Competency Based Curriculum (CBC) is based on learners demonstrating the ability to apply the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values they acquire as they progress through their education. Despite initial resistance, this curriculum is now under implementation in Kenya after a pilot study conducted across counties. Successful implementation of this curriculum requires the concerted efforts of teachers and parents. The purpose of this study is therefore to establish the CBC activities that require parental involvement, parents’ opinion towards this expectation, teachers’ perceptions of CBC and the challenges they experience in the implementation of the CBC. The study was anchored on Vygostsky’s social constructivism theory and employed an exploratory research design. A sample of 56 participants took part in the study. Data were collected using open-ended questionnaires and in depth interviews, and analyzed thematically. Findings revealed that, parents were expected to work as co-educators with teachers and provide learning materials for practical sessions, but they were reluctant to do this. The teachers appreciated the sustained interest in learning brought about by CBC but cited numerous challenges like lack of materials, parental support, time, curriculum structure and class size among others. The study recommends that parents should be sensitized about their role in CBC, schools maintain optimum class sizes, the government provides adequate funding, and TSC improves staffing in public primary schools. In addition, talent schools should be established.
Scholars trace the idea of the competency-based curriculum to 1957 in the United States of America (USA). It developed as a reaction to the Soviet Union’s launch of the first satellite (Hodge, 2007). In Australia, observed weaknesses in the skills level of the workforce following changes in the economy and the pace of technology led to the introduction of CBC in 1990 (Smith, 1996).In Africa, the competency-based curriculum was pioneered by South Africa in 1998 as a result of an acute shortage of professionals such as engineers, technicians and artisans. The adoption of this system was meant to change the attitudes of all South Africans and equip them with employable skills to cope with challenging issues in the 21st century (Mulenga and Kabombwe, 2019). Other African countries have gone the CBC way. In Rwanda, the competency-based curriculum (CBC) was launched in April 2015. The new curriculum has been lauded for being less academic and more practical oriented, more skills-based and tailored to a working environment and daily life (REB, 2015). In schools where teachers used CBC techniques, learners enjoyed learning; attendance improved and passes rates increased. However, there were challenges like insufficient teaching and learning materials, large classes hindering effective delivery, lack of parental support and lack of enough qualified teachers to implement the curriculum (Urunana, 2018). In 2013 the Zambian education system revised its curriculum from a knowledge-based one to a skills based one in a bid to prepare learners for future challenges in the rapidly changing world (MoGE, 2013). The aim was to produce self-motivated, life-long learners, confident and productive individuals, holistic, independent learners with the values, skills and knowledge to enable them to succeed in school and in life (Zulu, 2015).
In Kenya the impetus for curriculum reform was that, the current system was too rigid and had limited opportunities to align basic education with children’s career interests, aptitudes, and abilities. The CBC design posted by the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) seeks to make learners competent in seven key areas: communication and collaboration, critical thinking and problem-solving, creativity and imagination, citizenship, digital literacy, learning to learn and self-efficacy. The curriculum hopes to impart eight core values: love, responsibility, respect, unity, peace, patriotism, social justice and integrity (Warrio, 2019; KICD, 2017). In a bid to equip teachers for successful implementation of CBC, teachers have been undergoing training during the holidays. According to Muraya (2019), a team of 181 master trainers has since trained 1,165 regular and special needs education curriculum support officers and 1,320 CBC champions as the trainer of trainers. It is further stated that, at the end of the training, all teachers are expected to acquire the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary for effective implementation of CBC, apply innovative pedagogical approaches and models, demonstrate competencies in assessment and be self- reflective, self-improving and supportive learners themselves.
