9.1 Preschool Curriculum: Can you explain the phenomenon of curriculum change?




In this chapter we are going to learn about curriculum change in Kenya. We shall start by learning what curriculum change is, and then look at the reasons for curriculum change. We shall also look at the factors that influence curriculum change.


9.1 Explain the curriculum change phenomenon

Meaning of Curriculum Change

What is curriculum change?  Whereas curriculum change is generally defined as the transformation of the curriculum scheme- for example its design, goals and content, we need to realize that with every curriculum change there needs to be clarifications about the parameters of the change. Educators need to be cautious in adopting curriculum change definitions that describe curriculum change as the entire transformation of the curriculum (Hooper, 1971).


Curriculum changes all over the world do not occur in isolation but depend on other factors within and outside the education sector of the economy. Stakeholder politics in education determine the general direction and quality of any system of education. As stated by Apple (2001) stakeholder politics pose a great challenge to the various stakeholders, in mooting ways of being accommodated to participate in policy construction.


Resistance to curriculum change is not a new phenomenon. According to Hooper (1971) such resistance to curriculum change comes about as a result of people’s misconceptions about change. Many education stakeholders do not understand the concept of curriculum change, its process and values. The curriculum change managers who are supposed to sensitize and guide them into realization of success have also failed to create systems that support curriculum change.


Curriculum change can occur at three levels-minor, medium and major. Minor changes may comprise of re-arrangement of the sequence of the subject content or learning activities or just the addition of one topic or method to the instructional program. Medium changes may include an innovation like integration of subjects, a new subject or a new approach to the existing subject. Major changes will affect many aspects of the curriculum, for example content, methods approaches, materials; subtracting or adding to what already exists. There could also be changes in the conceptual design and organization calling for new planning (Shiundu & Omulando, 1992).


Reasons for Curriculum Change

There will never be perfect curriculum for all ages. The environment keeps on changing and this creates new needs in the society, the curriculum has to change continuously to address these needs. Since the school is a social system serving the society, changes in the society will definitely provoke changes in the school curriculum. Consequently, changes in the community, its population, and professional staff need to be reflected in the related changes in the school curriculum as they directly alter the learner’s needs, interests and attitudes. Therefore, the main aim of curriculum change is to improve learning (Bondi. &Wiles, 1998).


In addition, educational change is among the variety of social changes. In itself, it is a function of change in the society. This contends with the view of education as an agent for social change. In this case curriculum change is necessary for broader changes in the society.


Resistance to Curriculum Change

When curriculum authorities and bureaucrats attempt to introduce curriculum change in schools, educational stakeholders respond by opposing the new changes because of the following reasons.

  • There are cases when changes are introduced in fashions that breed in rivalry among teachers, for instance when change brings about promotion to some while undermining the roles of others.
  • Other times change interferes with the school routine and causes additional burden to teachers and administrators.
  • Whenever the opinions of influential or outspoken individuals such as the politicians and government educational appointees are ignored, there would be massive protests against change. Even though these individuals lack curriculum expertise, they possess the political will and the contextual support that determines vital factors in implementation such as funding and consent for new programs (Gruba, Alistar, Harald  & Justin , 2004)
  • Another factor that may contribute to resistance to curriculum change is lack of involvement of the community, especially parents, in the initial plans for change. Research has revealed that successful curriculum change is only possible if the community members are actively involved (Montero-Sieburth, 1992).
  • According to Zais (1976) people normally resist change because of fear of failure. Comfort with familiar routines and psychological glue to rigid and overbearing systems creates discomfort with the suggested changes. Given that curriculum change has implications on social values, and values take along process to change, curriculum change come gradually with more pressure for the change.


Certain requirements have to be met to win the support of educational stakeholders. They include:


a) Gaining Teachers’ Support

Fulfilling teacher’s needs is one way to getting their support for curriculum reform. In the event of change teachers have a crucial need for recognition and affirmation – affirming peoples’ importance to the future of an enterprise does not only affirm them, but it also affirms the enterprise itself. Secondly, recognizing their need for support, collegial interaction, intellectual variety and success in the proposed changes will make a positive difference in their attitudes (Schlechty & Bob, 1991). Further support can be achieved by recognizing and addressing various stages and expressions of teachers’ concerns. This will range from creating awareness, giving information, clarifying teacher involvement in terms of resources he may need, who he may need to work with, how his ideas may be in cooperated and the expected out come .


