The goals of the new Competency Based Curriculum are without doubt well intended and should not be the subject of debate. However, the new curriculum is not a solution to Kenya’s education problems.

We are grossly mistaken to think that the problem of our graduates is a problem of the 8.4.4 system. Says Abiud Mulongo. Highly recommended for you to read right now is Dr. Evelyn Jepkemei’s take on why the Competency Based Curriculum is a Scam.

The goals of the new CBC curriculum are without doubt well intended and should not be the subject of debate. However, the new curriculum is not a solution to Kenya's education problems. Click To Tweet

What is the Competency Based Curriculum?

CS Amina- Full press statement on the Status of the Competency Based Curriculum in 2019
CS Amina- Full press statement on the Status of the Competency Based Curriculum in 2019

Competency-based learning begins by identifying specific competencies or skills, and enables learners to develop mastery of each competency or skill at their own pace, usually working with a mentor. Competency-based learning attempts to break away from the regularly scheduled classroom model, where students study the same subject matter at the same speed in a cohort of fellow students.

Learners work individually, rather than in cohorts. They can develop just the competencies or skills they feel they need or can combine a whole set of competencies into a full qualification, such as a certificate, diploma or increasingly a full degree.

UNICEF Rwanda - Education - Rwanda's new competency-based curriculum
UNICEF Rwanda – Education – Rwanda’s new competency based curriculum

If learners can demonstrate that they are already have mastery of a particular competency or skill, through a test or some form of prior learning assessment, they may be allowed to move to the next level of competency without having to repeat a prescribed course of study for the prior competency.

What are the Core Features and Objectives of the Competency Based Curriculum?

The Competency-Based Curriculum for early years education was rolled out in pre-primary 1 and 2, and grades 1,2 and 3 across the country early on January.

It has been a bumpy journey as government lays the foundation that will see the country transit from the 8-4-4 to the 2-6-3-3-3 education system, which will be a Competency Based Curriculum structure (CBC) as put by By Joseph Muraya.

Competency-based learning attempts to break away from the regularly scheduled classroom model, where students study the same subject matter at the same speed in a cohort of fellow students. Click To Tweet
Competency based Curriculum vs. Content based Curriculum
Competency based Curriculum vs. Content based Curriculum

What are the objectives of competency based curriculum? A competencybased curriculum is a curriculum that emphasizes what learners are expected to do rather than mainly focusing on what they are expected to know. In principle, such a curriculum is learner-centred and adaptive to the changing needs of students, teachers, and society. The creators of the CBC envision that at the end of the learning period, every learner should have achieved the following competences:

  • Critical thinking and problem solving
  • Learning to learn
  • Imagination and creativity
  • Digital literacy
  • Communication and collaboration
  • Citizenship
  • Self-efficacy
Technical Education and Skills Development Authority TESDA
Technical Education and Skills Development Authority TESDA

Philosophy of Education is closely related to teaching the Competency Based Curriculum.

Teaches need to understand what education is and what its purpose is, the nature of the knowing mind and the human subject, problems of authority, the relationship between education and society, etc. It is a self-reflective statement of one’s beliefs about teaching and learning.

By learning philosophy, a teacher would be able to view and analyze from the perspective of their students. Apart from understanding why students are behaving in a particular way, teachers would also be able to know how students perceive their actions.

Moi’s Bridge and Kapkures wards Receive New competency-based curriculum Teaching and Learning Materials
Moi’s Bridge and Kapkures wards Receive New competency-based curriculum Teaching and Learning Materials

Debates on the significance of the Competency Based Curriculum started years back. One such review can be found in the Kenyatta University Institutional Repository: Competency-Based Education in Kenya: Contending With the Imperatives for Successful Implementation

Proponents of competency-based education (CBE) argue that by focusing on competencies or what learners can do with the education they have received, competency based education is better suited to ensuring that education responds to the needs of society (and therefore of the Kenyan society as articulated in Kenya Vision 2030).

Who could imagine that a group of year 7s in Kenya with no electricity in their homes or school could be on the forefront of one of the most innovative technologies of our time-
Who could imagine that a group of year 7s in Kenya with no electricity in their homes or school could be on the forefront of one of the most innovative technologies of our time-

Designing and Structure of CBC in Kenya:

Many schools claim that there curriculum is competency-based, but when you closely examine their structure you discover it is not related or even touching on competency.

What is competency-based teaching? What should be in the curriculum to ensure that it is competency-based? There are various approaches of Designing competency-based learning but the Western Governors model illustrates 4 key steps:

  1. Defining competencies: A feature of most competency-based programs is a partnership between employers and educators in identifying the competencies required, at least at a high level. 
  2. Course and program design: At WGU, courses are created by in-house subject matter experts selecting existing online curriculum from third parties and/or resources such as e-textbooks through contracts with publishers.
  3. Learner support: Again this varies from institution to institution. WGU currently employs approximately 750 faculty who act as mentors. 
  4. Assessment: WGU uses written papers, portfolios, projects, observed student performance and computer-marked assignments as appropriate, with detailed rubrics.
Competency Based Curriculum Archives - Teacher.co.ke
Competency Based Curriculum Archives – Teacher.co.ke

20 Main Advantages and Benefits of Competency Based Curriculum and Training Systems:

A section of stakeholders among the Kenya National Union of Teachers(KNUT) have questioned the government’s preparedness while urging teachers to stay away “from the money wasting exercise.” Already, the government has started training 91,320 teachers while another group will undergo the same exercise in August, totalling more than 228,000.

