Traders in one of the busiest markets west of Kenya’s capital Nairobi move through the sea of humanity on a Saturday morning as they jostle for any available space to display their wares.
At one corner of the market, around 20 pupils in third grade carrying brooms and shovels are busy haggling for space with buyers and sellers as they try to access the other end of the market.
They are here for a cleaning exercise introduced in the country’s newly adopted teaching curriculum.
The curriculum, aimed at nurturing competence among learners rather than preparing them to pass exams is causing both joy and jitters among parents and teachers alike.
In a post on social media, a parent wrote a long rant expressing dissatisfaction on how the curriculum was being implemented.
“The competency-based curriculum is good and bad at the same time, where do teachers expect us to get some of the things they demand the children to carry to school and on a short notice?” she quipped.
“My son nowadays looks forward to going to school as he enjoys most of the activities they now undertake as part of learning in school. He is generally artistic so he gets to put that side of his nature to good use,” another parent responded.
The shift from the previous system which was seen as too exam-oriented is aimed at preparing the learners for the job market based on their capabilities.
John Kipng’eno, whose son is in third grade, is ecstatic about the new curriculum. A veterinary by profession, he says if he had the liberty to choose a career for himself, he would have been a writer.
“I am veterinary for the money because I have to have a means of survival, my heart is in writing, I was always the best in our class in any writing exercise but I didn’t get someone to mentor or help nurture my talent,” Kipng’eno told Xinhua in an interview on Saturday.
“I started a blog three years ago and the response is overwhelming. I wouldn’t want my son to miss out on following his passion like I did. The new curriculum came at the right time,” he added.
Having gone through the 8-4-4 system which has been in use for more than three decades, Kipng’eno blames it for the shrinking job market.
“Close to 800,000 young Kenyans enter the job market every year and most of these people are looking into being employed in offices. The system prepared most learners for white collar jobs rather than arming them with skills based on what they are good at,” he adds.
Jane Kamau, a teacher and also a parent, says the curriculum’s success will largely be dependent on how it will be implemented.
In the up-market school located in one of the highly respectable suburbs in Nairobi where she teaches, Kamau enjoys the privilege of attending seminars and workshops paid for by the school to sharpen her teaching skills which she says is unheard of in other schools especially those in rural areas.
“Our school took part in the first phase of the pilot program since we were already doing most of the things introduced in the new curriculum. Some schools are having it rough since it is a totally new concept but compared to the previous one, the 2-6-3-3-3 is the best for our children,” she explains.
Winnie Kawira, a child psychologist and a mother of three remains optimistic despite the challenges she has so far encountered with the new curriculum.
Compared to the other system where the students followed a specific script dictated by the books, she says the new one gives children a chance to think outside the box.
Also, unlike before where 95 percent of the academic journey involved the teacher and the student, parents have a big role to play in the new curriculum as some of the activities have to be done at home and everything has to be documented and presented for evaluation.
“Apart from helping them learn, parents will also have a chance to bond with their children. It saddens me whenever I come across cases where parents and children are like strangers to each other. One of the best ways to bond with a child is through activities such as school work and now there is no escape route, everyone has to take part in this journey,” she adds.
It is estimated that by 2030, Kenya will need to solve a difficult equation as the working-age population will have hit approximately 60 per cent against a shrinking job market.
It is against this backdrop the government launched the new curriculum which will involve two years of pre-primary, three years of lower primary, three years of upper primary, three years of lower secondary, three years of senior secondary and three years of tertiary education. Enditem