Despite the training, teachers feel that the system has tripled their work. They have a lot of work to do in keeping the records of each child since marks are not awarded based on academic output only but on extra-curriculum activities as well. In addition, CBC has come with new costs that must be borne by the parents which could further drive many learners out of school (Otieno and Onyango, 2019).The teacher’s role in the current system is that of a facilitator in the learning process. The teacher is expected to keep learners’ data on individual skills and weaknesses through regular assessments in a portfolio. This is a folder which officially keeps the record of a learner’s efforts, progress and achievement through which the teacher keeps parents and guardians informed, and informs the symbiotic relationship of the parent and teachers in the child’s learning process. The portfolios feed the end-of term reports (Warrio, 2019).
KICD recommended that, reporting in formative assessment should be frequent and ongoing communication between the teacher and the learner, and with the parents about the progress the learner was making towards meeting the curriculum outcomes. The reporting should focus on a series or cluster of learning (KICD, 2017). KICD also suggested that, at different points during the year, this portfolio could be used to discuss with the learner regarding their progress as well as with parents, administrators or other staff members providing services for learners. Teachers should be honest, fair and provide sufficient detail and contextual information. They need to keep detailed records of various components of assessment with descriptions of what each component of the assessment measured, accuracy, against the criteria and learning outcomes and supporting evidence. Learners’ ability is rated in terms of whether they are exceeding expectation(80 - 100%), meeting expectation (65 - 79%), approaching expecting (50 - 64%), and below expectation (0 - 49%). A remark against the rating provided is then provided. 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 compromised the implementation of the curriculum. Another challenge was the issue of teachers’ knowledge of CBC pedagogy. Few of the teachers understood CBC pedagogy. Most of them were struggling with the concept and lacked the capacity demanded by the curriculum.
The successful implementation of CBC depends not just on the classroom teacher who acts as facilitator in the learning process, but also on the involvement of the parent. This is because some of the demands of the curriculum transcend boundaries of school. Parents are expected to play a very important role in the success of their children’s education by providing an enabling environment that is conducive to learning, motivating learners to fulfill their potential through completion of assigned tasks, and monitoring and guiding children in doing homework, providing required aids and materials for practical activities, collecting and sending evidence of children completing tasks assigned by teachers (Gitahi, 2019). They are also expected to ensure that their children’s bio data is correctly captured in the Kenya Early Years Assessment database. This clearly demonstrates that, nurturing and building competencies which is at the heart of CBC cannot be left to the teachers alone. Teachers and parents have to work as collaborators and co-educators in enhancing the acquisition of the right competencies and skills among the learners. Parental involvement is expected to have positive learning outcomes for learners and shape other aspects of their behaviour. The overriding question the study sought to answer was how could the teacher parent nexus contribute to the successful implementation of CBC? Specific research questions culminating in the above question and which guided this study were:
(i) What Competency Based Curriculum activities require parental involvement?
(ii) What are the parents’ opinions of their expected involvement in Competency Based Curriculum activities?
(iii) How do the teachers’ perceive the Competency Based Curriculum?
(iv) What are the challenges that they experience in the implementation of Competency Based Curriculum?
This exploratory study follows a qualitative approach, with open Ended questionnaires and in depth face to face interviews. Exploratory research design deals with exploring into the phenomenon (Saunders et al., 2012). The choice of an exploratory qualitative design was to gain an understanding of how parents and teachers could work together for successful implementation of CBC. Exploratory research “tends to tackle new problems on which little or no previous research has been done” (Brown, 2006: 43). The choice of this design was thus due to the fact that, CBC was in the initial implementation stages with the first Competency Based Assessment (CBA) underway even as the study was being conducted. There were hardly any empirical studies on CBC then, and exploratory research was expected to provide a better understanding of the teacher-parent nexus in the CBC success equation. The study also sought views on the perceptions of respondents pertaining to CBC related issues. Flexibility is important in exploratory research and it is bound to result in new ideas, revelations and insights (Abhijeet, 2018). This research was conducted in a relatively new area with issues that needed clarification and further insights. The information gathering required the flexibility offered by the exploratory research design.
