On January 30th 2017, Education Cabinet Secretary Dr. Fred Matiangi launched Kenya’s new basic education framework. The process to replace the current 8-4-4 system of education has now commenced. The current system has been criticized as overburdened with subjects, examination oriented and not capable of producing entrepreneurial graduates.
The new curriculum is competency-based and is undergirded by values. This new child-centered curriculum will nurture our children’s potential and produce engaged, empowered and ethical citizens. According to the framers of the new curriculum framework, education will not be about grades but about learning how to learn, critical thinking and problem solving. School will be a place where imagination and creativity will come alive. And most of all, our schools will inculcate in our children the most important obligation– citizenship.
In the new curriculum, basic education will be delivered in three stages: Early years (2 years in pre-primary and 3 years in lower primary); Middle school (3 years in upper primary and 3 years in lower secondary); Senior school, comprising three streams of specialization, i.e., science, arts and social sciences.
I am awed by what Kenya Institute for Curriculum Development (KICD) and the Ministry of Education have achieved. The curriculum framework is based on sound theoretical foundations. Moreover, the curriculum design has taken the bold step to diminish the primacy of standardized test scores. This new curriculum is focused on the learner and their intellectual and personal growth throughout the education experience.
What is especially laudable in this new curriculum is that the role of the teacher is fundamentally changed. The teacher will be the sage on the stage no more. The teacher will be a friend, the guide on the side. The new curriculum re-casts the teacher as coach, facilitator and mentor. The new curriculum promises to make school about learning, not senseless memorization of irrelevant facts and standardized test scores. The new curriculum is about creativity, imagination and passion. And most of all, the new curriculum is about learning to learn, giving students the skills for life-long learning and building a solid foundation for self-efficacy.
Implementing such a bold and liberating curriculum will not be easy. A majority of teachers and parents will be lost and disillusioned. Many will wonder if this is even practical or realistic within our context. For some, that citizens will be prepared to think, reason and challenge is a pretty revolutionary proposition.
We must think carefully about the implementation of this new curriculum. While it is bold and novel, it will not be self-executing. We must invest in teachers. Teachers currently in service must be re-tooled in pedagogical approaches that will support their new roles. Teacher training and certification must adhere to the highest standards.
Let us all support KICD and the Ministry Education to prepare our children for a truly brave and new world. We must not be discouraged or overwhelmed by those who want us to lower our ambition and scale down our investment in the children of this great land.
Dr. Alex O. Awiti is the director of the East African Institute at Aga Khan University