An evaluation of the 8-4-4 curriculum concluded that “the curriculum was content and its implementation was academic and examination oriented”. The evaluators also noted that learners “did not acquire adequate entrepreneurial skills for self-reliance”.
Moreover, the reviewers also concluded that the curriculum offered limited opportunity for learners to identify their talents and interests, outside what was taught. These include, music, art, businesses, etc.
The evaluation also faulted the competitive, exam-centric nature of the 8-4-4 curriculum, which condemns otherwise talented students who don’t score high grades as failures.
The fate of the 8-4-4 curriculum was sealed by Sessional Paper No 2 of 2015.
This seminal policy document recommended a competency based curriculum, early identification and nurturing of talent, introduction of three learning pathways at the senior school level and the integration of national values and cohesion into the curriculum.
The framers of the basic education reform suggest that the vision of the curriculum reform is to enable learners to become engaged, empowered and ethical citizens.
The realisation of this vision demands knowledgeable, reflective teachers who have the capacity to coach, facilitate and mentor learners. The current model of the teacher as the sage on the stage won’t do.
A report by Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD), Monitoring Report on the National Pilot of the Competency Curriculum, reveals that only 20 per cent of teachers reported that they were prepared to deliver the curriculum.
According to the report, there were significant gaps in the ability of teachers to develop and use appropriate teaching aids, which are critical to supporting learning. Moreover, teachers had difficulties in administering and recording continuous assessments.
The findings in the KICD report are consistent with those contained in a recent report by the Teachers Service Commission (TSC), which revealed low levels of subject content mastery and understanding among teachers.
KICD has made recommendations on the need to enhance teacher knowledge on subject matter content, the need to bolster teacher competency in mentoring, learner-centred pedagogical approaches, and modelling and embodying values and attitudes they seek to impart to learners.
Moreover, the KICD has also made strong recommendations on raising minimum requirements for teacher training to a C plus grade.
The quality of teachers and equitable access to learning resources, are key factors that will determine whether the new curriculum succeeds. An even more urgent question is how we will train over 320,000 teachers currently in service. The other equally important and urgent concern is the reform needed in teacher training curriculum, from early childhood teacher training to preparing teachers for high school.
The success of the new curriculum will depend not on the boldness of its mission or elegance of its vision but on the quality of the teachers.
It would be ill-advised to roll out the new curriculum without adequate preparation of teachers.
I firmly believe that most of the problems we are experiencing with the 8-4-4 curriculum, especially poor learning outcomes, have everything to do with the deplorable quality of teaching.
Alex O Awiti is the director of the East Africa Institute at Aga Khan University