Changes are in the works within Kenya’s education system. As part of those changes, we are excited to announce the addition of junior high schools on our KCE I and II campuses! Here’s a breakdown of the Kenyan government’s new system and what it means for our schools.
In response to substandard learning outcomes across the country, the Kenyan government announced a new national curriculum in 2017: the Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC). As the name implies, the CBC emphasizes self-learning and the development of practical skills, reforming the existing system’s over-reliance on standardized testing and short-term memorization. This new approach aims to better equip students with the core competencies and marketable skills to succeed in the global market.
To this end, the CBC also changed school structures themselves, which were considered rigid and unresponsive to student needs. Under the old system (referred to as 8-4-4), students spent eight years in primary school (first through eighth grade), four years in secondary/high school (ninth through 12th grade), and a minimum of four years in university. This system was initially implemented in 1985 and was the basic model our own schools followed in years past.
In contrast, the new CBC model (referred to as 2-6-3-3-3) consists of two years in pre-primary (preschool and kindergarten), six years in primary (first through sixth grade), three years in junior high (seventh through ninth grade), three years in secondary/high school (10th through 12th grade), and a minimum of three years in university. So essentially, the CBC creates junior high schools.
Per government orders earlier this year, we added two junior highs to our own campuses — one housed at KCE I and one at KCE II. Despite this new addition, the physical landscape of our schools will remain relatively unchanged. While our junior highs operate independently, with separate administrations and head teachers, they share campus facilities with our existing schools (such as our science lab at KCE II, pictured below).
The Kenyan government has been introducing the CBC structure gradually, to just one grade level per year. They began with first grade in 2017 and are now up to seventh, so currently, our junior highs only house seventh graders —41 at KCE I and 20 at KCE II. We will enroll the inaugural eighth-grade classes at the beginning of the 2024 academic year next January, and the ninth-grade classes will be added in January of 2025. If all goes to plan, the old 8-4-4 education system will be fully phased out by 2028.
The new junior high curriculum consists of twelve core subjects that target holistic learning, skills development, and career specialization. They range from English, math, and science to business studies, agriculture, and life skills. Students also have the flexibility to pursue one to two optional subjects, which include computer science, visual/performing arts, and Kenyan Sign Language, among many more. The CBC changes will continue in high school, where students will be able to concentrate on one of three academic tracks: arts and sports science, social sciences, or science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). At every step along the way, classroom instruction will prioritize student-centered learning and skill-based outcomes.
Unfortunately, the CBC rollout has faced significant setbacks and challenges since it was introduced in 2017 — first the COVID-19 pandemic, then the election of a new government, and most recently, the teacher shortages and a lack of funding for CBC-aligned classroom materials. This scarcity remains pressing, especially for rural schools like ours that serve low-income families, since many of the CBC’s craft-based homework assignments require costly equipment (like cell phones, printers, and cardboard) to complete.
Despite these obstacles, our junior highs are fully operational and running smoothly, and we are optimistic about the academic and career opportunities that the CBC will provide for our students. For example, check out how the CBC is equipping KCE II students to fight climate change through adaptive agriculture — and stay tuned for more updates!