The CBC Education System in Kenya

CBC Curriculum in Kenya

The Competency Based Curriculum (CBC) is a new education system that was started in 2017 in Kenya. The new curriculum marked an end to the 8-4-4 system which has been in place since 1984. UNESCO defines a Competency Based Curriculum as a curriculum that “emphasizes what learners are expected to do rather than mainly focusing on what they are expected to know.” It gives learners the ability to exercise what they learn in real life situations, and is learner-centred rather than being teacher-centred. The Competency-based curriculum is also important because it enables the education system to respond to the changing needs of students, teachers, and the community. In Kenya, the CBC curriculum replaced the 8-4-4 curriculum. Subjects have been replaced with learning areas, while topics have changed to strands. Sub-topics are now known as sub-strands.

A Brief History of Education System in Kenya

The Kenya education system started out with 7-4-2-3 system, a formal education system introduced by the British Colonial rule in 1963. The education cycle comprised of:

  • 7 years in primary school
  • 4 years in lower secondary school
  • 2 years in upper secondary school
  • 3 years (minimum) in university education

Then it was replaced by 8-4-4 system in 1985. Which consisted of:

  • 8 years in primary school
  • 4 years in secondary school
  • 4 years (minimum) in university education

The new CBC education system was introduced in 2017 with a 2-6-3-3-3 system consisting of:

  • 2 years in pre-primary education
  • 6 years in primary education
  • 3 years in junior secondary education
  • 3 years in senior secondary education
  • 3 years (minimum) in university education

The CBC Education System

The Competency Based Curriculum (CBC) consist of 2-6-3-3-3 education cycle. Every learner shall transition through a minimum of 17 levels, every level as period of 1 year. The KICD has grouped them into 4 general categories:

  • Early Year Education (Pre-Primary & Lower Primary)
  • Middle School (Upper Primary & Lower Secondary)
  • Senior School (Upper Secondary)
  • Tertiary Education (TVET or University)

Early Year Education

This tests the mastery of basic skills such as motor, speech, writing, and reading skills. Pre-primary takes 2 years: Pre-Primary 1 (PP1) & Pre-Primary 2 (PP2). Learners must have at least 4 years to enroll for pre-primary 1, but younger learners can attend Day-Care or playgroup, which is not mandatory in the Kenyan education system.

Pre-Primary (PP1 & PP2) learning areas include:

  • Mathematics Activities
  • Language Activities
  • Environmental Activities
  • Psychomotor and Creative Activities
  • Religious Education Activities

Students who graduate from pre-primary 2 go to Lower Primary, which includes Grade 1, Grade 2, and Grade 3. In this level, students take the following subjects or learning areas:

  • English Language Activities
  • Kiswahili Language Activities
  • Mathematics Activities
  • Environment Activities
  • Art & Craft
  • Music
  • Hygiene & Nutrition Activities
  • Movement Activities
  • Christian Religious Education
  • Islamic Religious Education
  • Hindu Religious Education

Learners must choose between one of Christian Religious Education, Islamic Religious Education and Hindu Religious Education. Note that this may not be an option for some schools where the school itself imposes the study of only one Religious Education. In which case, the learner simple learns what the school offers. This total to nine (9) Learning Areas, a learner must study in Lower Primary.

In Grade 3, students sit for a national exam, now known as assessment, which combines with class-based assessments to determine if the student is ready to proceed to middle school.

Middle School

The middle school consists of Upper Primary and Lower Secondary.

The Upper Primary consists of: Grade 4, Grade 5, and Grade 6. Students take a national assessment from KNEC in Grade 6 to determine their readiness for the lower secondary school level. Students in upper primary take the following learning areas:

  1. Mathematics
  2. English
  3. Kiswahili
  4. Science and Technology
  5. Social Studies
  6. Home Science
  7. Art & Craft
  8. Agriculture
  9. Music
  10. Physical and Health Education
  11. Foreign Languages
  12. Religious Education

The Lower Secondary School level consists of Grades 7, 8, and 9. KNEC will also conduct a national assessment in Grade 9 before students can move to senior school. The learning areas for Lower Secondary are:

Core Subjects

Learners will be required to take the 12 core subjects provided.

  1. English
  2. Kiswahili or Kenyan Sign Language for learners who are deaf
  3. Mathematics
  4. Integrated Science
  5. Health Education
  6. Pre-Technical and Pre-Career Education
  7. Social Studies
  8. Religious Education – learners choose one of the following:
    1. Christian Religious Education
    2. Islamic Religious Education
    3. Hindu Religious Education
  1. Business Studies
  2. Agriculture
  3. Life Skills Education
  4. Sports and Physical Education

Optional Subjects

Learners are provided with an opportunity to choose a minimum of one and a maximum of two subjects according to personality, abilities, interests and career choices from the following:

  1. Visual Arts
  2. Performing Arts
  3. Home Science
  4. Computer Science
  5. Foreign Languages:
  6. German
  7. French
  8. Mandarin
  9. Arabic
  10. Kenyan Sign Language
  11. Indigenous Languages

Senior School (Upper Secondary)

The senior school takes another 3 years between Grade 10 and 12. At this stage, learners now start to specialize based on their career choices. Time taken here, will enable them to see where they fit in their career. The subjects taken in senior school (upper secondary) are:

Core Subjects

It is expected that the learner takes the two core subjects provided, irrespective of the pathway identified:

  • Community Service Learning
  • Physical Education

1) Arts and Sports Science Pathway

In both the Arts and Sports tracks, the learner will be expected to learn core subjects as well as choose options. Life skills in this learning pathway will be adapted to suit the specific issues in each learning area.

