Race against time for senior high school intake

46th Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association

Participants follow the proceedings during the 46th Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association annual conference in Mombasa on June 29.

Photo credit: Kevin Odit | Nation Media Group

Ministry of Education officials are racing against time to prepare for Senior Secondary School intake in two-and-a-half years, with major concerns being raised about inadequate infrastructure and teacher training to handle the first cohort of Competency-Based Curriculum learners.

The preparedness of secondary schools to implement SSS yesterday dominated debate at the Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association (Kessha) annual conference in Mombasa, with other key issues being funding and the learners’ choice of pathways.

This year marks the end of the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examinations, with the last 8-4-4 class currently in Standard 8.

The current Grade 7 pupils will join SSS in 2026, marking the first transition from Junior Secondary School (JSS).

The Ministry of Education is expected to develop an implementation matrix and issue guidelines for SSS, as it did for JSS.

“While we appreciate the decision to locate JSS at the primary level, it’s important that we start looking at the pathways to make decisions on which pathways the secondary schools should take. We should use the two years to assess ourselves in order to make decisions on the pathways,” said Mr Indimuli Kahi, the chairperson of Kessha.

CBC learners at senior high will specialise in a career of their choice based on the three pathways for the level, “having had the opportunity to explore their own potential, interests and personality”. The three pathways are Arts and Sport, Social Sciences and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (Stem).

Each of the pathways will branch out into separate tracks that students will choose according to their abilities and interests. The Arts and Sports Science pathway will have the following tracks: Sports (Physical Education, Sports and Recreation); Performing Arts (Physical Education, Sports and Recreation, Music, Dance, Drama and Film); and Visual Arts (Applied Arts and Fine Arts).

The Social Sciences pathway will include: Languages and Literature (English, Literature in English, Communication Skills, Indigenous Languages, Lugha ya Kiswahili, Fasihi ya Kiswahili, Arabic, French, German, Mandarin Chinese), Humanities and Social Studies (Christian Religious Education, Islamic Religious Education, Hindu Religious Education, Community Service Learning, Business Studies, History and Citizenship, Geography).

The Stem pathways are pure sciences (biology, chemistry, physics, general mathematics, advanced mathematics, life sciences, physical sciences), applied sciences (applied agriculture, computing, science, health, food and nutrition, home and hospitality management, ICT), technical engineering (metal technology, wood technology, aviation technology, electrical technology, power mechanics, textile technology and design) and vocational and technical studies (hairdressing and beauty therapy, construction, welding and fabrication, leatherwork, electrical installation, fashion and interior design, animal production and crop production).

“We don’t expect to have the same challenges as JSS because secondary schools have teachers trained in these subjects and the necessary infrastructure. The small challenges will be in the technology stream under Stem. The government is mapping secondary schools, with a plan for every district to have at least one school offering all pathways. Part of the plan is for schools to share resources with technical and vocational education and training institutions in their localities,” Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) CEO Charles Ong’ondo said.

Prof Ong’ondo said KICD has already developed curriculum drafts for SSS and their distribution is expected to start next year so that teachers can familiarise themselves with the content.

“These pathways will allow students to choose a field of study that matches their interests and aspirations and will provide them with specialised skills and knowledge. In this regard, the governing boards of each of your schools need to prepare early for the pathways that will be offered in their institutions within the next two years,” said Education CS Ezekiel Machogu while addressing secondary school heads.

According to the Basic Education Curriculum Framework, SSS will be implemented in secondary schools as they are currently established.

CBC, which is currently being implemented in Junior Secondary Schools (JSS), uses a combination of formative and summative assessments to determine learners’ placement in universities and other tertiary institutions.

Dr Ciriaka Gitonga, the Dean of the Faculty of Education and Social Sciences at the University of Embu, urged principals to begin early preparations for the implementation of the SSS. “How will content teachers be transformed for the new pathways? What criteria will you use to select the pathways? Universities can’t continue to train teachers in the same way, but they must also be ready to accept CBC students in 2029,” Dr Gitonga said.

She called for in-service training for school leaders and teachers to deliver the CBC, as well as continuous professional development with a focus on quality rather than time.

Pupils leaving Senior Secondary School under CBC will have known some of their results before taking their final assessments in a change that will mark the end of the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) exams, Prof Ong’ondo said.

The changes will take place in 2028, when the first cohort of KCSE learners will be in Grade 12, the final year of the system. Part of the grading will be done during the three years (Grades 10, 11 and 12) of the SSS, while the final test will only contribute part of the total grade.

“Unless the Presidential Working Party on Education Reforms (PWPER) recommends changes in some aspects, you’ll have part of the results before the students leave. This will solve the problem of high-stakes examinations,” Prof Ong’ondo said.

Opening the forum on Wednesday, CS Machogu said the PWPER report will be launched by President William Ruto by the end of next week. Basic Education PS Belio Kipsang said the report would then be shared with the public.

The formative assessment will be marked by classroom teachers, while the summative assessment will be administered and marked at national level, as the current structure works. Some delegates expressed concern about the reliability of such assessments.

“We need to address the trust deficit because we’re the custodians of the future. We need to prepare for the transition because we don’t want to be late. We have two years to do this,” said Dr Kipsang.