Simplified curricula: contradictory directives are a testament to lack of consultation

Recent reports from sections of the media that KNEC and KIE have issued contradictory directives with regard to the implementation of the simplified mathematics and science curricula, is a testament to the deep seated problems ailing the education system in Kenya: lack of both a solid research base and consultation. Whereas KIE insists that the package is optional for students, KNEC has made it mandatory for schools to only take one of the packages.

This confusion paints a very bad picture of the two organs that are supposed to compliment each other. They seem not to realize that the problem associated with the development, operation and improvement of any educational system must be based on extensive and systematic applications of knowledge. Moreover it must be an all inclusive and participatory process.

But in Kenya this seems to be far from the truth. The left hand hardly knows what the right hand is up to.

Much as we hope that the confusion will be done away with, I still have a problem with this general science “thing”. It is ostensibly formulated for students whose interest and aptitude is not in pursuing courses that require high competence in pure sciences. Prima facie, this sounds a great policy directive. However, the devil lies in the details.

A good curriculum ought not to be discriminative and must play a significant role in human resource development and placement. But looking at it from all angles, this curriculum bears the hallmarks of the Government`s discrimination against the less fortunate members in the country. Why do I say so?

This is because it is a known fact that performance in examinations differ in such a way that students from the higher socio-economic schools demonstrate a higher performance. Obviously the educational production process in such schools enjoys sufficient resources. Since the dregs (and who constitute the majority) of the society do not have access to such schools, they have to pursue their education in ill equipped village schools that can only offer general science curricula.

In my opinion it appears as if the Government is admitting its failure in addressing issues relating to access, equity and quality of education across the social divide as was promised in the Sessional paper no.1 of 2005.

Under a targeted programme the Government was supposed to rehabilitate and provide laboratory equipment in schools in the rural and marginalized areas in a bid to address regional disparities. Admittedly, the programme is a cropper. Consequently, the Government seems to be suggesting that students from disadvantaged schools will never become engineers and doctors, and by all indications, it will be sending a strong message to the public that students from disadvantaged schools are lesser citizens than their counterparts.

It is precisely because of the threat to validity and equity that saw the Government phase out such a similar curriculum in the nineties. Then we used to have pure and biological sciences.

Much as we all agree that the acute inequalities in schools in the country have over the years made it impossible for the construction of a consistent, reliable and valid performance measurement, but should that be a ground for the entrenching of a discriminatory and retrogressive curriculum change? Certainly not. Two wrongs do not make a right. I am extremely afraid that the complacency now setting in is both foolish and dangerous.

What good will it do to a learner/teacher whose interest is in learning/teaching pure sciences or pure mathematics but who is forced by the school management due to unavailability of resources to only learn/teach the general sciences or simplified mathematics?

From the foregoing, the question shouldn’t be whether the Government can afford to do more to promote social mobility. It should be whether Government can afford not to. And the answer is no.

Tome Francis,

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