The Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development CEO Dr Jwan Otieno has argued for a strong curriculum applicable to all learners in basic education institutions in the planned curriculum reform the government is in the process of undertaking.
Dr Otieno made the clarifications during the National Conference of the Kenya Secondary School Heads Association held in Mombasa recently.
He made the clarifications in response to suggestions by the chairman of quality assurance standards at Moi University, Dr Laban Ayiro, that the government reserve a strong curriculum to students in national schools having sufficient and modern instructional resources and endowment.
Dr Ayiro claimed that implementing a strong curriculum to all learners in basic education institutions would be expensive; he consequently recommended that such a curriculum be applicable to well established schools while the rest of the students should be exposed to a curriculum that wouldn’t cost as much.
A curriculum is the defining feature of a national educational system. It is in fact the starting point for all other reforms in education.
Equity and justice has been the foundation of our national educational policy. The assumption is that the curriculum should be so designed that every student has the fullest opportunity to develop his or her powers, intelligence, interests, talent, inclinations and understanding.
Educational thinkers like Plato, Aristotle, Thomas Jefferson, Horace Mann and John Dewey have argued for an education programme that all children are exposed to. The assumption is that all children are educable; education should identify the unique and varied abilities, talents and inclinations of young people and develop them.
This is because the health and welfare of the society, depends on the pool of abilities, and powers of all of its members, working in concert to ensure its functioning.
It is therefore in its own interest that a nation develops a rich, strong, balanced and coherent curriculum to support a national educational system.
The statement KICD CEO made during a panel discussion on the quality and relevance of the education system that Kenya deserves was therefore not only timely, but reassuring.
It was timely and reassuring for four reasons. The injunctions of modern educational policy obligates the government to develop and implement balanced education curriculum to meet the basic aspirations of Kenyans — thanks to globalisation, knowledge economy and the injunctions of the international treaties and conventions relating to the rights and legitimate expectations of children and youth.
The dual curriculum system Dr Ayiro indirectly recommends offends the goals and values of integration and cohesion. We cannot build a cohesive and an integrated society if we create two sets of curricular. A harmonious society is founded on shared mission, values and purposes—which a common curriculum is capable of imparting in learners.
Secondly, this country is capable of developing and implementing a strong curriculum throughout the country without disrupting the economy. We are allocating well over six per cent of our Gross Domestic Product to the education sector. These investments are sufficient to support a strong curriculum for all our students. All we need is proper and accountable allocation and utilisation of these resources.
Thirdly, the multi-tracked curriculum system that the government wants to implement can best be achieved when we have a strong curriculum. A strong curriculum will help the country identify individual aptitudes and inclinations of students, and then support them. We have students with a strong academic orientation, others strong with specific talents, whereas others have a vocational or technology bent.
A common curriculum will in the first place impart strong literacy and numeracy skills to all students regardless of the aptitudes and inclinations of the students. Success in vocational pathways depends on knowledge of the foundational skills that mathematics, languages, history, the arts, literature, and science gives to those who have learned it in high school. Success in music, dance, painting, and other pursuits that are founded on talent depends on the cultural, mental and sophistication—those who have in fact gained the most from their talents are those who have had formal education.
The fourth reason why strong curriculum is important is that the development of the competences like conceptual and analytical, problem finding and problem solving skills are founded on mastery of and exposure to the knowledge, attitudes and behavior that a strong curriculum embody.