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Kenya’s education system on a journey to a new competence-based curriculum

Teacher helping student at computer terminal with students in background (depth of field/high key)

Kenya is on the road to implement a new education curriculum.

The curriculum that will eventually replace the current 8-4-4 system that has served the country for the last three decades since its introduction in 1985 by the now-retired president Daniel Arap Moi. The previous systems adopt 8 years of primary education, 4 years of secondary school and 4 years of university education.

The move to establish a new curriculum was brought about by education experts who deem the current system as unfit for learning in the 21st century. Prompting the Kenya Institute for Curriculum Development (KICD), mandated by the government to design and implement curriculum reforms to embark on a journey to transform the education of Kenya. Resulting in the birth of the new 2-6-3-3-3 education system dubbed as the competency-based curriculum.

It is the second time the country has adopted a new curriculum since the 1985 change over from the 7-4-2-3 system. A model that comprised of 7 years of primary education, 4 years of lower secondary, 2 years of upper secondary (form 5-6) and 3 years for a university course.

2-6-3-3-3 system of Education

The new curriculum framework will now see basic education organized in three levels: Early Years Education, Middle school Education, and Senior School. It emphasizes on formative years of learning where learners will now spend 2 years in lower primary, 6 years in upper primary, 3 years in junior secondary (grade 7,8,9) 3 years in senior secondary (grade 10,11,12) and 3 years in university.

Pundits tout it as the ultimate remedy to limitations identified in the 8-4-4 system as it is entirely skilled.


The rollout of the new school curriculum kicked off in 2017 with the piloting phase ahead of the actual implementation slated for January 2019.

The first piloting phase was conducted in 470 schools across the country that constituted of five pre-primary and five primary schools selected from each of the 47 counties. The chosen school were classified as public, private, rural or urban, which is a representation of the type of schools in the country and was later rolled out on a national level in January 2018.

The rollout has been ongoing amid various challenges and limitations that include massive transitional spending and inaccessibility of study materials.

Earlier this year in 2018, the ministry of education initiated the curriculum in pre-school, grade one and grade two successfully and expect the implementation in the third grade to proceed next year.

Recently KICD announced that they would be proceeding with the implementation of the new curriculum after getting approval from the Ministry of education.

Through their director Julius Jwan they dispelled any doubts of the process has stalled. “Claims that the reform agenda had stalled are misleading and meant to cause unnecessary panic,” he said, adding that findings of an audit done by the agency were not conclusive. We cannot only rely on an internal evaluation. We need a third eye to generate comparative findings on our state of preparedness for a full rollout. That is why even piloting was necessary to bring out gaps so that they can be fixed.”


An assessment ordered by Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed and the upshot discussed by the Multisectoral National Steering Committee on Curriculum reforms gave the project a thumbs up.

The report revealed that the overall quality of Competence- Based Curriculum implementation is rated at 56% against the minimum global threshold that stands at 50%. The cabinet secretary also revealed that her ministry had brought in a team of international experts also to give their input before the roll-out.

“The Ministry wishes to triangulate our internal Competence-Based Curriculum (CBC) pilot findings with other international experts. As a result, we have commissioned an external evaluation to generate comparative findings on our state of preparedness for a full CBC roll-out,” said Ms. Mohamed. The team is set to give a report and dispel any doubts in regards to the process ahead of the official rollout


Despite the on-going plans to have the new curriculum rolled out in schools next year 2019. The implementation seems to be marred by a host of challenges that have been identified in the ongoing piloting system just a few months to the rollout.

Among the challenges threatening the rollout is the lack of proper training of teachers who will be involved in. The report presented to the Education Cabinet Secretary indicates that some teachers are struggling with the concept and lack the capacity demanded by the new curriculum. It is also quite evident that schools don’t have learning materials for the rollout.

A cloud of uncertainty hangs over the fate of learning in grade 4 next year as it could be paralyzed, as KICD is yet to develop curriculum design for the said class which has, in turn, resulted to the Kenya Publishers Association crying foul citing that they may not have adequate time to prepare and publish the books to be used by the particular class.

Kenya Publishers Association Chairman Lawrence Njagi has come out to say that the delayed process of the curriculum design for grade 4 could result in the current grade 3 pupils who are already using the new curriculum revert back to the old system 8-4-4 when they join class four next year.

“We have written to the Ministry of Education requesting them to release the curriculum designs for Grade 4, But the government has remained mum. The first term of 2019 is three months away, and publishers are still waiting for the curriculum designs for Grade 4. Three months is a short time to prepare the books.” Said Mr. Njagi speaking during the 2018 Nairobi International Book Fair.

KICD has since defended itself saying that curriculum designs for the upper grades were at an advanced stage and asked the publishers to exercise patience as curriculum design is an extensive process that should not be rushed. Confirming that they are working around the clock to ensure that the books are available during the start of the next phase.

The series of mishaps seems to be interminable with the recent move by Jomo Kenyatta Foundation to recall its Grade Two English textbook following criticism over questionable content.

The decision to recall the books was arrived at after a meeting with Education Cabinet Secretary, where the ministry raised concerns over the quality of materials.

“We have recalled, and we are still recalling, the books as we continue printing a revised edition,” said Ms. Janet Ngina Nzuki, the corporate affairs officer at the Foundation.

This has seen many Kenyans take to social media criticizing the current content being prepared for school going children. A move that has seen KICD react on their twitter handle assuring the enraged Kenyans on their quest to ensure quality assurance checks.

“We regret information that has been circulating in the social media regarding the content of some textbooks. We appreciate the feedback & will intensify measures to guarantee quality. KICD has been subjecting the books to further quality assurance checks” ~ KICD Director, Dr. Jwan.

In March this year, various errors were identified in form one textbooks. Some of the errors identified include mix-up of content ideas, spelling mistakes and poor arrangement of topics.
The new curriculum is set to phase out the 8-4-4 system by 2027. The rollout is set to begin next year from Grade One to Grade Three while those in Class four will continue with the piloting, which will now cover all schools.


This article was written by the Elimu Media Team.

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