Sample and sampling procedures
There are no rules for sample size in qualitative research as this depends on what one wants to know, the purpose of the study and practical factors. The validity, meaningfulness and insights generated from qualitative studies have more to do with the information richness of the cases selected (Hudelson, 1994). Guided by this principle, this study was carried out in Sabatia sub county (Vihiga) and Kakamega Central (Kakamega). These are counties in close proximity to each other and the intention was to get a general overview of the CBC implementation. All the schools in the two sub counties were stratified as shown in Table 1. Thereafter 10% of the schools were randomly sampled. Purposive sampling was used to select all the head teachers and at least one teacher of lower primary school (the level at which CBC is being implemented). In two schools, one additional lower primary school teacher participated. Purpose sampling was based on the reasoning that, qualitative samples are purposive and selected by virtue of their capacity to provide richly textured information relevant to phenomenon under investigation (Luborsky and Rubinstein, 1995; Marshall, 1996). This study utilized 56 participants(44 participants from the schools and12 parents who had children enrolled in lower primary school who were identified using snowballing). Creswell (2012) stated that, a qualitative study characteristically examines a small number of cases. Ritchie et al. (2003), suggest that studies employing individual interviews conduct no more than 50 interviews so that the researchers can manage the complexity of the analytic task. Similarly, Britten (1995) stated that, large interview studies will often comprise 50-60 people. This sample of 56 participants was considered good enough. In addition, the fact that, the value of a researcher in giving an in-depth analysis as well as reporting verbatim responses diminishes with each additional person (Lawton, 2017) influenced the sample size. Often qualitative researchers refer to the redundancy criterion: that is when no new information is forthcoming from sampled units, data collection stops. In this study, once a point of saturation had been reached with the respondents, it was considered uneconomical to sample additional participants. This is in line with the proposal by Lincoln and Guba (1985) that sample size determination be guided by the criterion of informational redundancy.
Data collection instruments
Data were gathered using open ended questionnaires (Appendix 1) and in depth unstructured face to face interviews (Appendix 2 and 3). Unstructured interviews are the most popular primary data collection method with exploratory studies. Talking to people involved in actual CBC implementation using this technique was expected to help achieve the objectives of the study more easily. Best and Kahn (2003) assert that, the purpose of open interviewing is not to put things in someone’s mind but to find out what is on someone’s mind. Indeed the level of the structure of questions in qualitative interviewing has been found to influence the richness of the data generated (Ogden and Cornwell, 2010). The exploratory nature of the study demanded a lot flexibility offered by the in depth unstructured interview. It was possible to establish the respondents’ views on the teacher-parent nexus in the success of CBC. In addition, the respondents expressed their opinions, pointed out challenges experienced and raised inherent concerns over the system. The in-depth interviews lasted for at least 45 min and at most 2 h. The interviews were carried out during break time, lunch break or after school hours to minimize interruption of teaching and optimize responses. The interviewer probed respondents by using the answers they provided and turning them into related questions for more detailed answers.
Validity and reliability
Experts agree on the need to assure validity, and reliability in qualitative studies (Konradsen et al.,, 2013). In qualitative research, validity (or trustworthiness) and reliability or (consistency) are discussed in terms of the credibility, transferability, dependability, and confirm ability of the instrumentation and results of the study.
To assure credibility (internal validity) the study employed appropriate strategies such as triangulation. There was use of open ended questionnaires and in depth face to face interviews. The data collected were therefore corroborated. In addition, saturation was used. To establish transferability (external validity) the study offered “thick descriptions” (Geertz, 1973), and verbatim reporting of findings. There was also variation in participant selection. The study used head teachers and teachers involved in actual implementation of CBC. Parents with children in lower primary (the level at which CBC is being implemented) also participated in the study.
To be more specific with the term of reliability in qualitative research, Lincoln and Guba (1985: 300) use “dependability.” In this study, dependability was established through triangulation (Casey and Murphy, 2009). Similarity in responses among the participants throughout the interview was corroborated by multiple research instruments and the accuracy of responses ascertained (Stevenson and Mahmut, 2013). Confirm ability (the qualitative counterpart to objectivity) was established through reflexivity.
