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Curriculum woes worry private school managers

Winstone Chiseremi and Reuben Mwambingu @PeopleDailyKe

Private schools are grappling with a myriad of challenges as the Ministry of Education rolls out the new education curriculum to replace the 8-4-4 system.

Managers of private academies say they are not sure whether they should be implementing the new system now or just piloting it for implementation later. “How can the whole county be piloting a new programme? asks the Kenya Private Schools Association (KPSA) national secretary, Charles Ochome.

He says as stakeholders, they have asked the Education ministry what lessons were learnt from the pilot project last year and what changes are going to be made before the projecty is rolled out. “We are still waiting for answers,” he says. Key among the challenges is lack of textbooks.

According to the association’s Uasin Gishu county vice chairperson, John Wakaro, there is confusion over which publisher has been mandated to publish books under the new system. He wants the ministry to name the approved publishers to avoid more uncertainty on the implementation of the new system.

“There are too many publishers. We do not know whom the government has given the green light to ensure we access the text- books for the new syllabus,” he said.

Wakaro, who is also the proprietor of Silver Bells Academy situated at Matunda Shopping centre along the Eldoret-Kitale road, also complained of lack of funds by private schools to sponsor their teachers for training and workshops on the new curriculum sponsored by the State.

He said that they are supposed to sponsor four teachers in single stream set to handle grade one, two and three. Wakaro said that unlike teachers in public schools whose transport, meals and out-of-pocket expenses are catered for by the ministry, their counterparts in private schools do not enjoy similar treatment, yet both are expected to ensure the successful implementation of the new system.

“We are contemplating hiking school fees in order meet some of the issues related to implementation of the new syllabus if the government expects us to be at par with public schools,” said Wakaro.

He said teachers in rural private schools are the worst hit due to lack of funds to enable them attend training programmes. “Some of these schools have low enrolment of pupils and school managers cannot afford to sponsor their tutors to attend workshops and training to handle the new system of education,” he said.

Woes over the new curriculum and the unresolved question of the core textbooks dominated the KPSA 21st member’s Annual Conference and AGM at a hotel in Mombasa earlier this month.

Most members said they are confused since the State is yet to provide a standardised framework for assessment for the new programme.

The association’s chairperson, Mutheu Kasanga said realising the dream of the new curriculum might remain a pipe dream since teachers training colleges are still teaching fresh teachers using the 8-4-4 format.

“The fact that trainee teachers who joined teachers training colleges last September are still being trained to teach 8-4-4 syllabus demonstrates laxity.

There is no point for anyone now graduating if you are not going to be a competency-based teacher… we are wasting national resources and time,” she said.

Kasanga said both the old and the new syllabuses are being used, with since institutions which were picked for the pilot project are currently running Grade Three while pupils under 8-4-4 system are in Standard Three. “We still have no framework for assessments.

Grade Three is slightly confusing since we have pilot schools running Grade Three and non-pilot schools running Standard Three,” the chair told journalists in Mombasa.

“There is a mixture of two curriculum in the same class… this is an issue that we want to bring to the attention of the Education Cabinet secretary. We are now in a limbo because next year, all Grade Three and Standard Three pupils will proceed to Grade Four,” she added.

Kasanga said private schools have challenges in accessing the core textbooks at same prices the government has procured the books for public schools, as per the President’s directive.

“If the teething problems are not immediately sorted out, they are likely to plunge the country’s education system into chaos,” she said.

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