Demystifying the Competency-Based Curriculum

Grade 2 of Imperial Primary School Kisii CBD class in session. PHOTO/Elijah Nyaanga, The Scholar Media Africa.
Grade 2 of Imperial Primary School Kisii CBD class in session. PHOTO/Elijah Nyaanga, The Scholar Media Africa.

With less than two months to the start of next year’s academic calendar, parents and children continue to speculate how the year might be, even after the government announced that Grades 7, 8 and 9, which will be Junior Secondary School, will be domiciled within the current primary schools.

On the how part of it, the Government Spokesperson Hussein Mohamed, in a statement on November 30, 2022, said, “The Ministry of Education will provide the necessary guidelines on how this will be done.”

On September 30, 2022, President Ruto appointed a 49-member task force, chaired by Prof. Raphael Munavu, to evaluate and, through public participation, provide a report on the possible reforms in the entire academic system.

Some of the main points of reference include: assessing and recommending an appropriate structure for implementing CBC, studying, assessing and recommending on the examination framework, teacher deployment framework and the technology for curriculum delivery, improved learning outcomes and education management, among others, according to a Kenya Gazette Notice dated September 30, 2022.

The working party on education reforms has up to March 2023 to submit the final report.

With the CBC shaped to train students on the how part of the skills rather than the what aspect, the government tasked Members of Parliament with facilitating the construction of one more classroom and a laboratory in all Kenyan Primary schools, with priority being given to the laboratory throughout 2023, according to the statement.

With the continued implementation of the Competency-Based Curriculum, most of the stakeholders, including pupils are yet to understand what exactly is being offered to the young minds, the pathways it accommodates and the stages at which the selection of subjects shall be done.

The Scholar Media Africa’s One-on-One Q&A Interview With Set Green Hill Academy and Imperial Primary Schools Director Charles Mochama on CBC offers timely insights on what exactly the curriculum entails.

The Government implemented the Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC) in both public and private schools across the country in December 2017, emphasizing on the institutions’ capacity preparedness to host the first batch of Junior Secondary School (JSS) learners early next year.

Following the implementation, The Scholar Media Africa’s Elijah Nyaanga and Ben Oroko visited Kisii County’s Imperial Primary School Educational Centre as part of the efforts to peer into issues concerning JSS capacity and compliance requirements in the institutions earmarked to host the first batch of JSS learners early next year.

The team interviewed the School’s Director, Charles Mochama, for insights on several issues about the new academic system – CBC, through a Q&A session. Here’s an excerpt from the interview at the institution situated in the Matoke area on the outskirts of Kisii town.

The Scholar Media Africa: We understand that you have been privileged to receive high-powered delegations and officials from the national and County Governments who have been visiting your school to inspect your progress in preparation for the Junior Secondary School (JSS) status in your school. Kindly give us a glimpse of the visits and what they have in store for your school.

Director Charles Mochama: I take this opportunity to thank and welcome The Scholar Media Africa to our school. This is a great honour not only to our school but also to the entire education fraternity in the region.

Our school has indeed been privileged to receive several high-flying visitors due to our interest in hosting the CBC Junior Secondary School facility in our compound starting next year.

Based on this, we have had the privilege to be visited by the immediate former Permanent Secretary-Post Training and Skills Development in the Ministry of Education (MOE), Mr. Alfred Cheruiyot.

During the visit, he was accompanied by Kisii County Director of Education, Mr. Pius Ngoma, and our County Commissioner and a host of other guests to inspect the progress of our Junior Secondary School ahead of its official registration and commissioning to prepare for the first batch of JSS learners early next year.

Kisii County Education Board Chair Prof. Henry Onderi also paid us a visit recently to assess our level of preparedness to host the pioneer JSS students early next year.

The Scholar: In a nutshell, what are your feelings about CBC amid divided opinion on its roll-out?

Mochama: CBC is dynamic and flexible. It combines two things: theory and practice and makes learners take charge of their own learning by discovering knowledge and constructing knowledge.

It makes learners understand themselves early in their lifetime and takes learning back to the learners. They take charge of their learning process.

The Scholar: For purposes of public education and understanding what CBC means for the children of this country, briefly highlight on Junior Secondary School Curriculum.

Mochama: Thank you for that important question. Junior Secondary is a phase of education in state secondary schools for Years 7, 8 and 9, which helps ensure the bridge between primary and secondary school is safe, strong and consistent for all students. Junior Secondary will focus on age-appropriate education and support for students’ well-being and transition.

The Scholar: What does Junior Secondary School mean?

Mochama: Junior Secondary School means a school which provides a three-year post-primary course of full-time instruction suitable for pupils between the age of twelve years and fifteen years.

