The concept of Competency Based Education is not new in the world of education but a real discovery at Kaanan and a real eyes opener on opportunities available in enhancing learner competency for youths living under extremely difficult circumstances. The need became real in 2015 through exposure to neighboring primary schools who practiced alternative primary (Non-formal) education. Kaanan was invited to venture into competency based secondary education to provide alternative secondary education to learners who are challenged economically (Living in extreme poverty), academically (Weak in performance due to home challenges) and socially (Mainly orphans). Kaanan also wanted to fill the existing gap for competency based schooling in Kenya where school dropout is very common in secondary schools. Kaanan would then serve as a centre of excellence in competency based education to be emulated by other institutions that may wish to introduce this alternative form of education. Further motivation for this programme came with a visit to Sweden where a refined form of the competency based secondary education is practiced in a number of schools. There competency based (Alternative) curriculum is a live, robust, flexible, skill based, innovative and very responsive to the needs of the learner. This confirmed to the Kaanan fraternity the need to respond to and give the young learners a chance. Especially because this response clearly resonates with the need of many young people in Kenya who drop out of school because of a competitive, unresponsive and seemingly non-accommodative education system that caters only for high academic achieving learners. The Kenyan education systems assumes all other intelligences in learners concentrating only on cognitive intelligence as if the world of children in Kenya houses only high achievers and condemns all the other children to a life of hopelessness. It was out of these reflections that the concept of Competency Based (Alternative) Secondary Education was born at Kaanan to give hope to the young Kenyans with low cognitive achievement but extremely talented in other intelligences.
Government Policy on Alternative Education
Alternative Education Policy was developed in Kenya in 2009 with the help of international partners like UNICEF, ILO-IPEC, USAID, and DFID. This was seen as a way of providing guidelines to enable all legible learners to access quality education. At the same time this was an effort to supplement government efforts through free primary and free secondary (FPE/FSE) in its bid to meet the universal primary education and education for all (UPE and EFA) declarations by the UN in order to respond to the millennium development (MDG) goals. This move is supported by national policy documents such as Children’s Act (2001), Persons with Disability Act (2003), Sessional Paper No.1 of 2005, the Adult Education Act, and most recently, Policy for Alternative Basic Education and Training (APBET) of 2009, the Economic Stimulus Programme (2012) and the Basic Education Act of 2013.The alternative secondary education curriculum in Kenya subscribes to the principles of access, equity, inclusion, and quality for all secondary age going children made vulnerable through HIV/AIDS pandemic, extreme household poverty, early pregnancy, non-functional families and many other calamities. Kaanan is therefore being strategic in its bid to bridge the gap between policy and practice in Kenya’s secondary education provision.
Alternative Education as a Practice
The main aim of the Competency Based (Alternative) Secondary education at Kaanan is to offer a flexible and responsive education to vulnerable learners who are out of school due to learning disabilities, extreme poverty, impact of HIV/AIDS pandemic, and non-functional families. Secondly, it aims at matching skills and labor market needs to the school curriculum thus birthing a wholesome youth in terms of knowledge, skill and value system. Thirdly, it would be an attempt to pilot a quality driven yet flexible education that could be replicated in other secondary schools or used as a model for change in the wider Kenyan secondary school curriculum reform. It should be remembered that alternative education is an integral part of a lifelong learning concept that ensures that young people and adults acquire and maintain the skills, abilities and dispositions needed to adapt to a continuously changing world educational experience and environment. It can be acquired on personal initiative or through different learning activities taking place outside the formal educational system. Important non-formal education initiatives are carried out by non-governmental organizations involved with community and youth work and Kaanan self-help group is one such community based organization determined to bring change for youths in a community riddled with school drop outs.
The Practice at Kaanan
The alternative secondary school at Kaanan will be competency (skill) based to impart in secondary school learners with skills such as carpentry, practical agriculture, masonry, home economics, information communication technologies, music and drama, art, tailoring, and electrical and wiring skills. The school will put learners on a tropical timetable that allows them to complete the regular secondary curriculum by 1330 hours. The afternoon session starting from 1430 and ending at 1630 hours will be available for skills training for each learner in one competency (skill) area of interest. This will be done in partnership with a government training institute in the neighborhood that already has all the required machines at an affordable cost i.e. Kisumu Industrial Training Centre (KITC). This session will be open to all out of school youths that have expressed interest in a specific field to join the secondary school learners during their skill development sessions. The learners would then be ready to take the basic and intermediate government trade test in year 2 and 3 of study. In year 4, every learner would be prepared to take the KCSE examination. This ensures all learners will complete the basic education cycle and on top of that leave the school with the basic and intermediate skill certificates.
Kaanan will involve learners in a double prong mentorship programme. The first group of mentors will target the learners’ social, emotional and spiritual issues that they contend with on a day to day basis. This will be a continuous programme in the four years of their education. The second group of mentors will target the relevant skills the learners are engaged in and will be undertaken during the school holidays. During the school holiday, each learner will be attached to a mentor who will offer exposure in the relevant skill area. This mentorship will helps them to acquire the needed practical experience at a work place environment, connecting industry to school.
Goals of Competency Based Secondary Education at Kaanan
Kaanan Education Centre have set the following as its aims:
- Maximize the opportunity for students to develop positive values of self-reliance, initiative, kindness, spontaneity, resourcefulness, courage, creativity, responsibility, and joy.
- Recognize that the best learning takes place when the student learns because of his or her desire to learn.
- Maintain a learning situation that encourages student motivation, time-management, and the ability to follow their own interests.
- Maximize the opportunity for teachers, parents, and students to cooperatively develop the learning process and its subject matter. This opportunity must be a continuous, permanent process.
- Maximize the opportunity for students, teachers, and parents to continuously react to the changing world, including, but not limited to, the community in which the school is located.
Support needed for Successful Implementation of the Alternative Secondary Education at Kaanan
Financial and material assistance for the successful implementation of the programme needed include pay for teaching and non-teaching staff; providing a much needed feeding programme to the learners; equipping a modern library, that houses a computer lab; skill workrooms and laboratories for the learners. The main workrooms needed are mainly for the skills development, science laboratory, library, computer lab and a sports equipment. Assistance is also needed in remuneration of qualified instructors to assure quality of the instructional process. A budget for implementation of the competency based education at Kaanan is attached in the appendices. Before the budget can be realized, the management of Kaanan decided to approach other like-minded institutions that could help it realize its objectives. The most suitable partner was NITA’s Kisumu Industrial Training Institute as they had the requisite personnel, equipment and experience.
Sustainability of the Project
After the initial investment to improve teaching and learning resources and the environment, it will be possible to run a self-sustaining programme. The sustainability will be attained in three main ways:
i. Kaanan intends to admit full fee paying students to support its activities. The classroom structure is large enough to hold up to 50 students per class. In every class, 20 places will be reserved for supported learners while 30 will be given to fee paying learners.
ii. The skills programmes is expected to attract out of school youths who are looking for practical career options. The target are youths who are already engaged in the informal employment sector and need to be trained in specific skill areas already existing in the school. These youths will pay fee which will be made affordable to take advantage of economies of scale.
iii. The college has started a farm in its premises to grow grains, fruits and vegetables needed for the feeding programme. This can be improved to a self-sustaining level and will greatly reduce the feeding programme costs.