Why it’s time for Kenyan universities to adopt the Problem Based Learning approach

Why it’s time for Kenyan universities to adopt the Problem Based Learning approach in preparation for the first lot of Competency Based Curriculum in 2029


Article by Joseph Jabu  -  PBL Team member, Egerton University

As Kenya has started implementing the Competency Based Learning (CBC) unveiled in 2017 to replace the older 8-4-4 education system, it’s time for the institutions of higher learning such as universities to warm up for entrance of the first lot in 2029. The introduction of the CBC in Kenya has received a lot of attention all over the country and beyond the borders because of its focus on learner’s performances of skills and competences. This is as opposed to the former curriculum which focused on mastery of content and examinations. The Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KCID) a public institution responsible for development and implementation and review of curriculums, says that CBC is the answer to the aspirations of the country to achieve vision 2030 and the African Union Agenda’s vision 2063.


Photo: Pupils in class learning under the Competency Based Curriculum


With the introduction of the Problem Based Learning (PBL) approach by the Problem Based Learning BioAfrica project funded by the government of Finland in several Kenyan universities, the universities are in a very unique position to easily take up and implement the CBC. This is because there are several key similarities between the two approaches. Just like the CBC, PBL focuses on development of crucial soft skills such as communication, critical thinking, team work, problem solving, creativity, digital literacy among other skills.

CBC focuses on three components that is competencies, character and creativity which resonates to the fundamental principles of PBL of problem solving through critical thinking. PBL is a learner centered approach seeking to develop them to become problem solvers. It focuses on the development of learners with respect to the outcome (ability to demonstrate both content and application), process (how student think) and content (what does the student know). In CBC, aims at the delivering the next generation of citizens with hands on experiences who can be interactive in their working environments.


Photo: Pupils in outdoor learning under the Competency Based Learning


The assessment of learners in CBC is summative in nature. The overall learner performance is based on a series of assessments throughout the learning period as opposed to the older curriculum which was focusing on memorization of concepts for the purpose of passing the final examinations. PBL’s assessment of learners is also summative and in some cases formative as an ongoing process throughout the learner’s study period.

In conclusion, the earlier the Kenyan universities embrace PBL, the easier it will be to implement the CBC when the time comes.



Article by:

Joseph Jabu

PBL Team member, Egerton University