BUHERE: Aligning curriculum to learners’ potential key to transformative education experience

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Kennedy Buhere, Communication Officer at Ministry of Education.

Nothing gets attention unless it is assessed. This statement was made by Uganda’s National Examinations Board Chief Executive Officer Dan Nokrach Odongo after watching a play and listening to four pep talks by leading sportspeople and education from a musician in Nairobi.

Odongo was among the over 100 delegates from Africa and around the world who attended the 39th conference of the Association for Educational Assessment in Africa (AEAA).

On the last day, he got a chance to watch a play by Riara Springs Academy titled The Eyes Have It.

Catharine Ndereva, a marathon runner, Douglas Wakiihuri, a long-distance runner, Douglas Wakiihuri, Ms. Susan Owiyo, Singer-songwriter, and Collins Injera, talked about the struggles they went through before reaching the pinnacle of their sporting and music careers.

The renditions got the admiration and applause of the assembled delegates, with one exclaiming: “How do you assess all these talents?”

Odongo’s statement talks about three issues: educational policy, curricula, standards and assessment.

First, the curriculum must reasonably be broad and balanced for all learners. It must also have depth and coherence. In education parlance, a broad and balanced curriculum teaches a wide range of subjects and topics without straining the child. It promotes a broad range of skills and allows children to discover and pursue their own particular interests and passions.

Such a curriculum caters to the learning needs of all students.  It also provides greater learning space and widens students’ knowledge base for all-round development.

A balanced curriculum is about combining the skills and knowledge, the technical with the non-technical, the academic with the creative and the stretch with the accessible.

The second policy issue is that the prescribed curriculum must be taught without equivocation.

The issue of removing subjects such as Physical Education or library lessons from the school timetable should not arise. Teachers or schools should also not skip teaching certain topics because they are not accessible.

The third policy states that the assessment process must be aligned, authentic and faithful to the curriculum objectives.  Assessment is part and parcel of a curriculum. It evaluates the effectiveness of the implementation of the curriculum. As much, care must go into its design as it goes into curriculum design.

The father of the modern New Zealand education system Dr. C.E Beeby observed in a speech at the Commonwealth Education Conference in Lagos, Nigeria that inappropriate methods of examination or instruction can ruin any curriculum.

Rigorous adherence to the objectives of the curriculum means that no subject or topic will suffer inattention. Teaching in the light of examinations tempts teachers to remove certain subjects from the timetable or skip certain topics or concepts in a subject.

Not teaching a subject or topic because it is not examinable or never examined is to undermine the all-round development of a child.

The conference theme: Educational assessment for nurturing every learner’s potential is consistent with Beeby’s vision that every child has potential.

However, whatever potential the child has should be identified and nurtured by a broad and balanced curriculum taught and learned as envisioned.

Too often, a curriculum covers a range of subjects and topics that can’t be assessed. The assessment identifies, as far as content is concerned, certain topics or concepts that are fairly representative.

Exposure to the gamut of curriculum content, properly taught, stretches the critical thinking, problem-solving and imaginative and creative powers of the learner.

Examinations that come at the end of a curriculum cycle should be able to assess how well teaching and learning has taken place first, before using the assessment results for other policy-making purposes.

George F. Madaus, an internationally renowned expert noted that “Testing programmes should be seen as an ancillary tool and nothing else.”

When closing the conference on behalf of the Cabinet Secretary for Education Hon. Ezekiel Machogu, the Principal Secretary for Basic Education Dr. Belio Kipsang’ said that African policymakers on education must think thoughtfully about how they assess talent.

By Kennedy Buhere

Buhere is a Communications Officer at the Ministry of Education.

buhere.kennedy@education.go.ke

 

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