Understanding CBC New Kenya Education System

Understanding CBC New Kenya Education System

CBC stands for Competency-Based Curriculum. This is the new education system in Kenya that is currently set to replace the 8-4-4 education system.

The system was introduced in 2017. The CBC was researched and developed by KICD (Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development). This new curriculum is here to stay as it had been gradually introduced and is steadily replacing the 8-4-4 education cycle. At this point in time, 8 (of the 8-4-4 cycle) consisting of 8 years of primary education is being dismantled into a 6-year term. As such all and one need to get acquainted with this new system.

This article gives a definitive guide on the new Competency-Based Curriculum cycle that learners under its care will transition through to reach their careers. To learn more its features click on Competency-Based Curriculum Features. As such it is essential to learn where we are coming from, to where we have reached.

Kenya's Education System Cycle History
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 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

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)

What used to be called Subjects are now known as Learning Areas. Topics are known as Strands and Sub-topics called Sub-Strands.

Early Year Education (EYE)
This level bestows mastery of basic skills upon the learners. This group consists of 2 sub-categories:

  • Pre-Primary
  • Lower Primary

To find out more about the Learning Areas(Subjects) of this group, continue reading below.


This first entry takes a period of 2 years, a learner enters the education system at the minimum age 4 of years old. The first class is PP1 short for Pre-Primary 1 followed by PP2 (Pre-Primary 2). This is what used to be referred to as Nursery. Prior to this entry level, the Day-Care also exists. It takes 1 year but is not a requirement.

Lower Primary
After Pre-Primary, the learner enters the Grade level. This consist of:

  • Grade 1
  • Grade 2
  • Grade 3

In order to proceed to Middle School, the Kenya National Examination Council (KNEC) will have learners sit an exam or rather assessment, this together with a combination of class-based assessment shall determine if a learner is fit to proceed to the next level.

Middle School
A learner at this level is said to be in Middle School, this consist of:

  • Upper Primary
  • Lower Secondary

Upper Primary
Consist of 3

  • Grade 4
  • Grade 5
  • Grade 6 

At the end of Grade 6, KNEC will have them sit for an assessment, to determine the readiness for the Lower Secondary Level.

Lower Secondary
When learners has 3 levels, consisting of:

  • Grade 7
  • Grade 8
  • Grade 9

At the end of Grade 9, KNEC will have them sit for an assessment, to determine the readiness for the Senior School.

Senior School
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.
Careers are generally categorized into:

  • Arts & Sports Sciences
  • Social Sciences
  • STEM

Based on the category the learner has decided, the learner will transition in

  • Grade 10
  • Grade 11
  • Grade 12

After this, 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.

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

The academic structure of the new curriculum

The new structure has three levels namely: early years, middle school, and senior school.


This level takes two years – PP1 and PP2 each for a year. Each learner is expected to begin with it. The subjects to be taught include the following:
1. Language Activities
2. Mathematical Activities
3. Environmental Activities
4. Psycho-motor and Creative Activities
5. Religious Education Activities

Lower – Primary
After completion of Pre-Primary the learners will be promoted to Lower Primary which is comprised of Grade 1 to Grade 3, hence, minimum of three academic years will be spend. The subjects to taught include:
1. Literacy
2. Kiswahili Language Activities/Kenya Sign Language for deaf
3. English Language Activities
4. Indigenous Language Activities
5. Mathematical Activities
6. Environmental Activities
7. Hygiene and Nutrition Activities
8. Religious Education Activities
9. Movement and Creative Activities

Upper Primary
This include commonly known as Grade four, Grade five and Grade six. Hence will take a minimum of three academic years. The subjects includes:
1. English or Kenya Sign Language (for learners who are deaf)
2. Home Science
3. Agriculture
4. Science and Technology
5. Mathematics
6. Religious Education (CRE/IRE/HRE)
7. Creative Arts
8. Physical and Health Education
9. Social Studies and optional Foreign Languages (Arabic, French, German, Mandarin)

Lower – Secondary Education ( Junior school)
The next level after Upper Primary is Lower – Secondary. It comprises of Grade 7 to 9. Its is a lower category of secondary education (made up of Lower Secondary (Junior school) and Upper Secondary (Senior School)).

This level will expose the learner to a broad based curriculum to enable them to explore their own abilities,personality and potential as a basis for choosing subjects according to career paths of interest at the senior school. Learners will also undergo a rigorous career guidance programme and be exposed to the related subjects to enable
them to make informed choices as they transit to senior school. Subjects will be categorized core and optional groups.

Core group subjects
1. Kiswahili or Kenyan Sign Language for learners who are deaf
2. English
3. Mathematics
4. Integrated Science
5. Health Education
6. Pre-Technical and Pre-Career Education
7. Social Studies
8. Religious Education – which learners choose either Christian Religious Education/Islamic Religious Education/Hindu Religious Education
9. Business Studies
10. Agriculture
11. Life Skills Education
12. Sports and Physical Education

Optional subjects
In this group learners will choose a minimum of one and a maximum of two subjects according to personality, abilities, interests and career choices. The group includes:
1. Visual Arts
2. Performing Arts
3. Home Science
4. Computer Science
5. Foreign Languages (German, French, Mandarin, Arabic)
6. Indigenous Languages
7. Kenyan Sign Language

Upper – Secondary
Also referred as Senior School. This will mark the end of Basic Education. It will span a minimum of three academic years. The learner entering this level shall have had opportunities at lower secondary to explore their own potential, interests and personality and is therefore ready to begin specialization in a career path of choice. The specialization entails choosing to pursue studies in one of the three pathways available in senior school. He or she can choose the Arts and Sports Science, Social Sciences or Science Technical Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) pathway. Alongside a given pathway, it is expected that a learner takes the two core subjects provided, irrespective of the pathway.

