The type of education a country will have is the next most important question a country must answer after sorting the number one important question of the type of government it will have. Thus, after a Constitution, the national curriculum is the next most important document in defining the direction the country wishes to take in a couple of generations. It is this significance that convinces me that the current political class, which is incapable of thinking beyond a five year election cycle cannot be entrusted with such a critical undertaking. These guys desecrate everything they touch, and having failed to implement the constitution, they now want to desecrate the curriculum. I will explain why the only thing that can come out of this process under the current regime is another disaster.
Like I have intimated, the national curriculum is the soul of a nation if we take the constitution as its head. What a nation will be, one or two generations from now, is determined by how the nation is educating its children today. A country thus needs a very clear sense of how it wants to look like fifty years from now in order to design a curriculum that will take it there. This vision must lead and guide the curriculum development, not the other way round. Curriculum is a means to an end. You must know what the end is and this end must be typically intergenerational, not a five year election cycle. Curriculum review on a national scale and of the magnitude being proposed thus requires a political leadership with a deep sense of vision and an intergenerational blueprint of where they want the country to be in several generations.
I remember when we were in undergraduate, an education professor from Japan came to give a public lecture on matters curriculum. During question time, someone asked him what he thought about the 8-4-4 system, then a new system with the first University cohort having just joined the University. The professor said that you cannot evaluate the success or failure of an education system before the system has run for at least 50 years, at best, 100. Being an all knowing twenty something year old ‘scholar’ then, I thought that the guy had no better answer and had decided to avoid the question by giving impossible timelines. When you are 21, 50 years is a lot of time let alone 100. After twenty something years of life, many many books later and a modicum of humility, I now know that the professor was right.
The major question we need to ask ourselves is this: Can a political class incapable of seeing beyond a single election cycle be entrusted with a national exercise whose repercussions will directly affect several generations and determine the national character of our nation for decades to come? I have been clear what the problem of our country today is; a political class mired in ethnicity, impunity and mediocrity. Should such a political class be entrusted with such an undertaking?
Curriculum reform demands a very sober discussion that must be founded on a firm long term vision for the country, across generations. How can people incapable of thinking beyond a five year election cycle be entrusted with such a far-reaching and sacred task, affecting who our yet unborn children, are going to become?
This same regime changed the curriculum just about thirty years ago. That we are changing it again after less than 30 years tells you that they didn’t have a long term vision then, neither do they have one now. The current political class from its inception in 1963 is not known to think beyond their immediate interests to hold onto power, look busy and to loot the government coffers.
The current Jubilee administration has no development blueprint beyond 2017. In fact, their so-called manifesto goes up to 2017. When you read it, you realize that curriculum review is not even in it. It means that this is a discussion they collected from somewhere, jumped into it for whatever political mileage they manipulatively think they can get from it, and now they want a new curriculum by 2017, the farthest they can think. The only other claim they have to longevity of planning is the equally amorphous Vision 2030 document, which again is a blueprint they found and haven’t found any need to interrogate it, presumably because 2030 is ‘far’ and they don’t think that far. You do not change a curriculum to meet short term goals and anything less than a generation is a troublingly short time in the life of a country. A curriculum should serve generations, and without an intergenerational development agenda, any attempt to change a national curriculum is at best blind!
The best indicator so far that this curriculum review business by jubilee is an adhoc and haphazard undertaking is the way it collides with their flagship laptops project. This they had promised. They have been telling us that they are developing digital content and training teachers in order to roll out the program starting mid-this year. It means therefore that they are preparing digital content and training teachers based on the current 8-4-4 syllabus, the same one they want to change next year? Does this make sense? Why spend billions of shillings to develop content and train teachers in a syllabus you are going to render redundant six months later? If there was coordination and aforethought on this matter, it would make more sense financially, operationally and educationally to first review the curriculum, then develop digital content for the new curriculum, then develop an ongoing teacher re-training program to roll out the new curriculum under the new digital program. The rolling out of the new curriculum would be boosted by the new digital content and retrained teachers. By all principles of prudent project management, if they must review the curriculum, then digitizing and training should come AFTER and not before. Otherwise we are looking at billions of shillings going down the drain since once the curriculum is reviewed, new digital content and a new training program must be done, hardly a year after the current one. But they cannot do this because the current digital project is motivated more by political mileage than educational practice and in jubilee’s world, it must be delivered in the five-year election cycle. Jubilee does not want to do what makes educational and financial sense, it want to do what is politically expedient.
Additionally, jubilee’s intransigence and incompetence has created such a polarized political atmosphere that there can be no consensus on such a matter of national and generational importance. While jubilee has been incompetent, CORD has been equally clueless and chaotic and has hardly offered any sensible alternative to jubilee’s amateur-act. They have proved to be hapless noise-makers and whistle blowers with hardly any viable alternatives. As their jubilee counterparts have said, they have turned opposition into a sport. Had CORD provided superior intellectual engagement, then there would be hope that the process of reviewing the curriculum would have a modicum of respectability. Now, all we have are two hopelessly ethnicized and mediocre political outfits shouting at each other, over a thoroughly disgusted, disillusioned and increasingly angry public. This is not the context in which we should be talking about changing one of the most important processes that will affect yet unborn generations.
They will tell you that they are working with ‘’experts” to overhaul the curriculum. Jubilee and CORD have shown that they will never lack a group of intellectual sycophants willing to pimp their services to the political elite in exchange for money. These are mercenaries, guns for hire who do not have qualms offering quasi-intellectual services to their paymasters. You do not have to look far to find some pseudo-intellectuals ready to say whatever their tribal warlords want said and sanitize it with a veneer of intellectualism. Jubilee has learnt well from Moi. My reader will recall the KANU professors of the 80s and 90s who penned nauseating intellectual rubbish in support of the KANU dictatorship. Some were even willing to re-interpret history for the benefit of their masters. Therefore any talk of “experts” should not gag objective evaluation of what the ruling class want to do with our curriculum. In any case there is no expert worth his salt who will advise a government to overhaul and implement a new curriculum within a year. Curriculum review is a very long and arduous process. Review, implementation and institutionalization into curriculum practice are a huge undertaking that would take a considerable amount of time if there is genuine intellectual engagement to make sure we do not end up with another fiasco. A curriculum is not reviewed in a conference by idle political hirelings called ”experts” sitting in Nairobi at the behest of a clueless and cantankerous political class.
Consequently, any attempt by the current political class to change the curriculum is as futile as many of their programs so far and it should be vigorously resisted. They do not have the intellectual, moral or political resources to undertake such a task. This is another disaster in the making which will affect our children and our children’s children for decades to come.
While there is need to update our curriculum, we lack the visionary leadership required to guide such a process and the country is so polarized for us to come up with a curriculum that addresses our present and future challenges. Jubilee must not change the curriculum, if it does, it will be the sole duty of the next administration to stop any curriculum changes proposed and implemented by jubilee. And yes, there will be a new administration in 2017.