In 2024, schools in Kenya are implementing the newly rationalised CBC because of recommendations from the Presidential Working Party on Education Reform (PWPER). The rationalisation aims to bring about more efficiency in the delivery of the curriculum, and reduce overload, overlaps and gaps.

Key changes:

  • Fewer learning areas: There was a reduction in the number of learning areas from Grade 1 to 9.
  • Streamlined content: Strands and sub-strands in some learning areas were merged, reduced, or eliminated.
  • Reduced assessment activities: Classroom assessment activities proposed in the curriculum designs of some learning areas were also merged, reduced, or eliminated.

This article compares the 2017 – 2022 versions of the curriculum designs with the 2024 versions, in terms of the number of strands, sub-strands and classroom assessment activities. This comparison forms the basis for analysing the actual change that the rationalisation brought to the classroom.

Lower Primary (Grade 1, 2 and 3)

The rationalisation has introduced an overall reduction in the number of strands, sub-strands, and classroom assessment activities. The reduction of assessment activities is by exactly 38% across each of the classes in lower primary as you can see in the tables below.

The analysis is based on a learner taking Christian Religious Education (CRE) instead of Islamic Religious Education (IRE) or Hindu Religious Education (HRE).

In line with the reduction of strands, sub-strands and assessment activities, the rationalised curriculum also proposes a reduction in the number of lessons per-week from 35 to 31, an 11% reduction.

Upper Primary (Grade 4, 5 and 6)

The changes here are different from class to class, with Grade 6 seeing the least change at 27%. Once again, the analysis is based on a learner who takes CRE instead of IRE or HRE.

At this level, the rationalised curriculum proposes 35 lessons per week instead of 40 lessons, a 13% reduction.

Junior School (Grade 7, 8 and 9)

There is some little explaining to do here before we get into the analysis.

  • We have only analysed Grade 7 and 8, which are the current active classes in Junior School.
  • Very surprisingly, as of 5th February 2024, KICD has still not published the 2024 curriculum designs for Social Studies, which now combines the old Social Studies and Life Skills Education. For this reason, we must remove it from our analysis in the 2022 and 2024 versions of the curriculum, to make it possible to compare the existing curriculum designs.
  • In the 2022 version of the curriculum, learners could choose from various optional learning areas to make a total of 14 that the learner is required to take. Now, there are no options, just a compulsory 9 learning areas. This analysis therefore features a learner who selected Computer Studies and Home Science as their optional learning areas.
  • As is the case with the other levels, the analysis is based on a learner who selected CRE instead of IRE.

As you can observe, this level has seen the largest reduction in the number of assessment activities, explainable through the reduction in learning areas from 14 to 9. At this level, the rationalised curriculum proposes 40 lessons a week, down from 45 lessons a week, representing an 11% reduction.

General Observations

Focusing on the change in the number of classroom assessments is critical because classroom assessment is one of the critical pillars of CBC. It is the means through which we perform formative assessments, which enable us to better profile our learners in terms of their competencies and thus be able to differentiate learning to suit each learner.

We do not have much to say about this change currently, since we have yet to see how schools are going to implement these changes. We have no data to show the effects of the reduced number of classroom assessments. We also have no idea how other stakeholders such as book publishers are going to react to these changes.

What we can see at this point is the need for training at the institutions. Traditionally, there has been a huge reliance on textbooks and with textbooks featuring the new order yet to be published, teachers require a lot of guidance to be able to implement the curriculum in line with the designs.

What’s up with KICD?

As of today, 5th February 2024, KICD is yet to publish the Social Studies curriculum designs for Grade 7, 8 and 9. The newly rationalised Social Studies combines the old Social Studies and Life Skills Education.

KICD people, what is going on? Why are you doing this with no explanation or response to inquiries? Do you realise the confusion that is going on in schools? Do you realise what it means to the people who support the education sector in terms of their planning and resource allocation? Why were the changes in the curriculum announced when KICD was not ready?

We are all in agreement that the education delivery system of a country should have relative stability and that changes to it must be well understood and anticipated by all involved. Unfortunately, in its lifetime, CBC implementation has been characterised by uncertainty, anxiety, and surprise directives. This approach does not work and there can only be so many gaffes before it falls apart.

Is history repeating itself?

Looking back, instead of evolving the 8-4-4 system into a more responsive system, we first mutilated it by rationalising the learning areas and then eventually demonised it and called for its replacement when the rationalisation did not solve the problems we had with the system. The same thing is happening right now, only much earlier in the life of CBC.

CBC carried the headlines for years, but it is what happened with the Grade 7 class in 2023 that caused sufficient alarm. The problem with CBC in Junior School was one whose solution lay in making the right investments at the right time and not in mutilating the original design of the education system.

But perhaps due to the place our country is at this time economically, and our inability to invest in our public schools as we had imagined we would, back when CBC started close to a decade ago, we instead opted to move the goalposts.

The original design was not perfect, but we did not give it a chance because it disenfranchised the majority due to the lack of timely investments in schools and teachers. This is why a rationalisation makes sense currently and not a face-to-face encounter with the bull’s horns of reality.

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