The Scholar: Where will junior secondary be domiciled?

The implementation of the CBC was in Grade 6 from April 25 at the beginning of the first term of the 2021/22 academic calendar. Grade 6 which is the pioneer class has already done the national CBC assessment test, Kenya Primary School Education Assessment (KPSEA). We are waiting for the results.

The Scholar: Kindly, for the purpose of parents, other education stakeholders and the general public, tell us how CBC is organized, starting from Pre-Primary to senior secondary and the core subjects offered.

Mochama: The Kenyan Competency-Based Curriculum was designed by the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) in 2017 and has five levels which are:

1. Pre-primary Education (2 Years): Pre-Primary One and Pre-Primary Two, commonly known as PP1 and PP2.

2. Lower Primary (Grade 1 to Grade 3), which is expected to run for three years.

3. Upper Primary (Grade 4 to Grade 6), expected to run for three years.

4. Lower Secondary (Grade 7 to Grade 9), expected to run for three years.

5. Lastly, Senior School (Grade 10 to Grade 12), which is expected to run for three years and will mark the end of Basic Education.

Pupils playing at Set Greenhill Primary. The CBC is set to appreciate the learners' talents and identify them for a guided growth for future benefits. PHOTO/Elijah Nyaanga, The Scholar Media Africa.
Pupils playing at Set Greenhill Primary. The CBC is set to appreciate the learners’ talents and identify them for a guided growth for future benefits. PHOTO/Elijah Nyaanga, The Scholar Media Africa.

The Scholar: Thank you for clearly explaining how CBC is organized.

Now let us look at the area of assessments under this new education system. Assessments are critical to the educational process. Without them, teachers would never know when to move on to the next concept or how to enhance understanding of concepts when facilitating learning. What is Competency Based Assessment (CBA)?

Mochama: It is a purposeful, systematic continuous process of gathering information from multiple sources for making decisions on what learners know, need to learn, have learned and can do. It involves creating opportunities for learners to apply the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values they have learned to solve real-world problems.

The Scholar: Mr. Director, are CBA and CBC the same thing?

Mochama: Competency Based Curriculum (CBC) is the curriculum or the umbrella structure that guides how teaching is to be conducted. It falls under the mandate of the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD).

On the other hand, Competency Based Assessment (CBA) is the process of determining a learner’s capability to apply a set of related Knowledge, Skills, Values and Attitudes required to perform a task successfully.

The Scholar: The Kenya National Examinations Council (KNEC) is mandated to carry out assessments as envisaged in the Basic Education Curriculum Framework (BECF) based on the CBC Designs. How is CBA different from regular examinations?

Mochama: An examination such as KCPE or KCSE is a battery of tests written by a candidate to demonstrate their level of theoretical knowledge at the end of a learning cycle and for certification.

An examination is usually a one-off and is done after the instruction has taken place. It is often a mark of completion of a learning phase, and its purpose is mainly to inform learner placement at subsequent levels.

On the other hand, an assessment, such as the CBA, is a systematic way of collecting information and documenting what the learner knows and can do before they learn, as they learn and as they transit from one level to another based on specified competencies and criteria.

An assessment uses a wider variety of tools and gives learners, peers, teachers and parents opportunities to track the learner’s progress through real-time feedback mechanisms.

The Scholar: What are the types of assessments in CBA?

Mochama: The following are the ways CBA is structured for institutionalization in CBC.

(a) Classroom assessment: This is a continuous assessment carried out at the entire basic level of education (thus, at early years, middle school and senior school). The teacher develops the assessment tools.

(b) School-based assessment: This assessment starts from Grade 4 to Grade 12. KNEC develops and uploads the tools for this assessment on the Council’s website. The teacher downloads the tools from the website and administers them to the learners.

(c) Summative assessment: The National Assessment shall be carried out at Grades 6, 9 and 12 to inform policy and education stakeholders on level-specific interventions for the quality education of our learners

The Scholar: When are the assessments done?

Mochama:  (a) Before learning (diagnostic assessment),

(b) During teaching and learning (formative assessment)

(c) At the end of teaching and learning (summative assessment)

The Scholar: At what levels?

Mochama: At the end of Pre-Primary 2: the learners are assessed internally then all transition to Grade 1 in Lower Primary (Grades 1, 2 and 3).

In Grade 3: They take a school-based national assessment that is not used for ranking or placement, after which they all proceed to Upper Primary (Grades 4, 5, 6).

Upper Primary assessments: Learners are assessed at each of the Upper Primary grades to track their learning progress ahead of the National Assessment at Grade 6.

The school-based assessments will account for 60 per cent of the total score.

