Why primary education was reduced to six years
An important feature of the Competency Based Curriculum (CBC) is that it will take fewer years to complete the primary education cycle before learners get exposed to the secondary education curriculum.
Unlike the 8-4-4 system which requires eight years of primary education, the Basic Education Curriculum Framework (BECF) —the blueprint of CBC — requires only six years of primary education.
The implication of this is that learners will start interacting with secondary education level curriculum in the seventh year and not the ninth year as has been the case with the 8-4-4 system.
Why the change? The change is based on the findings and recommendations of the Task Force on the Re-Alignment of the Education Sector to the Constitution of Kenya 2010, which was chaired by Prof Douglas Odhiambo.
Findings of the Task Force found several shortcomings with the current system.
The first was that eight years of primary education cycle was not in tandem with the growth and development of children.
The purpose of primary education is to provide fundamental skills in reading, writing and mathematics and to establish a solid foundation for learning — an objective that is, in theory and practice, attainable within six years of primary education.
The Task Force found out that Kenya was the only country in East Africa with the longest primary education cycle.
While Uganda and Tanzania have seven years of primary education, Burundi and Rwanda have a six-year primary education cycle.
South Africa, Canada, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, England and Israel all have a primary education cycle of six years.
The purpose of primary education is to enable pupils to acquire the fundamental knowledge and skills to develop basic cultural competence, enjoy learning and develop a desire to continue learning. This is achievable in six years.
The Odhiambo Task Force argued that eight years of primary education does not match the growth and maturation cycle of children as provided in theories of learning.
It delays them to transit into a curriculum that is congruent with their progression in intellectual, moral and personality development.
Primary education imparts the basic skills of reading, writing and arithmetic but also exposes students to the fundamental knowledge that is the simplest facts or theories of subject matter that they later meet at a greater depth and breadth in secondary school.
Secondary education offers a broad curriculum so as to provide learners with basic skills to survive and thrive in everyday life.
It is at the secondary education level that the real meat of education is located: knowledge at an increasingly greater depth and breadth.
Senior Deputy Director in charge of Curriculum and Research Services at the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development Jacqueline Onyango says research into Needs Assessment prior to the reforms in primary schools was very shocking.
She recalls pupils in class seven and eight complaining that they found the seventh and eighth year primary education not only boring; it also made teachers treat them the same way they treated their counterparts in lower primary levels.
Secondary education also lays the foundation for further education and training as well as the world of work.
Prolonged secondary education enables learners to take time in making decisions that will affect their life in a meaningful and productive manner.
It is the reason why, consistent with global trends, secondary Education is divided into two levels: junior secondary where a broad-based curriculum is offered for learners to identify their strengths and interests and; senior secondary level where learners choose subjects to lay a foundation for further education and training based on their career choices, abilities and interests. — The writer is the Communications Officer, Ministry of Education