Year of massive education reforms as CBC put to test


President William Ruto presents a copy of the report by the Presidential Working Party on Education Reform to Julius Melly, the Chair of the Education Committee of the National Assembly flanked by Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua (from left), Education CS Ezekiel Machogu, PS Belio Kipsang and Prof Raphael Munavu during the presentation of the report by the Presidential Working Party on Education Reform at State House, Nairobi on August 1, 2023. PHOTO | WILFRED NYANGARESI | NMG

When President William Ruto appointed a Presidential Working Party on Education Reforms (PWPER), barely two weeks after he was sworn into office, the sector did not foresee the enormity of the sweeping changes that the team would come up with.

The taskforce just had a 10-month term but by the time its report was made public in August this year, it was evident that the status quo in the country’s education had been fundamentally disrupted to irreversible levels.

The opening of the 2023 school calendar year had proved a nightmare for the Dr Ruto-led administration as the new competence-based curriculum (CBC) system entered a crucial stage where the first cohort of pupils to adopt the new model would be entering Junior Secondary School (JSS).

The new system, which was launched in 2017, came in to replace the 8-4-4 system that had been in place for 32 years and which was widely criticised by stakeholders for emphasizing teachers instructing students and on examinations.

Six years after the launch, approximately 1.2 million learners aged around 12 were set to enter Grade Seven at the start of 2023, which is the beginning stage in the JSS that hadn’t existed in the defunct system.

The government was in for a rough start as schools were poorly prepared to host and instruct the progressing classes due to uncompleted classrooms and laboratories as well as delayed delivery of learning materials.

To add salt to injury, the PWPER was at the time yet to publish its recommendations on practical solutions to overcome hurdles that threatened the smooth implementation of the new system.

Thinking on its feet, the State at this point directed that each learner transiting to Grade Seven in all public schools be allocated Sh15,000 as capitation for free junior secondary education, which was slightly lower than the Sh22,244 the government releases annually per learner as capitation to facilitate free secondary education.

“In total, the government will spend Sh6 billion for the learners in junior secondary schools this calendar year,” Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu said at the time.

The government also directed that JSS, which comprises both Grade Seven and Grade Eight classes, be domiciled within pre-existing primary schools due to a shortage of resources and space in secondary schools.

Even before the storm subsided, results of the 2022 Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) released towards the end of January showed that candidates who qualified for university entry had increased by 19 percent compared to the previous year, signalling more funding headache for higher education on the part of the government.

Data from the Ministry of Education showed that an additional 27,569 candidates scored C+ and above, bringing the total to 173,345, compared to 145,776 recorded in the previous year.

This, among other factors, prompted the government in May to announce a shift in the student-funding policy, indicating that State-sponsored learners opting to join private universities would have to foot their own tuition cost as a measure to resolve the funding crisis in public varsities.

During the same month, President Ruto announced a new funding model for universities and Technical and Vocational Education and Training (Tvet) institutions that he said would be student-centered, where financing would be apportioned to individuals depending on their level of need.

In the new model, Dr Ruto said funding to students would comprise a raft of scientifically determined combinations of scholarships, loans, and household contributions on a graduated scale where the categorization of students would be in four levels of need – vulnerable, extremely needy, needy, and less needy.

To facilitate the implementation of the new framework, the government increased funding for university education to Sh84.6 billion up from the Sh54 billion allocated in the financial year 2022/2023 as loans and grants.

The PWPER would later in August release its report with recommendations touching on the improvement of Tvet training by enhancing linkages with the industry as well as provision for recognition of prior learning.

Other issues addressed in the report spanned funding of both basic and higher education, including recommendations for minimum essential packages for basic education schools and revised capitation, as well as the introduction of a new funding formula for students in higher learning institutions.

“Over a period of close to nine months, we traversed the entire country, had discussions with all the key stakeholders in the education sector, and witnessed first-hand the key challenges the sector faces, from curriculum content to delivery, financing to infrastructure and governance,” says Collins Odote, a law professor at the University of Nairobi who was part of the task force.

"The recommendations we made hopefully will provide the country with a roadmap towards improving the sector due to the critical role that education plays in the development of society.”

Towards the close of 2023, the country’s education sector would mark yet another milestone as it witnessed the closure of the 8-4-4 system with the final cohort of 1.4 million learners sitting their Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) in November.

The test results showed that candidates who scored below 100 marks rose nearly three times compared to the previous year, to hit a five-year high of 2,060. On the flipside, learners who scored 400 marks and above dropped by 10 percent to hit a three-year low of 8,525.

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Note: The results are not exact but very close to the actual.