Challenges facing headteachers in the implementation of a new syllabus: a case of the 8-4-4 curriculum in secondary schools in Thika East and Thika West districts
Rapid changes in the syllabus require that schools keep changing teaching and learning resources, as well as teaching and evaluation methodologies. Whenever a change in the syllabus is effected, teachers need to be informed of the changes, retrained, and supported to effectively implement the changes. However, curricula changes in Kenya are rarely followed by in-service training to equip teachers with skills of handling the new curriculum. Changes in an existing syllabus also require that schools and parents purchase new textbooks and other instructional material. But as Rotich (2004) established, the cost of textbooks is too high for most parents, and therefore they prioritize basic essential needs before thinking of purchasing textbooks. Successful adoption of a new syllabus by teachers also requires that they have formed a positive attitude towards the new syllabus; otherwise it may face resistance in form of indifference towards the syllabus and lack of enthusiasm in its implementation. These challenges require headteachers, as the chief curriculum implementation supervisors, to adopt effective coping strategies in order to manage the changes in a way that does not compromise education quality. The study therefore set out to find out challenges facing secondary school headteachers in the implementation of a new syllabus, and the strategies they use to cope with such challenges. The study employed a descriptive survey design, and was carried out in public secondary schools in of Thika East and Thika West Districts. The target population for the study consisted of all the headteachers and teachers from the 30 public secondary schools in Thika East and Thika West Districts. From this, 15 schools were randomly selected for the study. From each of these schools, the headteacher and 3 teachers randomly selected from all the teachers in that school participated in the study. Therefore, the study sample comprised of 15 headteachers and 45 teachers from 15 secondary schools in Thika East and Thika West Districts. Data was collected using questionnaires for teachers and headteachers. Data was analyzed using both quantitative and qualitative analysis techniques. Quantitative data was analysed using simple descriptive statistics such as frequency counts, means and percentages. Qualitative data was analyzed by organizing them into similar themes and tallying the number of similar responses. The study established that headteachers have been facing major challenges in the implementation of curricular changes. The challenges faced include inability of schools to promptly procure textbooks and instructional resources for the new curriculum, lack of parental support in procurement of textbooks, inadequate in-service training of teachers, and negative attitudes of teachers towards curricular changes. Although headteachers have been employing various strategies to deal with the challenges faced, such as having students to share textbooks, encouraging teachers and sensitizing parents on the need to support schools through purchase of books, more needs to be done to assist schools implement curricular changes without compromising quality of education. The study concludes that curriculum development process in Kenya has not given adequate attention to the school-level change process. When changes in the curriculum are effected, the ministry of education does not ensure that teachers are adequately trained on the changes prior to implementation and schools are not adequately supported to procure required textbooks. In addition, the Kenyan teacher is never considered in the curriculum development process, and therefore holds negative attitude towards curricular changes. Relevant recommendations are given for curriculum developers, Ministry of Education and school administrators.