Enthusiasm will be guaranteed when teachers are actively involved in the change process, and feel assured that their suggestions and views will be taken seriously. In addition, collegiality assurance is vital for teachers as change initiators. They need to be assured that by working together, routine matters will be managed while they are busy with the change process. It is also important to upgrade teacher’s competences and employ additional staff to share the burden that may be brought about by additional programs, methodologies and enrollment. Curriculum supervisors need to be aware that the use of “Seasonal” or adjunct staff and ill prepared teachers is inadequate to bring about expected curriculum changes.


According to Cheng (1994) the curriculum manager needs to approach teachers in the following ways to ensure their cooperation in the change process;

  • Provide important human resources in terms of participating time, experience, knowledge and skills for better planning and implementation of curriculum change.
  • Produce high quality decisions and plans of change by invoking different perspectives and expertise.
  • Promote greater responsibility, accountability, commitments and support to implementation and results of curriculum change.
  • Develop meanings and culture which contributes to team spirit and organizational integration in the school.
  • Provide opportunities for individuals and groups to enrich their professional experience and pursue professional development.
  • Provide more information and greater opportunities to overcome technical and psychological resistances and change ineffective practices at different levels.


Accepting curriculum changes without much resistance also requires that teachers be allowed to operate in an atmosphere of academic freedom. An environment where they can grow, gain stimulation and exploration into new horizons. It is the responsibility of the curriculum manager to create and maintain such an environment that can stir up and accommodate curriculum change (Holmes, 1977).


b) Getting the Support of other Education Stake Holders

Once the teachers are on board, other educational stakeholders also need to be persuaded to accept the intended change. It is crucial to gain support of parents, union leaders, business and political leaders who influence curriculum school policies and actions. The values and needs of these outside groups may not be easy to identify and satisfy, but attempts must be made to maximize their satisfaction. As much as their needs vary from each other, it is essential that educators learn to listen and hear what each one of them is saying (Shiundu & Omulando, 1992). For instance, parents should be listened to and answered – as they ask about how their children will benefit from the proposed curriculum change. Business leaders, political activists, and other community members may want to be convinced that the new curriculum will provide opportunities for learners to learn what is socially and culturally valued. Like parents, these groups simply want to be sure that the schools will continue to perform as they want them to perform.


c) The Learner’s Support

In this process it is not wise to ignore learners; they are the direct recipients of curriculum change.  Success in curriculum change depends largely on the extent to which they have accepted to embrace the change. The first step in formulating goals and content for the new curriculum is in establishing learners’ current needs, concerns, interests and attitudes in relation to the intended change.


If the change address all these, then it is likely for them to accept it. If not alterations must be made, for no child will ever be willing to learn things which are not interesting and none of their concern. In reference to the American learners today, Kauchak & Eggen (2009) recommends curriculum change that will address changes in the learners; with regard to sexuality, drug abuse, obesity, crime and violence, and drop out.


Consequently, curriculum change needs to address the most current needs and concerns of the society as expressed in its values, norms and aspirations. Otherwise it (curriculum change) will be like a wave which lashes incessantly at a rock (traditions) without any success. As noted by Rotberg (2004), a nation or society’s priorities are typically reflected in its education system. As a result when a society experiences major social shifts- political, demographic, or economic, attention is on educational reforms to address the changes. In the event that the proposed educational reforms are not matched with the changing social context, it will be resisted.



Curriculum change will always meet resistance, but this can be reduced if curriculum managers understand the nature of resistance and its triggers. In most cases these triggers can be avoided if the managers create systems that embrace change.



