft skills’ such as critical thinking, analytical reasoning, effective communication, real-world skills application, effective teamwork, judgement and decision-making.
  • Education reforms don’t have to be always about a change in the system.

Future Kenya will largely be shaped by the children in school. These are the future innovators, medics, engineers, teachers, leaders and so on.

And yes, I said future leaders because, after the recent elections, some of my classmates are now the people’s representatives in the legislative assemblies. 

Safeguarding a child’s future starts with giving them an education that attends to their interests and the community’s priorities.

As an educator, I haven’t met any learner or teacher who fondly remembers a good lesson or lecture they learn.

But I have met many who remember the hands-on activity they did, even in lower primary school. 

As an 8-4-4 system product, I clearly remember the cooking stick I carved for a project in the art and craft class—a skill I later utilised when I moved to a country where ugali was not known and, so, they didn’t have the sticks.

In agriculture, I skilfully planted and harvested two 20-litre buckets of Irish potatoes from a plot the size of two coffee tables and I still use these skills in my kitchen garden. 

Learning by doing is the most effective way to train a student. That’s what the Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC) attempts to do. 

Competency means applying a related skill set to find a solution for a given problem in a given context.

Kenya needs competent graduates at every level of schooling. This is the only way we can prepare our children to be competitive in future job markets. 

About 15 years to come, the most lucrative jobs are non-existent now and are not known yet.

About 15 years ago, nobody knew that one could earn a living from jobs like being a YouTuber, social media influencer or drone pilot.

Successful individuals in these fields only competently applied other skills related to these fields to be successful.

If we don’t re-engineer our educational focus and goals, we’ll have a few competent individuals earning a lot of money from these future non-existent jobs that need competency skills—such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and other digital technologies—and a majority who will eke out a living from skills for today’s job market. 

Jobs will be lost

Think tanks across the political spectrum project that about half of all jobs will be lost to AI and robotics in the coming decades, which could make human-specific skills obsolete.

Employers will be looking for ‘soft skills’ such as critical thinking, analytical reasoning, effective communication, real-world skills application, effective teamwork, judgement and decision-making.

These will save our children from becoming obsolete.

One thing the education systems and communities in developed countries like the US have been successful in is instilling in their students' communication skills they can use in any job setting.

And they have reinforced this by introducing it in the curriculum through science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem) integrated learning.

The Kenyan education system has been criticised for producing ‘book-smart’ graduates who find it difficult to operate out there, where ‘soft skills’ are needed.

In the recent elections, most of the winners were the so-called street smart, good communicators, in whichever language, quick in judgement and decision-making and such traits.

The 21st-Century skills entail communication, creativity, critical thinking and collaboration.

These are the skills CBC seeks to amplify in schools and give practical solutions. That CBC makes parents do their children’s homework should be positive.

Moreover, earlier educational theorists support that. Vygotsky’s social learning theory says children learn from adults around them better.

However, the introduction of CBC and the change in the education system at the same time was quite a stretch.

The curriculum could have been changed with the existing education system by adding the necessary resources and training personnel.

Education reforms don’t have to be always about a change in the system.

CBC can, therefore, be introduced as part of the curriculum within the existing system and gradually be nurtured in a bottom-up approach—from the lower grades and eventually to full implementation. Let the new regime consider that.

Dr Kimori, an associate professor and Stem educator at Minnesota State University, Mankato, serves on the Minnesota Governor’s 21st Century Skills Task Force Committee. [email protected] @dkimori1

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