The Arts

Core subjects

  • Legal and Ethical issues in Arts
  • Communication Skills

Optional Subjects

The learner will be required to take one of the following subjects:  i. Performing Arts:

  • Music;
  • Dance;
  • Theatre and Elocution

Visual and Applied Arts

  • Fine Art;
  • Applied Art;
  • Time Based Media and
  • Crafts

Sports Science

Core subjects

  1. Human Physiology, Anatomy and Nutrition
  2. Sports Ethics

Optional Subjects

The learner shall choose a minimum of one and a maximum of two of the following subjects according to the learner’s personality, interests, ability and career choices:

  1. Ball Games;
  2. Athletics;
  3. Indoor Games;
  4. Gymnastics;
  5. Water Sports;
  6. Boxing;
  7. Martial Arts;
  8. Outdoor Pursuits;
  9. Advanced Physical Education

2) The Social Sciences Pathway

  1. Humanities
  2. History and Citizenship
  3. Geography
  4. Christian Religious Education
  5. Islamic Religious Education
  6. Hindu Religious Education
  7. Business Studies
  8. Mathematics
  9. Languages
    1. English Language
    2. Literature in English
    3. Lugha ya Kiswahili
    4. Fasihi ya Kiswahili
    5. Kenyan Sign Language
    6. Indigenous Languages
    7. Arabic
    8. French
    9. German
    10. Mandarin

3) The STEM Pathway – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)

a) Pure Sciences

Core subjects

  1. Community Service Learning
  2. Physical Education
  3. ICT


The learner will select minimum of three of the following subjects:

  1. Mathematics
  2. Physics
  3. Chemistry
  4. Biology

b) Applied Sciences

Core Subjects

  1. Community Service Learning
  2. Physical Education
  3. ICT


The learner shall in addition select one of the following subjects:

  1. Agriculture
  2. Computer Science
  3. Foods and Nutrition
  4. Home Management

c) Technical and Engineering

Core Subjects

  1. Community Service Learning
  2. Physical Education
  3. ICT
  4. Mathematics
  5. Physics/Physical Sciences
  6. Chemistry/Biology/Biological Sciences


The learner shall in addition select one of the following subjects:

  1. Agricultural Technology
  2. Geosciences Technology
  3. Marine and Fisheries Technology
  4. Aviation Technology
  5. Wood Technology
  6. Electrical Technology
  7. Metal Technology
  8. Power Mechanics
  9. Clothing Technology
  10. Construction Technology
  11. Media Technology
  12. Electronics Technology
  13. Manufacturing Technology
  14. Mechatronics

d) Career and Technology Studies (CTS)

Core Subjects

  1. Community Service Learning
  2. Physical Education
  3. ICT


The learner shall in addition select one of the following subjects:

  1. Garment Making and Interior Design
  2. Leather Work
  3. Culinary Arts
  4. Hair Dressing and Beauty Therapy
  5. Plumbing and Ceramics
  6. Welding and Fabrication
  7. Tourism and Travel
  8. Air Conditioning and Refrigeration
  9. Animal Keeping
  10. Exterior Design and Landscaping
  11. Building Construction
  12. Photography
  13. Graphic Designing and Animation
  14. Food and Beverage
  15. Motor Vehicle Mechanics
  16. Carpentry and Joinery
  17. Fire Fighting
  18. Metalwork
  19. Electricity
  20. Land Surveying
  21. Science Laboratory Technology
  22. Electronics
  23. Printing Technology
  24. Crop Production

Tertiary Education (TVET or University)

After Senior Secondary, the learner based on their career choices will either attend a Technical and Vocational Educational and Training (TVET) or University or can engage in entrepreneurial business.

If they choose tertiary education and training, they will undergo a minimum of 3 years. Some careers of course require longer time frames.

In the CBC curriculum, students will be tested using both formative and national (summative) examinations. Formative assessments are carried out in Grade 4, 5 and 6 (upper primary) ahead of the National Examination in Grade 6. Grade 6 students will sit for a national exam from KNEC known as the Kenya Primary School Education Assessment (KPSEA). This will cover 5 subjects, namely: English, Kiswahili, Mathematics, Integrated Science, and Creative Arts and Social Studies.

Class-based assessments are carried out to assess the student’s performance on regular basis. Students are not awarded marks, but performance is rather rated on four levels. This is known as CBC Assessment Rubric which is indicated as:

  1. E – Exceeds Expectations (80 – 100%)
  2. E – Meet Expectations (65 -79%)
  3. E – Approaching Expectation (50 -64%)
  4. E – Below Expectation (0 – 49%)

Teachers are expected to assess learners based on the highlighted aspects of grading. This takes up a 40% of the students academics which is summed up with School-Based Assessment. School-Based Assessment are a set of test developed by KNEC designed to gauge a student’s entry level to the next grade. They take up 60% of the student’s academics.

National Examinations are conducted in Grade 3, Grade 6, Grade 9, and Grade 12.

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