When the Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC) education program, a new education system in Kenya, was introduced in 2017 to replace the 8-4-4 education system, it was fully embraced by all and sundry after being researched and developed by the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD).
The Competency-Based Curriculum, a core framework comprising four basic components namely curriculum and learning outcomes, class-based assessment, teaching and learning activities, and management of school-based curriculum, sought to nurture a learner’s potential, gifts and talents while enabling the students to advance based on their ability to master a skill or competency at their own pace.
The new system of education emphasized what learners were expected to do rather than mainly focusing on what they are expected to know.
In principle, such a curriculum is learner-centered and adaptive to the changing needs of students, teachers and society.
It was geared towards helping the students develop and demonstrate mastery over a topic and building a culture of equity and inclusivity, preparing the students for life beyond the walls of their school.
Aims and Objectives
The aims and objectives of CBC education were to prepare individuals for the future challenges and empower them with the knowledge and skills in various fields of study in a flexible educational program suitable to each student.
The competencies that students must master include explicit and measurable learning objectives.
In this educational model, students would receive timely and differentiated support according to their individual learning needs.
They would get the necessary skills to prepare for college and practice the profession and life, empowering them to be critical readers, compelling writers, and mathematical thinkers.
CBC would also boost the students’ data visualization skills for effectiveness.
The students would as well be in a position to deal with conflicting knowledge, come up with many ideas in new and ambiguous situations, rethink, imagine and see problems from different perspectives.
They would be in a position to work as a team and share their strengths, value the experience of others and be inquisitive citizens of the world who seek and respect diversity and different points of view.
Learners would also be self-taught and self-directed, apprentices curious about themselves and the world and inventors of their paths of learning, career, and life.
Theoretically, education should adapt to the needs of each student.
Learning institutions should provide skills to future professionals to adjust them adequately and effectively to the jobs that the market and technology require.
However, there are still no educational programs capable of achieving this.
Despite the introduction of the CBC, which had initially been received with great joy by parents, education stakeholders and students, mixed reactions have emerged from a section of parents who claim they have been given too much workload on behalf of their children.
A section of parents from Bunyala Sub County in Budalangi constituency, Busia County, spoke to The Scholar Media on condition of anonymity.
They said they initially thought the CBC was a great system that would go a long way toward encouraging a bond between children and their families, but it has allegedly deviated from its original path.
“The new education system has become a burden to us parents because we are required to pay a lot of money to support the program.
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I have four children in grades two, three and five respectively. I pay a total of Ksh. 600 per term for them,” said a parent in anonymity.
However, Mercy Molla, a resident of Munani village in the Ruambwa sub-location in Busia County, fully supports the new education system.
“The new system of education, Competency-Based Curriculum, has come at the right time.
It will, apart from enabling our children to acquire technical skills at a very tender age, go a long way in stamping out rising early pregnancy cases that had been forcing scores of the young schoolgirls in Busia to drop out of school prematurely,” says Molla.
The parent, whose two children are learning at Ruambwa primary school in classes two and five, says she initially thought it was expensive, but she has eventually realized its usefulness.
“The new education system has enabled our children to learn cleanliness, how to cook, how to crochet a dress and how to weave baskets. As parents, we could not coach them.
Had we taken our children to vocational training institutions, we would have spent a colossal amount of money in terms of school fees,” says Mercy.
She added that CBC should be retained because the children are learning important things that would help them in the future.
Initially, there had been a rise in early pregnancy cases that had seen a majority of schoolgirls dropping out of school due to early pregnancy.
The new education system is set to reduce the prevalent early pregnancy cases.
“The new system of education program is good as it was meant to provide our children with the basic skills. However, it has been turned into a cash cow.
In my case, I am paying Ksh. 400 per term, which is very expensive,” complained a parent, urging the task force put in place by the government recently to move with speed and review the entire system.
Weaknesses of CBC
It has been established that the new education system does not suit subject areas where it is difficult to prescribe specific competencies or where new skills and new knowledge need to be rapidly accommodated.
CBC takes an objectivist approach to learning and while ignoring the importance of social learning.
The new education system is not always an accurate reflection of how much progress has been made in teaching and learning.
The assessment process can also be wrongly used to hold teachers accountable for the lack of progress being made and increase pressure on students, especially those that become anxious in test environments.
Some of the disadvantages associated with the new learning style include poorly standardized testing performance.
When too much time is dedicated to student inquiries, there is always the risk that important core topics could be left out.
Naturally, this hurts standardized testing performance.
Curriculum-based assessment involves judging an instructor based on the material that he or she chooses.
Some of the teachers interviewed expressed concerns saying they are yet to undergo in-service training on the new system of education.
They also cited a lack of sufficient instructional materials, overcrowded classrooms, lack of parental support, poor curriculum structure, inadequate resources, and lack of sufficient Information, Communication and Technology [ICT] skills among the majority of teachers.
No stakeholder participation
Former Busia County Director of Education, Mr. Thaddeus Awuor, speaking to The Scholar Media during an interview recently via phone, said that although the system is overall good, there was no stakeholder participation.
According to him, County Education Directors were not consulted for their input; it was rushed and no piloting was done during the research.
“The new system of education is overall good as it would enable our children to specialize, but there was no stakeholder participation.
The input of Directors of Education at the county level was not sought and piloting was also not done during the research,” explained Awuor, adding that there was an urgent need to revise the same.
Costly and cumbersome to parents
A head teacher of a public primary school in Budalangi constituency, Busia County, said CBC is costly and a burden to parents.
The costs come in because most of the work is done online and most schools do not have access to the internet in their respective schools.
This has forced CBC teachers in the said schools to go to the cybercafés to prepare for the lessons.
“While some students from well-to-do families have smartphones they can utilize to access the internet, the majority of students from poor families cannot afford them.
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Simultaneously, overcrowding of students due to inadequate infrastructure and shortage of teachers has made it extremely impossible for CBC teachers to teach the students effectively,” said the school head.
The school head also noted that the assessments of the students are numerous.
Terming it to be extremely tiresome, he added that it should be done at least twice, starting from grades 2 to 6 to give the CBC teachers ample time to concentrate on their teaching process.
Like him, many others underscore the need to avail adequate resources and teachers by the government for the new education system to achieve its intended goal.