Competency and Sustainability in the University Classroom

    Share

“I will be a hummingbird; I will do the best I can” Professor Wangari Maathai.

There are fundamental changes taking place in the world today that are shaping the future of work. Introducing educational reforms that will prepare students to thrive in the future globally is critical. The Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC) in Kenya has emerged as ground-breaking in the education sector. In 2017, the Ministry of Education in Kenya introduced the CBC into all schools. Unlike more “traditional” curricula, which are typically academic and examination-oriented, a competency-based curriculum emphasises how students can acquire and apply knowledge, skills, and attitudes to situations they will encounter in everyday life. 

The CBC places a strong emphasis on core competencies that encompass a set of skills and attributes that students are expected to acquire that go beyond traditional subject-based learning and focus on holistic development. These skills include critical thinking, creativity, communication, collaboration, digital literacy and lifelong learning. Preparing students to tackle the complexities in our ever-shifting world by providing holistic, relevant, and personalised learning experiences will help them to realise their potential.

In an effort to prepare for the first cohort of CBC students that will be welcomed on campus in 2029, Strathmore University hosted an Academic Staff Workshop entitled, ‘Competency and Sustainability in the University Classroom,’ on the 27th of March 2024. This workshop was aligned to the broader theme for the year, ‘Sustainability: Caring for People and Planet,’ that the University has embraced which reminds the community of its shared commitment to create a better world for current and future generations.

The workshop took place at the Strathmore Auditorium which was transformed by the talented events team into a creative and eco-friendly environment that made the delegates more environmentally conscious. The beautiful décor mirrored the theme of the event and was a testament to the University’s call to action at the beginning of the year to integrate sustainability into the very fabric of the University community. 

Speaking during the event, the Vice-Chancellor of Strathmore University, Dr. Vincent Ogutu asserted that he self-identifies as a teacher not a lecturer. Dr. Ogutu began his career as a teacher at Strathmore High School and throughout his career progression in academia, he never lost his focus on his calling which is to teach and develop students. Dr. Ogutu explained that the word ‘lecturer’ implies that the learner will be lectured by an expert and acquire knowledge passively. A ‘teacher,’ on the other hand, is a nurturer and supports the learner’s journey through co-creation of the learning experience where the learner is an active participant. Furthermore, in line with the University theme, ‘Caring for People and the Planet,’ Dr. Ogutu urged the delegates to think of themselves as nurturers of people and custodians of sustainability.

The Chief guest at the event, Professor Mike Kuria, the CEO of the Commission for University Education in Kenya who is also a parent of a Strathmore student, highlighted that the CBC is a paradigm shift. He began his session by asking the audience to reflect on some critical questions, ‘Why do we educate? How should we educate? How do we know we have educated?’ Professor Kuria then delved into the elements of the CBC and emphasized the importance of sensitization of students, parents and educators to the features of the CBC. He underscored the importance of co-creation of knowledge, digital transformation and ‘learning by doing’ through close collaborations between academia and industry. He ended his session by challenging the delegates with a powerful quote from from Dr. James Mwangi, the CEO of Equity Bank, ‘You cannot transform unless you transform yourself, if you transform yourself, you can transform the university, if you transform the university, you can transform society.’ 

Another important element of the CBC is to promote inclusivity. The concept of neurodiversity celebrates the diverse ways in which our brains function, acknowledging that there is no one-size-fits-all definition. The objective of the approach to neurodiversity in the CBC is to promote inclusiveness and cater to a wide range of learning styles and abilities. By acknowledging and incorporating neurodiversity into the curriculum, Kenya aims to establish an academic setting that values and caters to the distinct abilities and difficulties of each student, thereby advancing educational excellence and equity.

During the event, Dr. G. McGladdery from Nottingham Trent University (NTU), led the session, ‘Benchmarking with NTU – Neurodiversity as a Teaching and Learning Concept,’ in which he explored conceptualising neurodiversity teaching and learning in higher education. The delegates explored what neurodiversity looks like at Strathmore University and methods Faculty members can employ to cater for all students on their diverse learning journeys. Technology can also pave the way for more inclusive and personalised learning.

Indeed, digital transformation is rapidly changing the world of work and is therefore addressed in the CBC. Dr. Macharia, from Strathmore University, led a session where delegates explored the digital tools necessary to enhance and promote the CBE learning environment. There is a need for both educators and learners to become conversant with emerging advancements in education technology.

Finally, just as practical application of knowledge is a key component of the CBC, the objective of the workshop was to equip the delegates with tools they can actively use to improve their educational practices. The workshop concluded with an engaging session facilitated by Dr. Mary Omingo, a Faculty Member and Education Specialist and Consultant at Strathmore University, that helped Faculty members to create individual action plans to facilitate quality teaching and learning and preparation for competency-based learning. 

In conclusion, the words of Benjamin Franklin “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn,” echo the sentiments expressed in the workshop. Preparing for the new CBC era will entail deeper collaboration and co-creation with all actors in the education ecosystem, and the empowered learner must be at the center of these efforts.

Article by Shailja Sharma, SBS Faculty Member and Leadership and Career Coach

What’s your story? We’d like to hear it. Contact us via communications@strathmore.edu