Descriptive statistics were used to summarize the data (Frequencies and percentages) and provide an overview of what the general responses were. Tabulation of this information indicated how many respondents shared certain opinions. Thereafter, thematic analysis which involved analyzing transcripts and identifying themes within the data was used (Burnard et al., 2008). While some of the findings are paraphrased, most of the key findings are reported under the main themes generated from open coding. In addition, findings under each theme are also reported using verbatim quotes to illustrate the sentiments of the respondents (ibid). This aspect of reporting was adopted because it enables one to understand the feelings/emotions of the respondents underlying the opinions raised.
Aspects of competency based curriculum that require parental involvement
Teachers from the sampled schools were asked to indicate the activities that required parental involvement. Table 2 shows the number of teachers who were affirmative on each expectation. The respective percentage is provided in brackets to two decimal places.
The results in Table 1 show that most teachers (37; 84.09%) expected parents to take pictures for in filing portfolios. Portfolios are files/folders that contain learners’ records of accomplished activities or activities being carried out by learners. Sample portfolios availed for perusals during interviews with the respondents are shown in Figure 1.The portfolios on the left are made out of manila papers while those on the right are readily purchased from the bookshop. Teachers require a lot of improvisation to make competency based curriculum work. Teachers explained that:
In a recent task assigned, learners were supposed to make their beds at home and have their parents take a photograph of the activity as they carried it out, print the pictures and send it to the teacher for filing in the portfolio.
There were also other activities that required pictures to be taken and sent to school as the teachers explained:
Activities are numerous, almost on a daily basis. Learners may be required to plant a tree seedling, and have a picture taken and brought to school. Any time there is such a requirement, the involvement of the parent is inevitable.
Teachers also expressed the view that,
Filing documents in the portfolio is a daily practice because virtually all practical sessions yield information for the portfolio and activity based learning is what CBC is all about.
Most of the teachers (40; 90.89%) explained that, occasionally, parents had to assist their children with certain tasks. Preparation of sweeping and cleaning instruments in a market cleaning activity which had been carried out by primary school children in the entire country was frequently cited. Parents were supposed to help with making of brooms and protective gear like gloves, masks, aprons and scarves. Figure 2 shows how the learners were dressed during the cleaning exercise. Other teachers mentioned sorting of items according to colours as an assignment learners may be expected to do with assistance of their parents. At home, parents may help their children do this by using plates, cups, bottle tops, clothes, etc and explaining the different colours.
Out of the 44 teachers who participated, 39(88.62%) said parents were required to assist children with actualizing some environment related activities. They pointed out that, a number of activities in the curriculum under caring for the environment required parental involvement. Some of these include caring for animals, cleaning equipment used for feeding and watering animals, demonstrating willingness to use water sparingly at home.
One teacher explained that,
In school, we do not rear animals but we believe since our school is in a rural set up, our learners come from families where there are cows, goats, etc. They can use these to learn how to care for animals.
Teachers observed that,
The cleaning exercise carried out by primary school children was meant to inculcate the culture of community service as well as the desire to keep the environment clean. It was an opportunity for them to learn that they are responsible for the cleanliness of the environment they live in. A dirty environment affects health.
Provision of materials for practical lessons
The majority of the teachers (40; 90.89%) expected parents to provide materials for practical lessons. They were of the view that,
All learning areas have practical lessons with specific material requirements. For example, drawing and colouring require drawing books, pencils, crayons and coloured pencils; when they are learning hygiene and taught how to brush their teeth, the parents have to provide tooth brushes and tooth paste; an item of crockery may be required to practice cleaning. The list of activities is actually endless and parents’ cooperation is very important.
Teachers said learners may be required to learn how to wash an item of crockery. This means parents should allow their children to carry cups, plates etc to school as need arises (Figure 3). Drawing requires coloured pencils or crayons which parents are supposed to provide. It is the colour that brings out the beauty of a drawing.
