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The confusion that has marred administration of the ongoing Grade Three assessments perfectly illustrates the disconnect between policymakers and implementers. Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha had declared that the assessments would be conducted throughout the term; that they were not examinations but a mechanism for monitoring whether or not learners going through the Competency-Based Curriculum had mastered the content and implementation was on course.

However, the reality on the ground is quite different. Schools and the teachers have interpreted the assessments as exams. And this is not surprising. The conventional orientation of teachers in our context is such that exams are an instrument for measuring performance, complete with competition metrics, and hence must be done in definitively strictly and tightly controlled environment.

Herein lie the learnings. First, teachers have not been properly trained and prepared on implementation of the new curriculum and, more so, its mode of assessment. On paper, the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) has conducted several refresher courses for teachers on executing the CBC. Clearly, the training made no impact; it may have been generic and not targeted for this system, hence off the mark. Conversely, the lesson is, the teachers’ refresher has to be re-evaluated to determine its efficacy.

Second, Education ministry has its work cut out for it. Whereas it has confidently declared that CBC was progressing smoothly, there are serious technical and professional challenges that have to be addressed now. CBC presents a diametrically different educational philosophy. It’s a departure from teacher-centred learning where the tutor dispenses knowledge, which has been the standard practice for generations, to a learner-centric education marked by exploration, experimentation, creativity and innovation. The resources deployed for this are unique.

The whole concept is new and even abstract. Few teachers and other curriculum implementers have understood it that way; thus, they are walking into a new territory that has totally different dynamics, but without the requisite preparation. It’s ill-advised to assume that basic preparations have been done for the curriculum; the experience out there presents a different scenario.

Any novel idea runs the risk of dying due to poor execution. The current 8-4-4 system was a novelty at inception, but faltered due to inappropriate execution. We must avoid that risk. Evidence from the assessment should inform Prof Magoha and his technocrats that the intention and the reality are at variance. Let them review the curriculum concept, teacher preparation, resource provisions and funding to avert a CBC disaster.