Why Ruto changed tune on his plan to abolish CBC

Kenya Kwanza education charter

Deputy president William Ruto (2nd left) and other Kenya Kwanza leaders at the Catholic University in Nairobi on June 23, 2022 during the signing of the coalition’s education charter.

Photo credit: Lucy Wanjiru | Nation Media Group

Deputy President William Ruto has made a major turnabout on an earlier pledge to abolish the competency-based curriculum (CBC).

Dr Ruto has instead promised a hybrid system of education if his Kenya Kwanza Alliance (KKA) wins the presidency in August.

According to insiders, the decision was made to avoid hurting learners who are currently under the programme and to avoid causing more confusion in the sector.

A team that worked on the proposals for the education sector also advised the DP that abolishing the CBC would be costly to the parents and the government.

Dr Ruto acknowledged that the CBC is good but said a KKA government would review the curriculum to incorporate public input.

Unesco recommendations

The review, he said, is in accordance with Unesco recommendations, since its implementation has been underway for five years.

The CBC is one of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s legacy projects. Its pioneer class will transition to junior secondary school in January next year.

“We’re are five years into CBC. Unesco allows for a review after five years. This is the moment,” the DP said.

The new position is a major departure from earlier statements by other KKA leaders that the CBC would be abolished and the 8-4-4 system reinstated.

Dr Ruto said that the hybrid system would incorporate knowledge, competencies, skills and values. He said that focus would be trained on access, relevance, affordability and quality. 

Structure of primary education

A member of the team that worked on the charter revealed to the Daily Nation that the alliance intends to alter the structure of primary education and JSS and put more emphasis on the pathways in senior secondary school.

“Any sane president can’t wake up and pronounce a curriculum to the public. What is currently missing, we’ve fixed. That’s why there’s room for review in any curriculum,” the source said.

“What is in place (CBC) is already there but we’re now allowing the professional process to take place,” another member of the team said.

Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha, who has insisted that CBC is here to stay, Wednesday welcomed the change of heart.

Speaking in Bungoma County, Prof Magoha said the learners’ concerns should be taken into account. 

Dr Ruto also signed a charter pledging a number of reforms he hopes to bring into the education sector. The event was held at the Catholic University of East Africa, Nairobi yesterday. He was accompanied by Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetang’ula and Amani National Congress chief Musalia Mudavadi.

“We’ll re-engineer CBC to gain broad-based acceptability among stakeholders. We’ll have a conversation leading to ironing out of areas under contestation,” the DP said.

Replace 8-4-4 system

The CBC was introduced in 2017 to replace the 8-4-4 system, which had been in place since 1985. It has received mixed reactions from parents, teachers and other stakeholders over its implementation.

There have been complaints about the cost of learning materials, training of teachers, transition at different levels and inadequate infrastructure.

“I’m glad and I want to thank the political class because it seems we’re accepting that CBC is here to stay and that is the way to go. There’s no need to play around with our children like chess in a game of politics. It looks like all the big political players accept that CBC will be there, they will just tweak a few things and this is important for the parents and children not to be confused,” Prof Magoha said.

The charter was written after four months of collecting views and data. It was led by former Moi University Vice-Chancellor Raphael Munavu.

Other members included former Daystar University Vice-Chancellor Godfrey Nguru and Prof James Kanya who supervised Dr Ruto for his doctorate. Officials from teachers’ unions, the Kenya Private Schools Association and the University Academic Staff Union were also involved in the sector deliberations. However, many of them are understood to have participated in their individual capacities to avoid reprisals from the government.

Among the radical changes proposed for higher education is to merge the University Funding Board, the Tvet Funding Board and the Higher Education Loans Board to form the National Skills Board. This, Dr Ruto said, would centralise funding for public universities, which are currently in financial distress.

The DP promised that should he win, he would establish a virtual Open University of Kenya within the first 100 days of his administration. The university would be cheaper, accessible and give more opportunities to older people in a cost-effective way.

Dr Ruto said that he would adopt “targeted funding” for university courses, where courses that already have personnel wouldn’t be funded.

“We don’t fund students who’re likely not to get jobs,” he said.