“Education is not about college

It entails a broader range of knowledge

Supplying a market of skills shortage” (Chidi, 2010)

This quote above reflects the needs of a 21st-century education curriculum. When it comes to this subject, a lot has been written. The intention of this article is not to regurgitate information but to share a different perspective and besides in the words of Doris Lessing “That is what learning is. You suddenly understand something you have understood all your life, but in a new way.” (Callahan B. 2011). Previously in the 20th-century, the education system failed to solve the complex problems of the world and meet changes in the workplace. In a nutshell, the education system rewarded conformity and compliance, in a world where creativity, innovation and diverse skills are needed. Given this challenge, something had to change, an education system that meets the needs of the learners in this century. The Generation z from 1995- 2009. According to k-12 thoughtful learning, there are four critical competencies for the 21st-century learner, namely; Communication, critical thinking, creativity and collaboration. 

A World Bank Report on World Development 2018: ‘Learning to Realise Education’s Promise‘ warns that millions of students are leaving schools without learning essential skills. This problem is most dominant in middle and low-income countries. The schools are not preparing students for jobs of the future. A challenge facing many countries in the world, including Kenya. Kenya has been making steady progress in solving this challenge. In 2017 the Kenyan ministry of education launched the Competency-Based Curriculum(CBC).

The Genesis of The CBC

 In 2009 after a review of the existing curriculum, the Kenya Institute of Education(KIE) concluded the following. The current curriculum content relegates practical skills necessary for economic development to non-examinable subjects; thus, most of the learners exiting the education system at secondary level did not have adequate skills and competencies to be absorbed in the job market. After the inauguration of the new constitution 2010, a task force on “Re-Alignment of education and training” per the new Constitution of Kenya was formed. This was in order to meet the education needs so that Kenya’s vision 2030 can be achieved. The task force gave a report needs that emphasised on the following changes to the curriculum. One, restructuring of the curriculum within competence framework that identifies the knowledge, skills, values and attitudes to be included at each level, e.g. entrepreneurial skills. Two, addressing local needs by including the study of local knowledge and culture. Three, providing pathways to give equal opportunity to all learners to recognise their talent and achieve their full potential. Moreover, four, integrating ICT in the curriculum as a vital driver of the knowledge-based economy. 

The Competency-Based Curriculum

Based on the needs assessment report by the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development. A new curriculum was developed. The Competency-Based Curriculum, the vision of the CBC is have engaged and empowered citizen while providing every Kenyan Learner with world-class standards in education in skills and knowledge. The mission of the curriculum is to nurture every learner’s potential, promote social, economic, technological and industrial needs. The learner will embrace positive cultural practices in a dynamic society. A student’s interests, talents and character for positive contribution to the society will drive learning. A curriculum that will promote environmental preservation and conservation, including animal welfare, for sustainable development. Enable the learner to operate within the international community with full knowledge of the obligations, responsibilities, rights and benefits that this membership entails. Provide inclusively and equitable access to quality and differentiated education; including for learners with special educational needs and disabilities geared towards developing a self-disciplined and ethical citizen with sound moral and religious values. Provides the opportunity for learners to develop and apply their skills and knowledge, or in other words, their competencies. The Competency-Based Curriculum has seven competencies;

 1.Communication and Collaboration

 2.Self -efficacy

 3.Critical Thinking and Problem Solving 

4.Creativity and Imagination 


6.Digital Literacy 

7. Learning to Learn.  

The Competency-Based Curriculum has the following three fundamental components, namely the values, the theoretical approaches and finally, the guiding principals.(KICD,2017)

Image Source: Google.com


According to the Constitution of Kenya, the State Department responsible for education must develop and incorporates values into the curricula at all levels of education. The following are the values incorporated in the CBC Curriculum:

  • Love
  • Responsibility
  • Respect
  • Unity
  • Peace
  • Patriotism
  • Integrity
Image Source: Google.com

Theoretical Approaches 

According to the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development, the new competency-based curriculum was designed according to the following theories and approaches to learning and cognitive development. The Instructional Design theory, this theory offers a clear design of information-oriented because it focuses on the means to attain a given goal for learning and offers guidelines on methods to use in different situations in curriculum implementation. Visible Learning Theory, which entails an enhanced role for teachers as they become evaluators of their teaching, visible learning and teaching occur when the teachers see learning through the eyes of the students and help them become their teachers. Impact of student and teaching is visible. The other main constructivism theories, Social constructivism by John Dewey, curriculum to be developed to produce students can effectively deal with the modern world. Social-Cultural Development theory by Vygotsky, whose main argument is that teaching and learning are highly social activities that involve interactions with peers, teachers and with course materials influence cognitive development. Another theory used in the formulation of this new curriculum is Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligence, which states that learners possess different kinds of minds which means that they learn, remember, perform and understand differently. There is also Piaget’s cognitive development theory that argues; there is a progressive reorganisation of a mental process resulting from biological maturation and environmental experiences. The CBC has also included Bruner’s Cognitive Development theory which points at the facets of the learning process include selection and transformation of information, decision making, generating hypotheses and making meaning from information and experiences. The theory suggests that learning is a category; to perceive, to learn and to make decisions. There is also Erik Erikson’s theory of cognitive development that elucidates that a curriculum should aim at fostering both lower and high-level skills co-currently where the teacher remains the guide or facilitator while the learner constructs their learning through experiential learning and exploration. (KICD,2017). 

Guiding Principles

The CBC has several guiding principles, of starting with Parental Empowerment and Engagement; this is a framework that entails provision of opportunities for schools to empower parents to contribute to the learning outcomes for their children and to be engaged at all tiers and levels of basic education. Another guiding principle is Community Service Learning, which entails a balanced emphasis on both learners’ learning and addressing real needs in the community. Further, more there is Differentiated Curriculum and Learning that ensures that the curriculum content and instructional approaches are appropriate for each learner. Moreover, Diversity and Inclusion that addresses the needs of children, youth and adults who are out of school, to increase their access to and participation in education, and hence, raise their literacy levels for personal and national social, economic development. Additionally, Excellence ensures that learners bare nurtured to excel in their areas of most considerable interest and ability. Finally,  Opportunity an emphasis is on equal access to education for all that enable learners to enjoy learning and reduce wastage in terms of dropping out of school because the curriculum is not relevant to their needs.(KICD,2017)

Levels of CBC

 The CBC has three levels. 

  • Early Years Education( two years in Pre-primary and three years in Lower Primary )
  • Middle School Education( three years in Upper Primary and three years in Junior Secondary )
  • The senior school (three years in tertiary) (KICD,2017)
Image Source: KICD

Looking at it from a pedagogical perspective, CBC offers hope for the Kenyan child. It is learner-centred and offers 21st-century Skills. The focus is on competencies, thus offers an opportunity for interdisciplinary connections into the different learning areas and finally. The assessments(summative and formatives) are varied based on the student’s learning outcomes and curricular activities. It is also important to note that this curriculum is still under implementation, so far, it has been implemented up to grade 4, and it continues to be implemented in phases till 2028.

Does the CBC offer skills for the 21st-century learner? 

And as you ponder on this question, I would like to leave you with a quote by Alvin Toffler, 

‘The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.'(Tracey,2016).


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