Parents’ opinions about their involvement in CBC
Parents with children in lower primary school in public and private schools were identified using the snowballing approach. One identified parent identified another. Out of the 12 parents interviewed seven had children in public schools while five had children enrolled in private schools. Table 3 shows opinions as expressed by parents. The respective percentage is provided in brackets to two decimal places.
Willingness to be involved in children’s CBC tasks
Most parents (11(91.66%) were generally opposed to being involved in their children’s tasks. Some parents from private schools expressed the view that:
Parents should be totally left out of CBC affairs. I have paid fees and sent my child to school. My own work is so demanding that when I come home, it is either too late or I am too tired to start finding out about the tasks my child has been assigned and then get involved. It is precisely because I have no time even for myself that I took my child to boarding school.
On provision of tools for the cleaning exercise carried out countrywide by learners, one parent with a child in a public school observed that,
“There are people paid by the county to sweep roads and clean markets in this county. They even have the right cleaning equipment provided by the employer. I should not be made to go destroying a neighbor’s fence because I am looking for branches for a broom. And then, when our children went out cleaning, what work did these people do on that day? Did they get paid?”
Parents from public schools equally felt they did not have the time either.
Many parents 9(75.00%) especially those with children in public primary schools did not even have camera enabled phones and they did not have cameras to take pictures in the first place. They were of the opinion that, they had more pressing economic issues to attend to. They considered having expensive phones with which to take pictures a luxury. In fact, quite a number of these “parents” were actually grandparents! They felt that, even if a good neighbor took pictures of the accomplished task, there should be provision to have them printed in school. Again, they also said even if they were to take pictures or ask someone to do it, they would require to travel to market centres where there were cyber cafes to print. One explained,
I know of someone who went to print the picture, there was no power. He gave up on waiting for power to be restored and came back without the picture. Perhaps, the government should think of providing machines for printing pictures in the school.
Another parent retorted,
This curriculum expects our children to have beds which we have not been given. How do I take a
picture of a child making a bed that she does not have! If I have a child who sleeps on the floor on a mattress provided by her aunt how do I take a picture of that? So that others can laugh at her?
Yet another with a child in a private school wondered,
My child is in a private day school. I was expected to take a picture of the child planting a seedling and send to school. Now, I have rented a house. My house is on the third floor. Where this child should be planting the seedling?
Parents’ reluctance to be involved in children’s learning tasks was attributed to lack of sensitization at the introduction of the new curriculum. Apparently all the parents interviewed (12; 100%) were never informed about this expectation. They felt they were neither involved nor sensitized on their roles. According to one parent,
When this curriculum was rolled out, nobody told meI was about to become a teacher. Nobody asked me whether I wanted to be a teacher or not. You see not all of us can be teachers.
Most parents (10; 83.33%) said facilitating CBC implementation was not their responsibility. This assertion was best summed up in the remark of one parent, who clearly stated that:
Please let teachers do their work and parents theirs. There are very clear roles defined here. If we all abide by them, there will be no conflict.
Most parents (11; 91.66%) had no know-how of talent identification. One parent said,
My son can sing, play football and run. In fact, he outruns me and yet he is only nine and in grade three! He also imitates his teachers sometimes. So can I say he has all these talents? So again am I supposed to make him now concentrate on one? Which one will that be?
Another one said,
My daughter is in boarding school. The teachers spent more time with her than I do. Who can tell better what she is talented in, the teachers or me?
Yet another remarked,
Am I expected to sit around the whole day observing a child to spot talents surely? If this is the way to identify talent, let my daughter concentrate on class work.
Teachers’ perceptions of CBC
Teachers are the implementers of CBC. Their perceptions were sought on what they thought about the new curriculum which was in its initial years of implementation. Table 4 summarizes their perceptions on the factors evaluated. The percentages are provided to two decimal places in brackets.
