Thousands of Kenyans have withdrawn their children from the competency-based curriculum (CBC) and enrolled them in schools offering international syllabus.
The first cohort of CBC – Grade Six graduands – is to join junior secondary next year, marking a milestone in the implementation of the system.
International schools have for many years been a preserve of the super wealthy, but investigations by the Saturday Nation show the trend is changing.
More parents have made the move seeking to cushion their children from teething problems of the new system.
Investors in middle and high-end private primary schools have moved to cash in on the demand, building tens of classrooms as demand rises.
Many of the schools that previously offered only the national curriculum now run international syllabus classes side-by-side, with the British National Curriculum (BNC) being the most preferred.
Such schools now have children taking the CBC, 8-4-4 and their chosen international curriculum.
“The inspiration was feedback from our parents to offer alternatives. We took this on with no compromise on the national curriculum,” Ms Katya Nyangi, the director of communications at Makini Schools, said.
“Our parents are happy because they can choose the system to enrol their children. Because the offer was intended to serve our parents, we worked it out to stay within mid-fee range.”
Ms Nyangi said the school was inspected and qualified by Cambridge Assessment Institute.
The flight from CBC also shows lack of confidence in the way the curriculum has been implemented.
It brings into focus the widening gap between socio-economic classes in Kenya. Parents who can afford are charged higher fees for the programmes.
Schools offering the international curricula have had to retrain their teachers.
At Makini Schools, some 500 pupils have switched from CBC to the Cambridge system.
Rose of Sharon Academy in Nairobi is offering CBC, 8-4-4 and the Cambridge International Curriculum (CIC).
The annual fees for the national curricula range from Sh176,000 in Playgroup to Sh280,000 for Standard Eight.
For the CIC, parents pay Sh272,100 for Year One learners and Sh319,500 for Year Six.
The money is exclusive of other requirements like textbooks, digital devices and transport.
The school has plans for junior/lower secondary for CBC and CIC.
“With this kind of curriculum, we can provide a broad and balanced education for our learners, helping them thrive throughout their schooling, work and life,” a brochure by the school reads.
“With 10 subjects – mathematics, science and English as the main disciplines – your child will find plenty of opportunities to develop creativity, expression and well-being. We offer topics that supplement other learning processes.”
As the demand for the international curricula rises, some schools that were initially offering the programmes have had to limit their admission numbers in order to maintain standards.
A couple that has been on the waiting list of Cavina School for a year was disappointed to receive a message this month.
The parents had to look for an alternative school.
“We have placed your child’s name on the waiting list for admission to Pre-Prep One in September, 2023. If a place falls vacant during the course of the 2022 academic year, we will offer it to the next child on the waiting list,” the message from the school read.
Another parent told the Saturday Nation that his child has been on the admission waiting list for three years.
“CBC way was not an option. There are too many grey areas that may take time to get sorted out. I could not take the risk,” Mr Jeff Wambugu said.
Kiota School, also in Nairobi, has improved its teaching approach to incorporate aspects of the international curriculum under the CBC system to appeal more to parents.
“We see Kiota providing a progressive approach to education, following a local system whilst having an international outlook,” the institution says.
“The curriculum, while primarily being CBC, is tweaked to borrow aspects from international systems including the BNC, the International Baccalaureate (IB) and the American System.”
Playgroup to Kindergarten Three (2-6 years) pay Sh67,000 to Sh82,000 a term and Grade 1-6 Sh85,000 to Sh86,000.
There are other expenses like for co-curricular activities, transport and uniform.
One of the oldest high-end private schools in the country, St Mary’s, will also be offering CIC alongside the CBC and IB.
“As we launch the CIC in the Junior School from Year 1 to Year 7 (Lower Secondary), we will aim to continue providing the stimulating environment that allows for the creation of opportunities for same growth and more. We follow the British National Curriculum,” the schools says on its website.