Factors That Influence Curriculum Change in Kenya

1) Political Influence

According to Omondi (2009) politics influences all aspects of human life as it involves power and how resources are utilized. It has to do with leadership and decision-making. When there is a change of government, politics also do change. A political party in power influence the kind of education offered in a country. For example, National Rainbow Coalition party (NARC) on ascension to power in 2003, reviewed the education system and introduced free primary education. Through political activism many civil societies and religious organisations exert pressure for curriculum change. A good example is the reduction of examinable subjects because of pressure the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT). The president may also use his or her political office to issue directives or decrees that may influence curriculum change and the education system. Judiciary may also influence curriculum change by its interpretation of sections of the Education Act. For example, the use of corporal punishment in schools to aid curriculum delivery, for example, has been declared a violation of children’s rights.


2) Government Policies

A government may come up with their plans and strategies of addressing educational, social and economic issues. These plans and strategies are called policies. These policies influence educational goals and objectives, organisation of curriculum content, Instructional strategies, evaluation criteria and overall educational system. The government policies in Kenya that have influenced curriculum change began at the beginning of the 20th century. These policies are:


i) The J. Nelson Frazer (1909) Report

A leading educationist, J. Nelson Frazer was invited from India by the colonial government to study the education system of Kenya in 1908. His recommendations changed the curriculum by identifying three different types of education to be studied by the three races in Kenya at the time. These were Europeans, Asians and Africans. European and Asian children were to get an academic type of education while African children were to receive an industrial and agricultural type of education so as to provide cheap labour in the farms.  


ii) First official policy on education for the Africans

Education policy in British Tropical Africa (1925), recommended African education to be adapted to the needs of the local community while considering the best aspects of society that prepares the individual for the changing world. The policy emphasised the provision of technical and vocational training for Africans.


iii) The Language Policy

In 1976, The National Committee on Education Objectives and Policy (NCEOP) popularly known as the Gachathi Report led to the formulation of the language policy in Kenya. This policy influenced the language of instruction in the first three years of primary education or lower primary. It recommended that children be taught using the language of the catchments area. English was introduced as a subject for Primary. This is also extended to ECDE curriculum implementation.


iv) The Presidential Working Party on the Second University in Kenya (McKay Commission) of 1982

McKay Commission’s recommendations changed the education system from 7-4-2-3 to 8-4-4. This also saw new subjects such as Art and Craft, Music, Business Education, Agriculture and Home Science being introduced in the education curriculum.


v) Sessional Papers No. 6 of 988 and No.l of 2005

After the Kamunge Report of 1988, the Sessional Paper No. 6 of 1988 reviewed primary education curriculum and reduced the subjects’ content.  This led to less emphasis being put on vocational subjects for they were made non-examinable. The government through Sessional Paper No. 6 of 1988 and Sessional Paper No. 1 of 2005 made major strides towards the development and promotion of early childhood development and education curriculum in Kenya.


  1. Economic Influence

Economics entails production, distribution and consumption of goods and services. These processes in economics lead to the development of any country. An effective curriculum at any level should equip learners with knowledge, skills, values and attitudes that help them to participate efficiently in the development of the country. Any curriculum that does not lead to the acquisition of these skills, should be revised. For an economic growth, various human resources are required. These include teachers, accountants, economists and entrepreneurs. The curriculum offered in a country should aid in the development of these skills.  Curriculum development and implementation requires massive economic resources like finances, human resources and curriculum support materials. The cost of curriculum development and implementation should be sustained by the country’s economic status. If the curriculum is too expensive to be developed and implemented, then it must be revised. A country should ensure that reference materials and curriculum support materials are affordable to parents.


  1. Technological Influence

A good curriculum is the one that produce learners with the necessary technological know-how, skills, values and attitudes for a country’s industrial and economic development. A curriculum does not live up to the expectations of the country’s technological development, and then it needs to be revised. In Kenya, a curriculum must help in realization of vision 2030.  


  1. Social Influence

A curriculum should address the social concerns of the society. A curriculum should make members useful and productive members of a society.  A curriculum should incorporate the culture so that children get opportunity’s to be aware of and appreciate their culture. It should help children to identify the good or bad aspects of culture. For example, the good aspects that they should learn from the culture include the value of respect, caring for others, co-operation, sharing, love, patience and hard work should be encouraged. Culture is dynamic and therefore, the curriculum should change with time. The curriculum should deal with the social problems facing the society. These include HIV/AIDS, drug abuse, elections, tribalism and good neighbourliness.





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