All the teachers interviewed clearly indicated that CBC has revolutionized instruction. The majority of the teachers (41; 93.18%), irrespective of whether they were from public or private schools, lauded the new curriculum for being learner centred. According to one teacher:
In this new curriculum, you guide learners in the learning process. There is so much that the learners should be able to do but as teacher, you just guide them. Basically, most learning is child centered, but there is supervision and involvement in the activities too.
Most of the teachers (41; 93.18%) said that, learners were more engaged in the process than ever because learning was very interesting. A teacher observed that,
Today, learners are very enthusiastic about their classes. Sometimes you have to force them to stop an activity because it is time for another strand.
Generally, as indicated by most teachers (39; 88.63%), the learning activities are tailored towards sustaining the interest of the learners. Learners no longer wear faces of boredom because there are interesting learning activities inbuilt in the learning areas. A teacher observed that,
In the past I struggled to keep the learners focused. Some would doze off in class. This has changed since introduction of CBC. There is a lot of learning through inbuilt play activities. Learners have an opportunity to freely explore and satisfy their curiosity and in the process they learn.
Even market cleaning, which most parents had abhorred incidentally turned into an interesting learning activity for the learners. One principal of a private day school was in favour of the market cleaning activity. He said although some of his parents were opposed to it, the children enjoyed it. He disclosed that, he had safely kept the cleaning implements which would now be used in the school cleaning activity once in a while to teach children the importance of clean environments.
According to 42 (95.45%) teachers interviewed, the CBC had considerably improved class attendance. As one teacher remarked,
My class is constantly packed. In the past, pupils used all sorts of excuses to be away from school. Some were sick form Monday to Friday! This has changed after the introduction of CBC. Most pupils can’t wait to come to school!
It was observed that, assessment is relaxed. Most teachers (43; 97.72%) affirmed that the tension previously witnessed at examination time is history. They were in favour of this mode of assessment. Commenting on the grade 3 assessment that was being concluded at the time, they expressed the opinion that,
In the new assessment criteria there was no competition so there was no pressure. Learners were encouraged to be natural and the assessment was carried out in the usual learning environment where there was no spacing of learners or interfering with their consultation. Even the bright ones who love shielding their work so that others do not copy did not have to do this at all. The assessment atmosphere was the best ever.
Another teacher observed that,
There was no tension because there was no fear of failure. Learners treated the assessment as the usual class work.
Challenges teachers face in the implementation of CBC
Teachers were asked to highlight the challenges that were hindering the successful implementation of CBC. Their views are summarized and presented in Table 5 and percentages given to two decimal places.
Lack of parental support
Most teachers (37; 84.09%) expressed lack of parental support. Even where parents could easily source for materials required for implementation of CBC, they were unwilling to do so. Some teachers reported that,
There were parents who did not want to see their children dressed up in sacks during the cleaning exercise and yet they still could not purchase whatever they felt acceptable for their children to wear! Others did not want their children to do the cleaning.
Another teacher said that,
Even parents who stay in the village set up and could improvise cleaning brooms and other implements simply refused to do so. We had to pluck leaves and branches in the morning to make brooms for our learners so as to carry out the exercise since it was a requirement.
Nature of the school
Teachers (10; 22.73%) from private day and boarding schools observed that, they are unable to involve parents in some of the tasks that require their involvement.
Teachers recounted how they were forced to carry out tasks that should have been done by pupils and their parents because the learners, though in lower primary schools, are either in boarding school or in private schools and parents had no time for certain things. This was tantamount to a teacher setting a task to be done by learner in collaboration with the parent, but again assuming role of the parent in the accomplishment of the task.
Head teachers and teachers in boarding schools thus pointed out that, while numerous tasks required parental involved, it was difficult to get their parents involved because of the nature of their schools. It was therefore inevitable for teachers in such schools to assume parental roles. One head teacher of a boarding school said:
Our class three pupils were meant to prepare cleaning instruments made from locally available materials. However, since they are boarders, our teachers were compelled take the place of parents and work on this task with the pupils after classes instead of going home after their official duty was over. And it did take quite some time since it involved making sweeping brooms, improvising dustbins, gloves, masks and other protective gear.
