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Bruising battle looms as teachers reject new school system



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Teachers have rejected the planned roll-out of the new curriculum in January until the government addresses the gaps pointed out by evaluators, setting the stage for yet another bruising battle with the State when schools reopen next week.

And, on Sunday, the union further stoked the confusion surrounding the first school term of 2019 when it rejected the surprise announcement last Friday by Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed that the government had back-pedalled on its earlier plans to delay the roll-out of the new curriculum by a year, and that the new system will begin next month.

In a statement to the media, Ms Mohamed said the decision had been arrived at after consultation with various stakeholders, including faith-based organisations, Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development, Teachers Service Commission (TSC), Kenya National Examinations Council, Kenya Private Schools Association, Kenya Publishers Association, Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association, Kenya Primary School Heads Association, and the National Parents Association.

Knut secretary-general Wilson Sossion said teachers were not consulted during that meeting, and that the omission had rendered Ms Mohamed’s surprise announcement null.

In any case, Mr Sossion continued, a meeting with the ministry and other education stakeholders on December 15 this year at the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development had agreed to push the roll-out to 2020.

“It is wrong for us to push this system when we have been told about its weaknesses,” he said. “We need to fix these, probably next year, before the national roll-out.”

He was referring to an October 2018 report by KICD, which indicated that teachers were ill-prepared to instruct pupils using the methods proposed in the new Competency-Based Curriculum, which is designed to influence learner behaviour and tap talent early.

“Some teachers are struggling with the concept and lack the capacity demanded by the new curriculum,” said the report that also pointed out that many schools did not have adequate or any learning materials for the roll-out.

The proposed curriculum is a replacement of the current 8-4-4 system, introduced in 1985 by then President Daniel Arap Moi. The curriculum is designed to provide eight years of primary education, four years of secondary education and four years of university, and places emphasis on mathematics, English and vocational subjects.

Another study by external evaluators, led by former Moi University Vice-Chancellor Prof Laban Ayiro, found out that the role of teachers in the new curriculum design had been marginal, and the system of instruction had used such technical language that teachers could make little sense of.

As the confusion regarding how thousands of pupils will be taught, if at all, grew, the Nation learnt that pressure from high office could have forced Ms Mohamed to backtrack on her earlier decision to postpone the national launch.

Ms Mohamed is said to have been instructed to roll out the curriculum immediately and address the gaps identified by the evaluators — including lack of funds, ill-trained teachers, and failure by the government to anchor the review process in law — during the implementation.

A source, whom we cannot identify because he is not authorised to speak to the media, said there has been growing concern that Ms Mohamed is not keen on the Jubilee government’s pet project, and so she needed a little nudging.

On Friday, Ms Mohamed met with President Kenyatta to brief him about this year’s Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education examination results before she released them at Kenya National Examination Council headquarters on Dennis Pritt Road in Nairobi.

At Knec, Ms Mohamed held a meeting with her Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang and KICD chief executive officer Julius Jwan. That meeting reversed the decision of the National Steering Committee almost two weeks earlier to delay the new curriculum.

The source said that, unlike the December meeting during which the issue was extensively discussed before being agreed upon, on Friday various stakeholders were unaware of the meeting at Knec and were only called to be informed of the new decision via mobile phone.

“We were told that a decision had been made that we roll out the new curriculum starting January,” said a member of the National Steering Committee. “We were not asked for our opinion. Instead, we were instructed on the launch.”

Last evening, National Parents Association chairman Nicholas Maiyo backed the January launch date, saying parents are ready for it.

“They have already bought books and, therefore, we should move on,” Mr Maiyo said, adding that the benefits of the new system outweigh the risks by far.

Away from the boardrooms at Knec and KICD, private schools and publishers are also said to have lobbied for the reversal of the 2020 roll-out decision, saying, they had already invested heavily and risked making huge losses. They issued hasty statements to support Ms Mohamed’s Friday about-turn.

Despite the enthusiastic support, roll-out of the new syllabus could run into legal headwinds as there still is no National Curriculum Policy Framework and the Sessional Paper on Curriculum Reforms, Education and Training is yet to be tabled before Parliament.

This means the January roll-out will be an illegality unless Parliament approves the sessional paper and policy framework before January 2, when schools reopen.

The external evaluators also found that there was inconsistency in the understanding and implementation of the constructs and standards of curriculum, and lack of understanding and inability to infuse core competencies, particularly digital literacy.

“Assessment of the curriculum in the study lies at eight per cent across PP1, PP2, Grade I and Grade II across 46 counties in the country,” noted the researchers. “The tools developed for assessment by Knec are non-existent across all schools in the country (and) while it is heartening to note that the training outreach stood at approximately 65 per cent, orientation, training and development of teachers and follow-up support were inadequate.”

Learning support materials were also of variable quality, often unavailable, and not sufficiently used in classrooms, the researchers noted.

On December 15, Ms Amina admitted that there were immense gaps in the implementation process, and so, while pushing the roll-out by a year, announced a raft of measures to turn the ship around within six months.

These included the launch of the National Curriculum Policy Framework in January 2019, presentation of the Sessional Paper on Reforming Education and Training Sector in Kenya before Parliament in February 2019, launch of the National Education Sector Strategic Plan for the period 2018-2022 by February 2019, training of Quality Assurance Officers for the review process in February, and the setting up of a dedicated fund for teacher training in the 2019/20 and 2020/21 financial years.