Are we over-prescribing with the new curriculum?

Thursday, July 7th, 2022 06:48 | By
Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha interacts with students at Mwiki Secondary School in Kasarani. PHOTO/Alex Mburu
Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha interacts with students at Mwiki Secondary School in Kasarani. PHOTO/Alex Mburu

Abraham Flexner in his 1939 treatise on The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge notes “Science, like the Mississippi, begins in a tiny rivulet in the distant forest. Gradually other streams swell its volume. And the roaring river that bursts the dikes is formed from countless sources”.

With this at the back of our mind and the apparent compartmentalisation of the Competency-Based Curriculum, are we headed in the right direction?

The leadership at the heart of curriculum development and policy at the ministry will not accept it but the design flow that creates streams of interest and very early may actually serve the very function we needed to alleviate.

Inequity in education cannot be removed by deciding who takes science and who doesn’t. Knowledge for knowledge’s sake is the function of education. The corrupted narrative of some subjects and learning areas being more important than others is warped and dead on arrival.

The skills development and specialisation is a direct product of a functional economy and a thriving market.

Plumbers and artisans with skills can’t survive in a rural economy that is not liquid and connected to a functional economy. It is the work of politicians and bureaucrats to craft policies that enable the functioning of the economy both at the macro and micro levels.

We can’t continue pushing learners who are at the fringes of the national politics, economy and social status into studying only that which will make them servants of the ruling class.

We need more plumbers yes but for plumbing work to thrive, we need a general capacity in the economy to improve housing, tourism and institutions in which the plumbers shall be gainfully employed and not some disguised form of servitude.

We need to have this conversation as a nation. CBC has a design flow that shall not be cured without going back to the design room—shortcuts and patch work will not obtain for long.

The transition headache that 2023 presents, the presidential campaign and the attendant debate provide a realistic window of “revisiting” and making proper amends.

CBC as currently structured can’t be implemented without a proper sector marshal plan with dedicated resource basket.

Roadside declarations that we needed to have left in the Nyayo era are creeping back pretty fast in the education sector. Players have a feeling the current minister does not listen to himself let alone other people with differing opinion.

We need to bring to the table the role of the modern school as Abraham Flexner asserts: “the contributions of professional schools to their respective activities will probably be found to lie, not so much in the training of men who may to-morrow become practical engineers or practical lawyers or practical doctors, but rather in the fact that even in the pursuit of strictly practical aims an enormous amount of apparently useless activity goes on.

Out of this useless activity there comes discoveries which may well prove to be infinitely of more importance to the human mind and to the human spirit than the accomplishment of the useful ends for which the schools were founded.”

It is time we rethink the type of education we are bequeathing the current and future generations! It is not enough to dwell in the seven myths by Daisy Christodoulou: 21st Century skills fundamentally changes everything, facts prevent understanding, teacher-led instruction is passive, you can always just look it up, we should teach transferrable skills, projects and activities are the best way to learn, teaching knowledge is indoctrination.

Our reform process got stuck in the labyrinth of the seven myths and we have to deliberately and tactfully free it as we allow our focus leave the shore and support our learners to embrace the world.

—  The writer is a trained teacher and education Policy Expert — [email protected]

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