Overhaul in the Education System in Kenya

Students sitting for KCPE

The last curriculum reform in Kenya happened in 1985 when the 7- 4-2-3 education system was dropped and the 8-4-4 system adopted. This week could mark another historical event, dropping the 8-4-4 system and adopting the proposed 2-6-3-3-3 system, as experts meet in Nairobi today Wednesday 29th March to discuss on the proposed new curriculum.  According to the proponents of the 2-6-3-3-3 system, the system will ensure learners acquire competences and skills needed to meet the human resource aspirations of the Kenya Vision 2030.

Today, in a conference to be opened by Deputy President William Ruto, more than 500 delegates; both local and international experts on curriculum development are expected to receive a proposal from Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD). KICD has been carrying out an assessment of the education system since last. In December 2015 during the release of the KCPE results, the Ministry of Education Cabinet Secretary Dr. Fred Matiang’i announced that there will be an overhaul in the education system this year, and the time is here already.

The 8-4-4 system could be scrapped of the proposed 2-6-3-3-3 is endorsed. 

2- 6- 3-3-3 education system

According to sources, the finding of a task force chaired by Prof Douglas Odhiambo in 2012 which proposed the scrapping of the 8-4-4 system will be presented and discussed at the conference. The report recommended a 2-6-3-3-3 system. The system offers a choice of subject pathways at the end of the elementary school phase. This will ensure the achievement of 100% transition rate from primary to secondary school. Through this, wastage will be minimized by introducing automatic progression to the junior secondary phase based on the acquisition of core skills; literacy, numeracy, and communication skills.

The 2-6-3-3-3 system as recommended by Prof Odhiambo’s taskforce, has two phases;

  • Basic education phase; with 14 years of free and compulsory education
  • Higher education cycle.

The system is broken down to this

Basic education cycle

  • 2 years of pre-primary
  • 6 years of primary; three years lower and three upper
  • 6 years of secondary education; three years junior and three years senior

Higher education cycle

  • 2 yearsminimum in middle level colleges
  • 3 years minimum in university education.

The 2-6-3-3-3 education system proposes a shorter primary education period. According to global studies, in primary school level, learners require shorter periods to acquire foundational skills. In the current education system, the primary education years are many (8 years), compared to secondary education years (4 years).

The proposed education system will be rolled out in phases.  If it is endorsed and implementation begins next year as the academic year begins, the last KCPE candidates will be examined in 2018 while the last KCSE candidates will be examined in 2012. Implementation will start in standard one and four, as standard five, six, and seven are prepared for junior secondary school in 2018. The first class will sit for the Junior Secondary Examination in 2020.

Most distinctly form the current 8-4-4 system, 2-6-3-3-3 system will focus on early identification and nurturing of talent in learners toward the end of the junior secondary phase. It will allow for specialization at the end of the junior secondary and introduce a system for Competence Assessment Tests (CATs). The CATs will gauge knowledge, skills and competencies. The cumulative results of the three aspects used in assessment will form a part of a formative assessment process. The sum of results from all assessments will be the overall results at the end of each phase, unlike in the current education system where students either fail or pass the one final exam (KCPE/KCSE). CATs by teachers will be supported with a national framework, guidelines or test-bank by the national assessment body to be made available online on a regular basis. This will make the CATs standard all over the country.

With the assessment system in the proposed 2-6-3-3-3 education system, learners will be assessed taking into consideration their individual interest, abilities and talents and not merely the ability to master content as it is with the current 8-4-4 education system.

The Kenya National Examination Council (KNEC) should be renamed to Kenya Education Assessment Council (KEAC), as recommended by the taskforce report. The new assessment body KEAC, will be given more powers to address all maters to do with the management and administration of assessments.

Gaps in the current 8-4-4 system to be addressed by the proposed 2-6-3-3-3 system

Some of the weak areas of the 8-4-4 system that the proposed 2-6-3-3-3 system will address are;

  • Incompatibility with other states in the East Africa Community
  • It has no flexible pathways to allow for career progression
  • Doesn’t allow for learners to work on technical and vocational skills that are essential for a skilled workforce.
  • It lacks structures and systems to identify and nature talents.

The 8-4-4 system puts learners under unnecessary pressure to achieve good grades, but students end up without essential practical skills required for a self-reliant and sufficient workforce.  According John Mugo, Uwezo Kenya Country Co-coordinator, the current curriculum system promotes and glorifies cramming/mastery of content at the expense of everything else.

Our Kenyan graduates lack skills and competence for work. The focus on content has led to systematic disregard for skills and attitude,” observed Mugo.

In a recent meeting with education journalist in Nairobi, Dr. Matiang’i, talked about the fact that the education system is supposed to be reviewed after every 10, which has not been the case. He however said the ministry is on course to review the system and called upon all Kenyans to take part.

It’s time to engage all stakeholders. Review of the education curriculum cannot be a matter of the Ministry of Education alone, it is a responsibility we shareas citizens because it’s important that we have an education system that can prepare our children for the challenges and expectations of the 21st century which they are going to live, work and operate.”

The Education docket Principal secretary Dr. Kipsang, who was also in the meeting said the country is preparing a platform for the future generations. Preparing the knowledge that will be needed to impart on the growth of the students.

Curriculum is not an education function, education is a mover of the process but curriculum is bigger than education as it is for all of us,” noted Dr. Kipsang.

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