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‘A’ Level school system was good, CBC even better

By Kennedy Buhere
Tuesday, January 14th, 2020
University students. Photo/Courtesy

Some older Kenyans still look back with nostalgia about the 7.4.2.3 system of education, saying the removal of the Advanced (A) Level was regrettable.

They claim the Form Five and Six high school classes prepared learners for post-secondary education, training and life.

They are living in a time warp. It is pointless to bemoan the discontinuation of the old  system.

The 12 years of basic education, particularly the secondary school phase, has the capacity to develop the intellectual abilities and other dispositions that students previously received in Form Five and Six. 

What is more, the common programmes in undergraduate education deepens the intellect, character and values of the students.

Education is a continuum. It formally starts at Early Childhood Development Education goes through primary, secondary and tertiary.

The purpose is to develop the minds, hearts, souls and hands of learners — in other words, the intellect, skills, and character of learners.

In principle, secondary education prepares students for the adult world, to become good citizens, to learn a variety of subjects and critical thinking.

It is a place the young meet new people, create new bonds and learn new things. It is a place where young people teach and learn from others.

The secondary education curriculum or syllabus has depth and breadth. It is multidisciplinary in content and perspective.

Students study the arts and the humanities, mathematics and the natural sciences, including technical or applied subjects such as Music, Art and Design and languages.

With sound teaching, under well trained teachers such as the ones we have in the nearly 10,000 secondary schools in the country, our schools impart or develop in students completing fourth form the level of knowledge, skill, values and attitudes that the “A” level developed in  students.

Some of the students have joined excellent universities in the West. They go into these universities with the necessary preparation for undertaking higher education—thanks to our excellent secondary education.

Those who join local universities have not had problems undertaking higher education and training programmes.

What made ‘A’ level classes singular was not so much the syllabus but the pedagogy—the method and practice, of teaching.

Pedagogy focused not so much on the mastery of content, as the development of the capacity for independent and critical thinking.

That is essentially what the current approach to teaching in primary in secondary education, is all about.

It is an approach to teaching that helps students think, not just memorise, and improve their cognitive ability.

The ability to assimilate new information and solve problems is the most important characteristic of quality education at whatever level.

That is the purpose of 12 years of basic education in this country as elsewhere. It was not the preserve of “A” Levels.

The government introduced Competency Based Curriculum (CBC) to reinforce and to highlight a significant feature of education society is giving its children.

CBC is not new. It has been with us all along. We should not look back to the dead past of “A” Levels.

The current education policies, curricula and standards have the means to impart or nurture in our learners, the kind of knowledge, skills, values, and attitudes learners need.

We have excellent teachers—comparatively better educated and trained than the heyday of “A” levels in the 70s and 80s. We have a 1:1 textbook to pupil ratio.

Nothing limits us to give the best possible education to children in our schools. Let us look to the great future in store for the current generation of learners and not into the past. — The writer is the communications officer, Ministry of Education

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