Kenyans are talking about basic education curriculum reform, what and how our children should learn. According to the government, the current curriculum delivered through the 8-4-4 system does not serve the current and future needs of our society.
The proposed basic education curriculum framework is excellent but not perfect. But the government has not done a great job communicating the new curriculum to the public — what the new curriculum is about and why we need to change the curriculum in the first place.
And more importantly, the public has not had a chance to give their views. Even teachers have not been adequately involved in the curriculum conversation.
The current system is criticised for being exam-centred. Moreover, the current system does not instil in our children the necessary values and a sense of community.
More importantly, a review of the current curriculum concluded that learners did not acquire adequate entrepreneurial skills for self-reliance, and apart from high unemployment, crime, drug abuse and antisocial behaviour were on the rise. Talk about a stinging indictment.
The government believes that the new curriculum, whose vision is to enable every Kenyan to become an engaged, empowered and ethical citizen, will equip learners with skills, knowledge, attitudes and values to thrive and make the world a better place for everyone.
It’s about citizenship, living together. Most importantly for me, the curriculum reform is about values and ethics; about the examined life. The unexamined life, according to Socrates, is not worth living.
Moreover, the mission of the new curriculum is to nurture every learner’s potential. In a word, it is learner-centred. This new curriculum affirms, like the Greek philosopher and writer Socrates, that education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel. It is about setting alight the creative imagination and fanning the flames of innovation in our children.
The new curriculum is about learning to learn. It is not just about the subject matter; it is about the content of the learner’s experience. Hence, learning is reinstated as a process of co-creation.
The delivery of the new curriculum re-imagines the role of the teacher and pedagogy. The teacher will no longer be the sage on the stage. The teacher will be the guide on the side, the coach, mentor and facilitator.
Whatever is ossified and mechanical about the current curriculum is its subjugation of the child in his or her context — the child and their community. Thankfully, one of the six guiding principles of the curriculum is Community Service Learning.
In simple language, this is a form of experiential education where students learn through iterations of action and reflection and in the process link personal and social growth, cognitive and academic growth.
While education is not part of President Kenyatta’s Big Four Action Plan, it is the foundation without which anything we build is in vain.
The education curriculum reform is worthy of Kenyatta’s leadership. To guarantee every Kenyan child quality education would be a most enduring legacy.
Alex O Awiti is the director of the East Africa Institute at Aga Khan University