Third Eye

Rushing curriculum disadvantages slow learners

Tuesday, August 17th, 2021 00:00 |
Pupils in class. Photo/File

The good teacher makes the poor student good and the good student superior – Marva Collins

A distinguishing feature about the education system anywhere in the world, is that it takes great care of the learning needs and expectations of all categories of students.

In adherence to this principle, the Ministry of Education has prescribed a curriculum appreciative of the differences in students’ ability and motivation to learn. More importantly, it has specified learning or class hours.

Learning hours refers to the hours of teaching and supervised assessment learners need to receive in order to pass the qualification. 

Section 84 of the Basic Education Regulations specifies the activities learners should be engaged in between 7.15am and 4.45pm from Monday to Friday.

The section stipulates Class Hours as between 8.00am and 3.30pm. This is the official instructional or teaching time.

Authorities in the education sector have agreed that the total hours spent teaching students is four hours in secondary schools, daily and a maximum of 20 hours weekly. Teaching hours in primary school are less.

There should be no active teaching of students whatsoever before 8am and after 3.30pm.

There is logic behind this requirement. Firstly, students have varied intellectual abilities.

They also join primary or secondary schools with varying depth and breadth of knowledge, skills, attitudes and motivations and readiness to learn. 

The school has the moral and professional responsibility to create equal opportunities for learning for all students. This begins with adherence to the stipulated school hours.

Teaching outside the stipulated time means that schools teach more material in the curriculum than is prescribed by the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) and approved by the ministry.

What happens is that the curriculum units or materials that ought to be taught to students for four years—in the case of secondary education —is ‘finished’ six or so months before the stipulated time. 

The students who ostensibly gain from this unusual coverage of the curriculum are high ability students. Fast syllabus coverage disadvantages moderate and slow learners. 

Headlong coverage of the curriculum units means students—regardless of ability and readiness—spend less time on nearly all units than stipulated by KICD and quality assurance and standards requirements. 

They cannot remember curriculum units they learned much earlier to be able to use them to answer questions in a national examination.

It is a nightmare for the students particularly when the questions need application of the knowledge imperfectly understood not because it was difficult, but because they were rushed through the content. 

All students moving through the course materials more slowly and as envisioned by the ministry acquire or develop deep knowledge, skills, attitudes and values that is inherently embedded in the content covered.

The concepts are retained in a long-term memory for retrieval. Information that is not moved along from short-term memory to long-term memory will be forgotten.

Slow-paced coverage of the syllabus actually gives the high ability students time to enrich their learning experiences.

They do this through taking up more challenging programmes like reading challenging books, writing, art, drama honing or other creative skills. 

The truth is that the students who need the teacher most are the moderate and slow learners.

Caring administrators organise school programmes with the needs of moderate and slow learners in mind. 

The 19th Century Great Secretary for Education in Massachusetts, Horace Mann, the architect of compulsory education said that education is “a great equalizer of conditions of men—the balance wheel of the social machinery.” 

The great equalizer principle of education doesn’t end at getting children into school but also organises the teaching and learning environment in such a manner that takes care of the different abilities and needs of all categories of learners. — The writer is the Communications Officer, Ministry of Education

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