On the curriculum and implementation challenges, most teachers (41; 93.81%) were of the opinion that, the curriculum is structured in such a way that, if for some reason, a pupil missed school two or three consecutive times, it would be a big problem catching up because learning activities were stringently scheduled. A teacher said,
Consider the cleaning exercise that was carried out by all grade 3 learners. You notice it all schools were doing that at fairly the same time or during the same week. That is how activities are scheduled. When a learner misses a number of sessions it’s not easy catching up. In addition, his/her portfolio will have a gap.
Class size and staffing
Another problem with curriculum implementation was staffing and class sizes. The most affected were public schools as indicated by 31(70.45%) teachers, most of who were from public schools. The schools had high enrolment in lower classes but with only one teacher per class. A teacher reported that,
The current curriculum requires fairly individualized attention. As teachers, we are expected to work closely with learners for acquisition of relevant competencies, talent identification and nurturing. Large class sizes work against this. Secondly, because of gross understaffing, any time a teacher has to be away due to unavoidable circumstances (like illness or bereavement), there is hardly anybody to cover her class.
Ironically, this problem did not significantly affect private schools which had allocated two teachers per class for their lower primary grades. The learners in these schools were well cushioned in case one teacher had to be away from school for one reason or another. Again due to understaffing, each lower primary school teacher in public schools handled all the nine learning areas (literacy and indigenous languages, Kiswahili, English language, mathematical, environmental, hygiene and nutrition, religious, movement and creative activities, and pastoral programme of instruction). This was overwhelming for the single teacher. One teacher said, I handle a class of 86 learners alone. There is so much to do because of their young age and the requirements of the curriculum. It leaves me drained physically and mentally.
In a unique scenario, in one public primary school, the three teachers assigned to handle the lower classes shared the teaching of the learning areas across grades. This too cushioned their learners in case one had to be absent.
Most teachers 32(72.72%), the majority of who were from public schools, lamented about the lack of appropriate learning materials. There was the issue of the portfolio, a folder that contains pupils’ progress work. Every learning strand resulted into evidence for a learners’ portfolio. There were nine learning areas per week, 35 lessons per week. This translated into 35 items for each learner’s portfolio. A teacher disclosed that,
Apart from the portfolio, we also maintain "a show case folder” for each pupil where their best work is filed. To begin with, the files are not readily available and we have to improvise by using manila papers. Where classes are large, preparing a folder for each child is a time consuming process. Helping each pupil identify documents for their show case folder is equally taxing because it this informed by a discussion with the learner.
Apart from the portfolios, learners required coloured pencils/crayons, balls etc which were not available. One teacher remarked that,
These were meant to enhance learners’ talents. In their absence how would one identify a talented drawer, cartoonist, painter or player?
Teachers acknowledged that the learning activities were interesting but they were time consuming. Many teachers (36; 81.81%) decried lack of adequate time for completion of certain activities. A teacher revealed that,
Some of these activities are quite demanding and the time allocated is inadequate. For example in teaching and assessing motion in movement and creative activities, the time allocated is only 35 minutes and this is insufficient where the classes are large because you are expected to assess all the learners. Time ends before you can do all the assessments!
Teachers of both public and private schools admitted that there had been some training. However, the majority (37; 84.09%) felt that, the training received was not sufficient in preparing teachers for CBC implementation. Some of the teachers had no sound knowledge on how to implement certain aspects of CBC. One teacher mentioned that:
I was supposed to sing in an activity where a song is actually provided but there were no musical notes for guidance. Nobody has trained you on how to generate notes for a song. What is one expected to do?