Director Mochama sharing with Kisii County Education Board Chair, Prof. Henry Onderi when he visited the schools, recently. PHOTO/Elijah Nyaanga, The Scholar Media Africa.
Director Mochama sharing with Kisii County Education Board Chair, Prof. Henry Onderi when he visited the schools, recently. PHOTO/Elijah Nyaanga, The Scholar Media Africa.

In Grade 6: A summative assessment is administered at the end of Grade 6, which will comprise the remaining 40 per cent of the total scores. This marks the end of the primary cycle.

Performance of the learners at this level and their interests will be used to place them in junior secondary school (JSS, Grades 7, 8 and 9).

In Grade 9: Learners will again be formally assessed with a summative assessment at the end of JSS (Grade 9). Their scores and preferences will be used for placement in Senior Secondary School (SSS), where they will follow one of their preferred career pathways.

The Scholar: Which methods and tools are used to assess competencies?

Mochama: The methods and tools are varied in order to address the learning needs of different individual learners. They include; tests, observation schedules, questions and answers, checklists, quizzes, rubrics, journals, portfolios, learner profiles, anecdotal records, oral or aural questions, questionnaires, rating scales and projects a learner must carry out several activities over a period of time. The three main types are classroom, school-based and national assessments.

The Scholar: Does CBA address the needs of learners with special needs?

Mochama: For learners with special needs and disabilities in the age-based pathway, assessment tools are modified to cater for their individual needs, e.g., provided in accessible formats such as braille. Audio and large print versions for learners with visual impairment, as well as the provision of Kenyan Sign Language for learners with hearing impairment.

The Scholar: How are assessment records tracked and maintained in CBA?

Mochama: Assessment records will be maintained both at school and at KNEC. Learners are captured in the KNEC system every year from Grade 3 onwards, with each learner provided with a Unique Personal Identification (UPI) number.

It is either a NEMIS number from MoE or an assessment number from KNEC for those who do not have a NEMIS number. The learner will use the number up to the end of Grade 12.

The Scholar: Why is parental support in the learning process so important?

Mochama: A parent is the first and most important educator in a child’s life. A parent is usually a child’s role model, and the child will usually mirror the parent’s actions and behavior.

Parental influence, therefore, contributes highly to determining the learner’s outcome in school.

The Scholar: How can the parent help nurture the learner’s potential?


  • Provide a conducive environment to learning.
  • Instill values and promote positive attitudes in the child towards the family and the community.
  • Be involved in the child’s learning by engaging them, understanding them and monitoring their progress.
  •  Provide learners with available or accessible resources for extended activities.

The Scholar: What if a parent is not well educated?

Mochama: A parent’s level of education does not matter. The parent should get to know the child’s experiences in school and offer psychological support.

The Scholar: What happens to the records of a learner transferring schools?

Mochama: Transfer of learners shall be done by the Sub County Director of Education and will be allowed to take place at Grade 3, 4, 5 and all the four levels of the Stage-Based Curriculum Pathway.

No transfer shall be allowed at Grade 6 due to the preparation of the summative assessment that will be taking place at the end of the year.

Pre-School learners during PE session at Imperial Educational Centre, Matoke branch. PHOTO/Elijah Nyaanga, The Scholar Media Africa.
Pre-School learners during PE session at Imperial Educational Centre, Matoke branch. PHOTO/Elijah Nyaanga, The Scholar Media Africa.

Most Kenyans are not conversant with the subjects learners are expected to take at various levels. Hence, we set out to summarize the subjects for them to enable them to guide and prepare learners adequately for the academic task ahead.

Subjects for Pre-Primary (Two Years)

  • Language Activities
  • Mathematical Activities
  • Environmental Activities
  • Psychomotor and Creative Activities
  • Religious Education Activities
  • Pre-Braille Activities

NB: Digital literacy and pertinent and contemporary issues will be integrated across all Subjects.

Subjects for Lower Primary: Grade 1 to Grade 3 (Three Years)

  • Literacy Activities or Braille Literacy Activities
  • Kiswahili Language Activities or Kenya Sign Language (for deaf learners)
  • English Language Activities
  • Mathematical Activities
  • Environmental Activities
  • Hygiene and Nutrition Activities
  • Religious Education Activities
  • Movement and Creative Activities

NB: ICT will be the learning tool in all areas. Pertinent and contemporary issues will be mainstreamed in all subjects.

Subjects for Upper Primary: Grade 4 to Grade 6 (Three Years)

  • English
  • Kiswahili or Kenya Sign Language
  • Home Science
  • Agriculture
  • Science and Technology
  • Mathematics
  • Religious Education (CRE or IRE or HRE)
  • Creative Arts
  • Physical and Health Education
  • Social Studies

Optional subjects in upper primary

  • Foreign Languages (Arabic, French, German, Mandarin)
  • Indigenous languages
  • Kenyan Sign Language
  • Braille literacy

NB: ICT should be included in all learning areasThere should also be pastoral program once in a week.

