Turi Sulgwita Primary School

Grade 3 pupils at Turi Sulgwita Primary School, Nakuru County, during a practical lesson.

| File | Nation Media Group

Parents rue burden of new curriculum

Thousands of parents with children learning under the competency based curriculum (CBC) are struggling with the demand for involvement in their children’s schoolwork, which also appears to disadvantage learners from poor families.

The concept of parental empowerment and engagement has been misinterpreted, leaving many parents confused as they feel that teachers are getting it totally wrong by asking them to do homework with their children.

Others resort to buying various items that teachers ask the learners to make and present them for assessment, defeating the purpose of the activities aimed at developing skills in children.

Parents and stakeholders who spoke to the Nation expressed concern that teachers were not well trained and inducted on the concept that is a key plank of the Basic Education Curriculum Framework (BECF) on which CBC is anchored.

They also complained that CBC had many demands, especially the digital literacy component, which children from poor families find hard to meet.

“Indeed, we have been roped in as CBC learners as well, with the classroom extended to parents. Being a CBC parent is not easy; we’re back to homework,” a parent complained in a chat room.

Social media

To keep abreast of the goings-on at school, some parents have formed WhatsApp groups where they post updates on school matters. The groups are mostly active in the evening when the parents leave work. They also take to social media to vent their anger at things they have been asked to do.

“It’s wrong for teachers to assume parents are advanced academically. Children whose parents don’t have the competence or resources will be at a disadvantage. There are parents who also cannot afford smart phones, computers, printing and computer services to do some assignments,” said a senior official at the Ministry of Education.

The BECF recommends that learners use locally available materials for learning. The parental engagement component was introduced in all learning areas following recommendations in the needs assessment conducted by the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD). Thereafter, the institute developed guidelines for its implementation that appears largely ignored.

“Empowered and engaged parents have a positive impact on the overall development of the learner in areas such as acquisition and nurturing of moral and religious values, improved health and nutrition, increased enrolment, retention, transition, academic achievements and identification of appropriate career choice,” Dr Sara Ruto wrote in the foreword of the publication when she served as KICD chairperson, before being appointed a Cabinet administrative secretary in the Ministry of Education.

Charles Ong’ondo, the KICD chief executive, told Nation that parents are not supposed to do the homework.  “They’re just supposed to provide a conducive environment for the children to learn. They’re supposed to facilitate,” he said, giving two aspects of empowerment and engagement.”

“If you feel the teacher is asking for something unreasonable, you’re supposed to question them. Of course, there might be one or two teachers who might not get it right.”

Teachers Service Commission

However, some parents differ and blame the teachers for not training parents well on their role in the implementation of CBC. The Teachers Service Commission has been training teachers since the curriculum was rolled out in 2019. However, this was criticised by the Kenya National Union of Teachers, which threatened to block the training programme, leading to a major falling out between the two.

“The policy by KICD is totally different from what is happening. CBC has transferred homework to the parents. Most parents have not understood their roles well in this curriculum. They’re doing the homework and this is what teachers are marking instead of the learner’s work,” a parent, Ms Charity Muthoni, said.

There have also been complaints of some private schools asking parents to buy too many books for lower primary learners. Some schools issued lists that contained books such as an encyclopaedia not approved by the KICD.

However, Nairobi County executive committee member for Education, Ms Janet Ouko, in a recent TV interview, blamed parents for not questioning some of the demands. Learners in public schools use the text books provided by the government.

“Why aren’t village public schools having that complaint? This is a Nairobi problem, an academy problem. This is a problem of the middle class who do not want to look like they are broke,” she said.

Parents have also raised concern that the curriculum is too demanding and that learners hardly have time for play as they are expected to do more work after school.

The CBC pioneer class is now in Grade Five and scheduled to complete the primary education in December next year after which they will proceed to three years of junior secondary. This will be followed by another three years of senior secondary education where they will choose their preferred pathway from the provided three: arts and sports science, social sciences and Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics.