Why we are Getting the CBC Debate Wrong

Can’t it be both CBC and 8-4-4?

The raging debate on whether to adopt the new “glamorous” Competency Based Curriculum (CBC) or just keep our “good old” 8-4-4 system is an important conversation that we MUST have for the progress of our nation. For this reason, I was happy to hear our new president, Dr. William Ruto during his inaugural speech, not shutting down the conversation with a proclamation for or against the proposed changes, even though many thought they knew what his stand was. Instead, the president did not only keep the door open but did so by promising to involve stakeholders and experts. His sentiments evinced that the head of state is listening to the people. I hope that my take, which I hereby share, informs the final decision the task force arrives at.

An angle I haven’t seen the debate approached from is this: Do we have to completely do away with the one and wholly adopt the other? Isn’t it worth considering what’s good in both the old 8-4-4 and the new CBC as well as what may present challenges implementing, and then working out a compromise? The antagonistic stances the proponents and opponents hold suggest that CBC and 8-4-4 are mutually exclusive. That CBC can only be achieved within a 2-6-3-3-3 curriculum. This is fallacious.

The basis for the introduction of a new curriculum must be value addition. We must confront our situation in a genuine, realistic, open-minded manner. New is not always glamorous, and old isn’t, without exception, grand. So, let’s consider our options a bit more closely.

On the one hand, there is no question that if well implemented, the proposed CBC could revolutionize our society. The seven core competencies that CBC fronts as well as the seven life values it aspires to instill in learners are a gem one would be unwise to turn a blind eye at. On the other, it is doubtless that, as a nation, we are not prepared in terms of the infrastructure and human resource that overhauling 8-4-4 calls for. An additional annual national exam is not a walk in the park for students, parents, teachers, KNEC, the treasury, and the government as a whole either. Add all this to the stress and constraints that our education sector finds itself in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, and what do you have if not a potentially disastrous situation? So why not consider the benefits that CBC may bespeak within the familiar, sure, tested, and trusted foundation of the 8-4-4 system? We must be careful not to throw the baby out with the bath water.

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