CBC subjects to be reduced, exams to return in new reforms

Cutthroat national examinations may remain in Kenyan schools, clawing back proposals pitched under the new curriculum emphasising skills and competencies.

Learners under the Competency Based Curriculum (CBC) would still scramble for high scores in national examinations, retaining the crisis that the shift from 8-4-4 sought to cure.

The good news, however, is that the number of subjects studied under CBC would be reduced to ease the learners’ burden, which has elicited uproar among parents and some education stakeholders.

These recommendations are in the Presidential Working Party on Education Reforms (PWPER) draft report.

If the draft recommendations by the education reforms team are adopted in the final report, initial proposals that school-based assessments constitute 60 per cent with only 40 per cent left for national examinations will be reversed.

Primary school learners will have to fight for 60 per cent in national examinations administered in Grade 9.

The learners will only score a maximum of 40 per cent in school-based assessments, effectively reversing an initial plan to ease pressure on national examinations under CBC.

Learners in Senior Schools ­–Grade 12– will have to scramble for 70 per cent in national examinations, with only 30 per cent spared for school-based assessments.

The raft of radical changes under CBC will reduce the number of subjects taught in schools and give junior and secondary school final examinations more prominence.

The changes come in the seventh year of the CBC implementation since it was first adopted in Kenyan schools in 2017; the first cohort is currently in Grade 7.

Under the proposed reforms, the changes will see a restructure in testing learners under CBC: at the end of primary school—Grade 6— learners will sit the Kenya Primary School Education Assessment to monitor learners progress at the end of Grade 6.

The draft report says that the progress to Junior secondary will be automatic; thus, the Grade Six assessment will not determine or influence where the learner will proceed to junior secondary school.

At junior and senior secondary, significant weight has been added to the final examinations. However, it will not be the sole determinant of the learners’ final score or where they progress to the next level.

The final assessment will be administered by the Kenya National Examination Council (KNEC), which the team proposes to be changed to Kenya National Assessment Council under the education reforms.

At the end of junior secondary, the learners will sit a final assessment just like KCPE under 8-4-4.

However, it will make up 60 per cent of their final score; the remaining 40 per cent will be from assessments at the end of Grades 7 and 8, each making up 20 per cent of their final mark.

The cumulative result will give the learner their final score and will be pivotal in determining where they will join senior secondary school.

This will be a departure from the previous arrangement that dictated that the final assessment would carry only 40 per cent of the final mark. At the same time, the remaining 60 would be fetched from the classroom assessments. At Grade 12, the end of Senior secondary school, the students will also take a summative examination similar to KCSE.

This will carry 70 per cent of their final mark; the remaining 30 per cent will be from the School Based Assessment and competencies they have portrayed.

If these proposals make it to the final report, they will mark a significant shift from the initial design of the CBC that envisioned eliminating high stakes played by examinations in transiting from primary to secondary school and from secondary to tertiary.

This is because, just like under the 8-4-4, the learner will still have to strive harder to reach the next level.

Overall, if recommendations are adopted, KNEC within one year to restructure the Kenya Primary School Education Assessment (KPSEA) for purposes of monitoring learners’ progress and providing feedback to stakeholders.

Within one year, KNEC will also be required to formulate guidelines for placement for learners into career pathways at Senior School.

The good news, however, is the reduction of learning areas for learners under CBC. The team has proposed significantly reducing the subjects taught in primary and secondary schools under the CBC.

Under the initial CBC arrangement, learners in lower primary school between Grades 1-3 were required to take up to eight subjects. Those in upper primary took 10 compulsory subjects.

In junior secondary, the students took 12 compulsory subjects, which include English, Kiswahili, Mathematics, Integrated Science, Health Education, Pre-technical, pre-career education, Social Studies, Religious Education, Business Studies, Agriculture, Life Skills, Sports and Physical Education.

Optional subjects include visual arts, performing arts, home science, computer science, foreign languages, Kenya Sign Language and Indigenous Languages.

It is worth noting some of the proposed subjects under the initial CBC format have failed to take off –for instance, foreign languages of Mandarin, French, and German due to a lack of teachers and learning materials to support their execution.

The number of subjects was a source of significant discomfort and uproar among parents complaining of the cost burden laid on them and the overload on the learners.

The team has now proposed that the number of learning areas is rationalised in terms of scope, integration of subjects within a learning area, gaps, content overload, overlaps and promote community linkage.

In the proposal, the team has maintained the number of subjects taught in pre-primary at five subjects.

This includes Language activities, mathematical activities, environmental activities, psychomotor and creative activities, and religious education.

In lower primary—that is, classes between Grades 1 and 3—the team has proposed to have a maximum of seven subjects from the previous eight. Those between Grades 4 and 6—or upper primary— will take a maximum of eight subjects from the previous lineup of 10 compulsory subjects.

The learners previously were required to take English, Kiswahili, Mathematics, Home Science, Agriculture, Science and Technology, Religious Education, Creative arts, Physical and Health Education and Social studies.

In junior secondary, the team has proposed that the students take subjects that do not exceed nine. While in senior secondary, learners will only pursue seven subjects depending on the path the learner chooses.

If the draft recommendations make it to the final draft, the task force wants the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) to rationalise the learning areas immediately.

Within six months, KICD will be required to review the Basic Education Curriculum Framework (BECF) to cater for amendments to the Curriculum designs.

And also, within one year, KICD will be required to formulate guidelines on textbooks and Curriculum support material to ensure the best two evaluated textbooks are supplied to each school.

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