Since the government rolled out the Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC) on January 3, 2019, there have been serious concerns from major partners — including trade unions, teachers, parents and academicians.
This disquiet has been exacerbated by the dogmatism from the government, where they have either turned a deaf ear on the many oppositionist voices or outrightly dismissed the concerns levelled against CBC without much thought.
Understandably, the resolve and will by the government not to retreat or surrender is out of the fact that the government and its partners have already made huge financial commitments in the implementation of CBC and the fact that change is hardly ever embraced.
However, CBC is not entirely a bad idea. It is a good system of education that, as a country, we should aspire to have. But as things stand, it doesn’t seem workable; it’s not the magic bullet that will fix the challenges of 8-4-4.
There is a serious need to move from a knowledge- to skill-based system of learning, to align with the various visions and agenda within and without the continent. But at the core of any education system is promoting equality, equity and providing quality education. Any education model that doesn’t take into account issues of its quality and equality and equity should not be a subject of debate. But that is not to say that at the core of CBC these issues are not taken into consideration.
But for CBC to work, the government needs to, first, invest heavily in the learning environment. It is a near-impossible task to implement CBC with an estimated 56:1 pupil-teacher ratio. Ideally, CBC requires a maximum pupil-teacher ratio of about 20:1.
Second is the overbearing reality that many schools not only lack enough classrooms but also facilities to make education conducive. To ensure equity, the government must heavily invest in day schools and also recruitment, training and review of teachers’ welfare.
Parents are struggling
Thirdly, the investment — financial and emotional — required from parents and the government is a lot and, with the economic hardships we are facing, it may not be possible to implement this system now.
Many parents are struggling to make ends meet after losing jobs as a result of Covid-19 while those in employment are not paid enough to meet the expectations of this otherwise beautiful education system. This coupled with the reality that not all Kenyan homes have electricity, smartphones or printers to conduct some of the CBC assignments.
The economic assumptions underlying CBC make it nothing short of ridiculous if look at vis-a-vis our socioeconomic realities.
Much later — when we have enough teachers; when we have invested in the learning environment; when we understand why we want to educate our children; and when the economy has grown and parents are being remunerated well — maybe then we can think about implementing CBC.
And when that time comes, we should focus on the philosophy behind CBC and not the practice. This would mean thinking about making CBC more African. As currently adopted, the system looks foreign and one that doesn’t take into stock our socioeconomic realities. This is the case with many ideas we have adopted from the West, which we more or less ‘copy-and-paste’.
Arguably, 8-4-4 was a good system of education that should have been improved to cater for the growing need for skills and technological advancement. What Kenyans needed was not an overhaul of the education system but review of 8-4-4 to more or less inculcate some practical skills and digital features in it.
For now, the government ought to bring on board all key players and have an honest, inclusive and candid conversation about the kind of education system that we need, if the CBC system will work, whether or not we should go back to 8-4-4, how we should appreciate our teachers and what need to be done to avert a catastrophe in the sector.
Mr Atwoli is the Secretary-General of Cotu (K). [email protected]