Subjects for Junior Secondary (Grade 7, 8, 9)

Core Subjects

  • English
  • Kiswahili or Kenyan Sign Language
  • Mathematics
  • Integrated Science
  • Health Education
  • Pre-Technical and Pre-Career Education
  • Social Studies
  • Religious Education
  • Business Studies
  • Agriculture
  • Life Skills
  • Sports and Physical Education

Optional Subjects

(1 minimum, 2 maximum)

  • Visual Arts
  • Performing Arts
  • Home Science
  • Computer Science
  • Foreign Languages (German, French, Mandarin, or Arabic)
  • Kenyan Sign Language
  • Indigenous Languages

Subjects for Senior School (Grade 10, 11, 12)

Here, students are required to select one pathway they would like to specialize in from these three below.

 The three Pathways are:

  1. Arts and Sports Science
  2. Social Sciences
  3. Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)
  1. Art and Sport Science Pathway Subjects

Arts Core subjects (Mandatory)

  • Legal and Ethical issues in Arts
  • Communication Skills

Arts Optional Subjects (1 minimum, 2 maximum)

  • Performing Arts
  • Music
  • Dance
  • Theatre and Elocution
  • Fine Art
  • Applied Art
  • Time Based Media
  • Crafts

Sports Science Core subjects (Mandatory)

  • Human Physiology, Anatomy and Nutrition
  • Sports Ethics

Sports Science Optional Subjects (1 minimum, 2 maximum)

  • Athletics
  • Indoor Games
  • Gymnastics
  • Water Sports
  • Boxing
  • Martial Arts
  • Outdoor Pursuits
  • Advanced Physical Education
  • Social Sciences Pathway Subjects

Students on this track to choose a minimum of 3 and a maximum of 5 subjects from:

  1. Humanities
  2. History and Citizenship
  3. Geography
  4. Christian Religious Education
  5. Islamic Religious Education
  6. Hindu Religious Education
  7. Business Studies
  8. Mathematics
  1. Languages
  2. English Language
  3. Literature in English
  4. Lugha ya Kiswahili
  5. Fasihi ya Kiswahili
  6. Kenyan Sign Language
  7. Indigenous Languages
  8. Arabic
  9. French
  10. German
  11. Mandarin
  12. Business Studies

3) Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics Subjects

It is divided into four tracks:

  1. Pure sciences
  2. Applied sciences
  3. Technical and engineering
  4. Career in Technology Studies

Each track or learning category has core and optional subjects.

a) Pure sciences

Core Subjects

  • Community Service Learning
  • Physical Education
  • ICT

Optional Subjects (Minimum of 3 from the 4)

  • Mathematics
  • Physics
  • Chemistry
  • Biology

b) Applied sciences

Core Subjects

  • Community Service Learning
  • Physical Education
  • ICT

Optional Subjects (Students to select one)

  • Agriculture
  • Computer Science
  • Foods and Nutrition
  • Home Management

c) Technical and engineering

Core Subjects

  • Community Service Learning
  • Physical Education
  • ICT
  • Mathematics
  • Chemistry or Biological Sciences
  • Physics or Biology or Physical Sciences

Optional Subjects (Students to choose one)

  • Agricultural Technology
  • Geosciences Technology
  • Marine and Fisheries Technology
  • Aviation Technology
  • Wood Technology
  • Electrical Technology
  • Metal Technology
  • Power Mechanics
  • Clothing Technology
  • Construction Technology
  • Media Technology
  • Electronics Technology
  • Manufacturing Technology
  • Mechatronic

d) Career in Technology Studies

Core Subjects

  • Community Service Learning
  • Physical Education
  • ICT

Optional Subjects (Students to select one subject)

  • Garment Making and Interior Design
  • Leather Work
  • Culinary Arts
  • Hair Dressing and Beauty Therapy
  • Plumbing and Ceramics
  • Welding and Fabrication
  • Tourism and Travel
  • Air Conditioning and Refrigeration
  • Animal Keeping
  • Exterior Design and Landscaping
  • Building Construction
  • Photography
  • Graphic Designing and Animation
  • Food and Beverage
  • Motor Vehicle Mechanics
  • Carpentry and Joinery
  • Fire Fighting
  • Metalwork
  • Electricity
  • Land Surveying
  • Science Laboratory Technology
  • Electronics
  • Printing Technology
  • Crop Production

YOU CAN ALSO READ: Preparations to host pioneer JSS students in Busia crystallize

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