The ongoing curriculum reform, just like any other process, has been open to criticism, which is important to help identify the areas that require further scrutiny before its final rollout.
Kenyans have been treated to diverse interpretations and analyses, some misleading. Some have questioned the experts behind the inquiry and competency-based curriculum. They are wary of the process, and, therefore, cast doubts on the overall implementation plan.
The proposed curriculum is ambitious, futuristic and in tune with global trends. Many countries, be they industrialised or emerging economies, have already embraced such a competency-based, and learner focussed curriculum approach. Since 2003, the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development has sought input from partners, organisations and teachers, including nursery school tutors. They have come from within the borders and outside. Their reflection and thoughtful deliberation have resulted, for the first time in this country, in a Basic Education Curriculum Framework document. This document has been arrived at in a participatory and inclusive manner, a process entirely driven by curriculum developers at KICD and the Ministry of Education.
Another first in this country is that the proposed curriculum is being piloted. A pilot is a key step in any curriculum development cycle. It has often been skipped, but not this time round. The approach the institute has taken is to stagger the implementation. Hence the focus is now on the early years, these being two years of pre-school education, and the first two years of primary education.
Pre-school education is very critical. Many researchers have observed that due to varied quality, access to pre-school acts as a double-edged sword because while it has the potential to reduce inequalities, it reduces differences between the haves and the have-nots for lack of quality preschools for children, especially those from low socioeconomic backgrounds.
A child’s brain is very nimble, elastic and responsive to stimulants to learn. If you do not exploit this natural condition in a child by the age of five, then an opportunity is lost. This informs the need for an education system that lays emphasis on Early Childhood Development.
The KICD Act 2013 prescribes the persons authorised to develop the curricula and curriculum support materials. KICD develops the curriculum using a panel system comprising of practicing teachers, teacher educators, university lecturers, quality assurance and standards officers and curriculum support officers from the Teachers’ Service Commission, among others.
Panels that had practicing pre-school teachers as required by law did the curriculum that has been developed for pre-primary.
There is still room for fine-tuning the ‘Basic Education Curriculum Framework,’ Indeed, the task ahead is daunting. Teachers need to be prepared to embrace a new ethos as facilitators in the inquiry based approach of learning. Let us, however, desist from public lynching of individuals or institutions charged with that responsibility.
For instance, the author of an article in the Standard newspaper on May 13 headlined ‘How nursery school teacher was hired to develop new curriculum,’ wrongfully insinuated that nursery teachers have no tangible role to play in shaping the country’s education system. In Kenya and in many parts of the world, nursery school teachers are highly skilled and trained and their input in the curriculum development cannot be underestimated.
Kenya is not an island. Our education system is intended to serve our needs as Kenya, but it is also outward-looking with an intention of tooling our children with competencies that allow them to compete in the global market. The development of the curriculum is guided by the national goals of education, which recognize the need to have international consciousness embedded in learning to ensure Kenyans fit into the global arena. We cannot develop the curriculum in isolation, by being blind to global standards.
The institute is in the process of revamping its website. This notwithstanding, we know how crucial it is that citizens are provided with the correct information. The document guiding the reform process is available on the internet. The institute is also open for any member of the public who want more information.
We invite all Kenyans to participate in the ongoing discussions about the curriculum. KICD is professional, efficient and able to deliver a new curriculum.
Dr Jwan is the Director/CEO, Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development.
~ By JULIUS JWAN