At the end of the training, all teachers are expected to acquire the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary for effective implementation of Competency-Based Curriculum, apply innovative pedagogical approaches and models, demonstrate competencies in assessment and be self- reflective, self-improving and supportive learners themselves.

2-6-6-3 education system in Kenya explained
2-6-6-3 education system in Kenya explained

Here are 20 important features of the new competency based curriculum in Kenya:

  1. Skills-based: First, Competency Based Curriculum learning is centred on real-world skills and competency development.
  2. Critical and Independent Thinking: Learners’ improved ability to recognize, manage, and build upon own competencies and evidence of learning.
  3. Relevant Information: CBC is structured and designed to meet present needs and students are more likely to be employed once qualified.
  4. Increased Productivity: Communication and constructive feedback improves as a result of a Competency based system.
  5. Personalised Support: Students get individual support and help from their mentors or trainers who offer customised service based on their skills.
  6. Controlled Schedule: Traditional college degree programs often require you to put the rest of your life on hold so you can sit in a classroom.
  7. Builds on Existing Knowledge: In Competency Based Curriculum, previously acquired knowledge is leveraged—all that matters is that you know it!
  8. Efficiency: The transfer gap between training environments and working is substantially reduced in Competency Based Curriculum.
  9. Engaging: One of the strongest outcomes of Competency Based Curriculum is increased student engagement. 
  10. Self-paced: The focus of Competency Based Curriculum is on the final outcome and not the journey.
  11. Customer Satisfaction: Employees trained using a competency-based approach are better performers. 
  12. Reduced Risks: Individuals with a Competency Based Curriculum provides organization with greater ability to scale and flex as needed.
  13. Faster Graduation: Traditional education models typically require at least 3 years to earn a bachelor’s degree.
  14. Flexible: The Competency Based Curriculum is more flexible as the structure depends on an individual learner. 
  15. Real world Experience: Unlike traditional degrees, CBC competencies focus on the practical skills employers are seeking.
  16. Affordable: By leveraging your existing knowledge, you won’t be wasting money sitting through unnecessary courses.
  17. Better Understanding: Greater understanding of learning outcomes throughout the academic institution.
  18. Goal Oriented: Courses, learning resources, and assessments aligned to well-defined goals.
  19. Reduced School Dropouts: Increased student retention and completion rates, particularly when prior learning can be applied to degree progress
  20. Job Retention: Employers’ improved ability to understand graduates’ competencies and learning achievements.
Beware of fake textbooks in the market- KICD warns
Beware of fake textbooks in the market- KICD warns

10 Challenges Facing the Implementation of New Competency Based Curriculum in Kenya:

The KICD report indicated that key among the challenges facing CBC implementation was the issue of teaching and learning resources. While a number of private schools had the resources, there was a near total lack in public schools, a circumstance that compromises the implementation of the curriculum.

Though this happened a few years back, and we have reports like this one by KICD outlining the challenges facing CBC, I am not sure Kenya was listening. Here are the 10 Challenges Facing the Implementation of New Competency Based Curriculum in Kenya:

  1. It focuses on immediate employer needs and is less focused on preparing learners with the flexibility needed for a more uncertain future
  2. Lack of finance- due to the hurry in the development, piloting and the roll out processes, a lot of monetary resources are required.
  3. It does not suit subject areas where it is difficult to prescribe specific competencies or where new skills and new knowledge need to be rapidly accommodated.
  4. It is a customised program meant for specific individuals and is not the preferred learning style for majority of students.
  5. A Competency-Based Curriculum requires a different environment and resources that may not be available in some community and government schools.
  6. Competency-based learning is a relatively new approach to learning design and it’s implementation should not be rushed.
  7. Lack of enough trained teachers. The teachers who were trained to take on the new curriculum are very few while the pupils are so many in the country.
  8. Inappropriate infrastructure. The new curriculum content requires modern classrooms, smart boards, laboratories, creative centres and technologies at all levels. The curriculum is already in place now up to grade three yet these infrastructure were never put in place.
  9. Error in the proposed syllabus. The books printed in speed to take on the curriculum had a lot of printing and content errors due to lack of enough editing and approval time.
  10. It takes an objectivist approach to learning and ignores the importance of social learning.
Breakdown of Kenya's new 2-6-6-3 education curriculum framework
Breakdown of Kenya’s new 2-6-6-3 education curriculum framework

Another challenge is the issue of teacher knowledge of CBC pedagogy. While teachers had understood CBC pedagogy, a good number of them were struggling with the concept and lacked the capacity demanded by the Curriculum.

Tanzania went through the same challenges while implementing their own version of the Competency Based Curriculum. Challenges Facing Teachers in Implementing Competency-Based Curriculum in Tanzania : The Case of Community Secondary Schools in Morogoro Municipality.

Downloads and Resources CBC:

eBook- Competency-based education—Higher Education’s answer to the call for change

Additional Resources:

Benefits of the New Curriculum
Training and Assessment
Challenges of the Competency Based Curriculum
Advantages of CBE