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Why new curriculum is better than 8-4-4 system

Wednesday, October 5th, 2022 11:00 | By
CBC Junior Secondary. PHOTO/Courtesy
Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC). PHOTO/Courtesy

Since we ushered in the new government, the debate about retaining the new Competency-Based Curriculum or bringing back the 8-4-4 system has been ongoing.

The 8-4-4 system focused on a learning method where the teacher instructed learners without significant input from the students. This system standardised and put every learner on the same pedestal, assuming all, even those with special needs such as physical and mental disabilities, had the same capabilities to take on the content and sit for the same exam. The system ignored learners’ abilities and was an absolute disadvantage for learners with learning challenges and disabilities.

On the other hand, the CBC centres on the learner where their learning needs are addressed, using carefully tailored competencies to help them understand the core values of significant issues.

Some parents have argued that the new system is expensive, especially for parents with several children in school. They complain the material costs for supporting the system fall on the parents as they have to dig deeper into their pockets.

Also, CBC activities are time-consuming and labour-intensive, requiring the parents to be 100 per cent engaged in developing the needed items. Some parents that are not tech savvy cite intimidation as they have to learn to use the Internet to search some learning materials, create documents, and print so their children can meet the assignment requirements.

They feel they are forced to do everything for the children as many activities are beyond the capabilities of children. They admit during the 8-4-4 system, children were more independent, and the expenses beyond the school fees were minimal. Children learnt how to manage their time, do their assignments, and submit them without the involvement of parents. They feel 8-4-4 children were more organised and creative as they found their way to meeting all the school needs with the help of their peers. They also feel the system provided high-quality education where learners knew a little about every topic because they had to attempt the minimum number of subjects in the final national exams.

Parents who support CBC assert that this is the best education system any child can have because it nurtures their talents without limits. Children are allowed to find their interests among the wide range of opportunities and activities provided by the syllabus. Various tasks enable them to bond with their parents and siblings at home as they figure out how to complete them based on their capabilities. Unlike the 8-4-4 system, CBC does not rely on the notion that intelligence is based only on IQ testing as the standard single intelligence measure for humans.  CBC focuses more on acquiring competencies and less on content.

According to Howard Gardner, a professor of education at Harvard University, eight diverse intelligence measures account for a broader range of potential in people. Thus, only subjecting children to the IQ standard measure of intelligence neglects other measures, including linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, bodily-Kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalist intelligence. The curriculum development process in the CBC system ensures the inclusion of children’s abilities and does not limit them to a certain standard of intelligence measure. It allows them to find areas of strength and supports them with relevant content to equally thrive in those areas as other children in different areas. In the CBC system, we don’t have the “heads” and the “tails” as we did in the 8-4-4, which created stigma and demotivation in children who could not do anything about their low IQ performance.

Instead, we have children stronger in certain areas and weak in others, allowing them to put more effort into subjects they thrive in and excel.

Based on the advantages of CBC in allowing every child to identify their strengths in the various intelligence measures, this system has appealed to many parents who value education quality. Thus, CBC is better than the 8-4-4 because it considers all children by providing parallel and complementary academic, vocational and talent tiers.

—Caroline Nderitu is  a poet and author of children’s books  —[email protected]

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