Arts and Sports Science Pathway
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: Performing Arts( Music, Dance, Theatre and Elocution) and Visual and Applied Arts(Fine Art, Applied Art, Time Based Media, Crafts)

Sports Science
Core subjects: Human Physiology, Anatomy and Nutrition, 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: Ball Games, Athletics, Indoor Games, Gymnastics, Water Sport, Boxing, Martial Arts, Outdoor Pursuits, and Advanced Physical Education.

The Social Sciences Pathway
The learner is expected to choose a combination of subjects in line with their career choices. The learner will choose a minimum of three and a maximum of five subjects.

Humanities: History and Citizenship, Geography,Christian Religious Education/ Islamic Religious Education/Hindu Religious Education, Business Studies, and Mathematics

Languages: English Language, Literature in English, Lugha ya Kiswahili, Fasihi ya Kiswahili, Kenyan Sign Language,Indigenous, Languages, Arabic, French, German, and Mandarin.

Note: Business Studies can be taken along with languages.

The Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Pathway
The Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) pathway shall be offered in 60% of senior schools. It will therefore take 60% of the students entering senior school from lower secondary and it shall comprise four career tracks.

Pure Sciences
Core subjects: Community Service Learning, Physical Education, and ICT.

The learner will select a minimum of three of the following subjects: Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, and Biology.

Applied Sciences
Core Subjects: Community Service Learning, Physical Education, and ICT.

The learner shall in addition select one of the following subjects: Agriculture, Computer Science, Foods and Nutrition, and Home Management.

Technical and Engineering
Core Subjects: Community Service Learning, Physical Education, ICT, Mathematics, Physics/Physical Sciences, Chemistry/Biology/Biological Sciences

The learner shall in addition select one of the following subjects: Agricultural Technology, Geosciences Technology, Marine and Fisheries Technology, Aviation Technology, Wood Technology, Electrical Technology, Metal Technology, Power Mechanics, Clothing Technology, Construction Technology, Media Technology, Electronics Technology, Manufacturing Technology, and Mechatronics.

Career and Technology Studies (CTS)
Core Subjects: Community Service Learning, Physical Education, ICT

The learner shall in addition select one of the following subjects:
Garment Making and Interior Design, Leather Work, Culinary Arts, Hair Dressing and Beauty Therapy, Plumbing and Ceramics, Welding and Fabrication, Tourism and Travel, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Animal Keeping, Exterior Design and Landscaping, Building Construction, Photography, Graphic Designing and Animation, Food and Beverage, Motor Vehicle Mechanics, Carpentry and Joinery, Fire Fighting, Metalwork, Electricity, Land Surveying,science Laboratory Technology, Electronics, Printing Technology, and Crop Production.

Education for Learners with Special Educational Needs
Learners with special educational needs, like any other learner, have potential that needs to be nurtured. The special needs education curriculum model outlined below indicates curriculum provision for learners with special needs.Curriculum provisions for learners with special needs shall be in two (2) modalities.

Learners with Special Needs Who Follow the Regular Curriculum
The following learners may follow the same curriculum as learners without identified with special needs.
1. Visual Impairment
2. Hearing Impairment
3. Physical Handicap
4. Mild Cerebral Palsy
5. Learning Disabilities
6. Autism
7. Communication Disorder
8. Gifted and Talented
9. Emotional and Behavioral Difficulties

Learners with Special Needs Who May Not have their needs met from just following the Regular Curriculum
1. Mental Handicap
2. Deaf blindness
3. Severe Autism
4. Severe Cerebral Palsy
5. Multiple Handicaps
6. Profound Disabilities

Note: Digital literacy and pertinent and contemporary issues will be integrated across all Subjects in all levels

Sample Competency-Based Curriculum Scheme of Work

The new Competency Based Curriculum (CBC) Scheme of Work is structured according to the following categories: Week, Lesson, Strands, Sub-Strands, Specific Learning Outcomes, Key Inquiry Questions, Learning Experiences, Learning Resources, Assessment and Reflection. The following Table is a sample template for the CBC scheme of work currently being used in Kenya under the new 2-6-3-3-3 System of Education.












































































































































































In this system learners will not sit for exams but they will be evaluated through Continuous Assessment Tests (CATs) on the skills acquired as opposed to cramming for exams as has been the case. The 2-6-3-3-3 model places emphasis on formative years of learning where learners will spend a total of 17 years. At Grade 4, learners will be introduced to the optional subjects offered at upper primary so as to make informed choices at Grade 7. Junior Secondary (grades 7, 8 and 9) and Senior Secondary Education (grades 10,11 and 12) will each take three years. Learners at senior secondary (ages 15-17) will focus on three areas of specialization depending on their skills, talents and interests. Graduates from this level will have the option to join vocational training centres or pursue university education for three years.

The curriculum was piloted in 2017 between May and September across 470 schools, 10 in each county. Its actual implementation started in January, 2018. The implementation covered pre-school and Grade One, Two and Grade three. Grades above will be implemented gradually. 8-4-4 will continue until the last batch sits Form Four exams in 2026. Therefore, Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) and Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) exams will continue until the new system runs its complete cycle.

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