In Summary
  • In the absence of proper methodological support to teachers and lack of clear relevant theoretical framework guiding the conception of curricula.
  • Curriculum development involves negotiations and consensus building and should not be a one-man show. To register success, leadership is vital.

  • Good leadership would ensure that efforts are coordinated and new directions set through learning, information gathering and dialogue.

The debate on the competency-based curriculum (CBC), which is being rolled out, calls for a sober analysis of the situation with focus on four fundamental questions.

First, what is the need for reforming the curriculum? And what informed the shift from 8-4-4 to CBC?


The 8-4-4 system has been faulted for not catering for changing societal demands, gaps that the much-hyped CBC is expected to seal.

The guiding philosophy of the 8-4-4 curriculum was “education for self-reliance”. It was expected to equip learners with employable skills, enabling dropouts at all levels to be either self-employed or to secure jobs in the informal sector.

Although 8-4-4 allowed for more options in technical and vocational subjects, it, however, experienced serious shortages of essential resources and facilities, leading to its becoming theory-oriented. The CBC is, however, designed to make a learner engaged, empowered and an ethical citizen.

However, comparison of the intentions of the two systems shows several parallels in terms of the expected outcomes, the main one being that both seek to empower the learner. That requires adequate resources and, therefore, CBC could face the same pitfalls as 8-4-4.

It’s also worth noting that failures in 8-4-4 are not inherent in the curriculum but in the mode of implementation.

Secondly, is there a proper legal and theoretical foundation to support CBC?

Theory in educational reform is important as it supports conceptualisation; it informs methodology and underpins analysis and interpretation. A curriculum founded on a wrong premise is likely to backfire.


One hidden reason why preferred educational reform has been hard to realise in Kenya is that citizens, policymakers and education stakeholders do not satisfactorily agree on what they want from our education system.

To solve educational problems is not a matter of finding the right means to an end as most policymakers would want us to imagine; there is a need to articulate a basis for agreement on a substantive opinion by formulating a theory.

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