Most teachers (34; 77.27%) especially those from public primary schools raised the issue of cost in the grade 3 assessment. They felt that the system was costly and burdensome to the schools and parents as well. According to the head teachers of public primary schools,
The assessments required individual learners to have their own copies. The Mathematics assessment alone was 8 pages long. It was supposed to be downloaded and printed, then photocopied for each pupil. In addition to this, there was the language assessment and the integrated assessment with similar cost implications not met by the government.
Head teachers of private schools had no problem with this cost implication because parents comfortably provided the funds. One head teacher of a private school explained how he bailed out two head teachers of neighbouring public schools by photocopying the assessments for their learners. One head teacher of a public primary school said the costing of the government for the assessment was six shillings per learner which was inadequate because the number of learning areas under assessment and the pages per learner. In an interesting twist to the cost factor in public primary schools, one head teacher said she did not incur this. She explained that, “I downloaded the work and loaded it on each of the learners’ tablets. They took the assessment and their results were sent online.”
Teachers from both public and private schools decried too much paper work which was oppressive to the teachers. Teachers explained that, they had to download and then write very long schemes of work and lesson plans. It was very grueling and teachers did not understand why the education officers insisted on this!
What I do not understand is why we have to download these schemes then handwrite them! They are so long and writing them takes too much time that would have been utilized for some other work. Is someone out to just punish teachers? What is the motive behind this really?
CBC areas of concern and grey areas
During the interview, teachers raised pertinent issues pertaining to CBC which emerged during the interviews. These concerns had not been captured by the objectives of this study but were nevertheless worth thinking about. They felt if these were voiced during the conference at which this paper was presented and disseminated through publication, they would hopefully be addressed someday. It would be a disservice if I failed to highlight these issues. I chose to treat them under the above sub title and they are as follows:
Talent and talent identification
Teachers expressed the view that, there was a high likelihood of mistaking peer pressure for talent. This was because there were learners who would exhibit a talent because of the company they kept, that is their friends. However, when gauged against their friends, these talents paled into insignificance.
Secondly, there is a danger of placing children in wrong talent if the talent identification is done too early. This is because young children were fond of experimenting with diverse talents quite unconsciously, and without necessarily being keen on developing them. Thirdly, at a young age, there are masked talents that would take time to be identified and nurtured. In addition, not all talents can be discovered at school level. A fourth concern was that, after talent identification, would the learners move to talent schools for nurturing of these talents or remain in the mainstream education system? Are there talent schools, well stocked with the right facilities to absorb and grow identified talents?
Assessment and progression
Teachers were concerned about the nature of assessment. During the Grade 3 assessment, learners took the assessment in a natural environment. There was no stringent supervision. Some learners sat in groups while others were spaced out (depending on the schools’ interpretation). After the Grade 6 assessment, learners were expected to transit to junior secondary school. Teachers wondered whether the Grade 6 assessment would be like Grade 3. And if this was the case, then what criteria would be used to identify which learners would transit to specific junior secondary schools (National, county, extra-county etc). A second concern was, would they join junior secondary in their primary school which will still have standard sevens progressing to class eight or would they move to the high schools, start junior secondary, then later have class eight joining form one in the same schools? And finally, will categorization of schools (National, extra-county etc) change so that all schools would be at the same level.
With the 100% transition rule from one grade to another, the teachers wondered what would happen to learners who failed to acquire the required competencies in a particular grade. If the essence of the system was for the learners to acquire skills and competencies, whenever the assessment revealed lack of this by a learner, what would happen? Repetition of classes was outlawed. Would learners transit from level to another without mastery of the required competencies? Teachers wondered why there was no remuneration for those involved in grade three assessments. They said in future grade 3 and grade 6 assessors should be paid just like the KNEC examiners.
Portfolios and show case files
Preparation of portfolios and show case files was demanding. Secondly because of evidence requirement of the numerous tasks, the folders kept filling up and new ones being opened. By the time a pupil reaches grade six he/she would have too many portfolios. This poses a storage problem.