Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development learns from community service learning programme

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The Ministry of Education and the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) in partnership with technical advisor Educate! have over the weekend completed a Community Service Learning Programme across 65 secondary schools in 10 counties, with the aim of learning how best to develop the new learning area for the CBC curriculum at secondary level.

“The Community Service Learning we have been testing applies concepts students have learned in the classroom to real-life situations and enhances entrepreneurship, social awareness and responsibility,” said Dr Julius Jwan, Director and CEO at the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development.

The programme, follows global research into community service learning that has shown it delivers a rapid and significant change in students’ attitudes and skills.

According to a study of 1,500 US students published in the Michigan Journal of Community Learning, the learning area changes students’ personal values within just six months, significantly raising the chances of students entering careers that help others, and raising their levels of volunteering and community leadership.

It has also been shown to increase students’ belief in their ability to solve community problems and their sense of connection with the community.

“We have, furthermore, run the Kenyan program under the theme of ‘Igniting the High School Social Entrepreneur’ to equip students to create livelihoods while also solving local problems,” said Diana Mwai, Educate!’s Kenya Programme Director.

This emphasis reflects the KICD’s commitment to achieving a more relevant curriculum that will address the issue of high youth unemployment, which was running at 26.2 per cent in 2017, according to the United Nations Development Programme.

Educate!, which aims to impact 1 million students across Africa, has advised on curriculum reforms and run similar programmes in Rwanda and Uganda. These were found to nearly double the earning power of participants, increase the use of learner-centred teaching methods, and deliver a greater focus on community issues.

The programme, has already transformed the lives of Kenyan learners too, both through community engagement and through the entrepreneurial skills gained.

Kwirenyi Secondary School in Kakamega County wanted to improve community health, so it taught community members how to treat water and keep it safe for drinking, whilst also running a sensitisation campaigns on preventing malaria and cholera.

The programme has also taught learners how to connect the knowledge they are gaining from other learning areas to their entrepreneurial ventures. Students from Agoro Sare school from Homabay County applied what they learned in chemistry and biology to create a bio-gas business, using kitchen waste and cow dung from the school herd to create bio-gas fuel. The business intends to provide the school with a source of low-cost and sustainable fuel.

Likewise, students from Mbitini Girls Secondary School in Kitui County, started a rabbit project after learning about diabetes in class. The business aims to sell and promote the consumption of white meat in the community.

In addition to benefiting learners, a key goal of the programme is to produce research to be used by curriculum developers.

Professor of Teacher Education at Moi University, Dr. Charles Ong’ondo, has led the 18-month, qualitative research project, in collaboration with the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development and MOE.

The research team conducted three rounds of research, beginning with a needs assessment before the programme began. The research team is now in the process of collecting final data, which will lead to a summative research report. The research will be shared with national stakeholders at KICD’s curriculum conference in August and will inform how to best design this new learning area, as KICD prepares for the development of the secondary curriculum.

“Our aim is to deliver powerful skill sets that prepare students for individual success and to tackle youth unemployment,” said Diana, in targets that tie with Kenya’s Vision 2030, which places emphasis on the link between education and the labour market.

The results of the Community Service Learning programme have been exhibited by participating schools for assessment by the Ministry of Education (MOE), Teachers Service Commission (TSC) and Kenya National Examination Council (KNEC). The exhibitions were held on June 29th and 30th in Taita Taveta, Kitui, Garissa, Homabay and Kisii counties. Schools in Nairobi, Kakamega, Uasin Gichu, Kiambu and Embu counties held their exhibitions on Saturday July 6, closing the first phase of the Community Service Learning program.

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