Plans to replace the exam-focused and demanding 8-4-4 system of education have been put on hold indefinitely.
The system, introduced in 1984, has been criticised for not giving students skills necessary for the job market, overburdening children and focusing on the passing of exams.
Millions of children from Nursery to Grade Three who were being taught the so-called Competency Based Curriculum (CBC) on a trial basis will now be forced to go back to the 8-4-4 system, resulting in some level of confusion.
Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed told the Senate that the government had dropped plans to introduce CBC because of a lack of broad consultations, preparedness and training of tutors.
Ms Mohamed said pupils in classes that were piloting the new curriculum for the last two years will now have to go back to the 8-4-4 system.
"We are not ready to roll out the curriculum across the country. The curriculum will be introduced in teacher training colleges so that those coming out are well versed with it," she told the Senate Education Committee.
With the next admission into TTCs set for September next year and the teachers' course taking three years (up from the current two), the earliest the CBC can be rolled out will be 2023.
The government was replacing the system with the 2-6-3-3-3 system to ensure learners acquire skills that support human resource needs for a newly industrialised country.
The new system places emphasis on continuous assessment tests (CATs) over one-off examinations and was to replace the current Standard One to Form Four with grade 1 to grade 12.
The postponement has thrown into crisis thousands of parents who had already purchased books for Nursery to Class Three under the new curriculum, which is being dropped for the second time. They will now have to dig deeper into their pockets and buy 8:4:4 books. Learners have to convert to a system other than the one in which their foundations were laid.
Ms Mohamed said the delay will also allow for development of infrastructure and a national dialogue over the implementation timelines. She said only 79,000 teachers have been trained in the new curriculum.
"The worst thing that can happen is for us to roll out something that we are not all comfortable with; especially parents because these are their children. A little discomfort is acceptable but huge discomfort is unacceptable," Ms Amina said.
Nyamira senator Okong'o Omogeni said the new system was rushed ignoring the concerns of teachers, parents and publishers. MS Mohamed appeared to concur, saying the implementation must be well thought out.
"The devil lies in the implementation. If properly implemented, it will give our children broad based knowledge," Ms Mohamed said.
The statement comes days after Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang told the Nation Leadership Forum that more than 100,000 teachers had been trained and that the system will be rolled out come January.
The fate of a meeting of the national steering committee and a national conference on curriculum review that were set for next week now hangs in the balance.
On Tuesday, Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) secretary-general Wilson Sossion welcomed the decision to drop the roll-out.
"The entire process was being politically hurried as there was no needs assessment to look at the importance of the review process," said Mr Sossion.
Mr Sossion claimed Sh300billion was required to implement the new curriculum.
Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) secretary-general Akelo Misori said the suspension was a waste of heavy investment that had been put into the review process.
Kenya Private Schools Association chief executive officer Peter Ndoro said members were prepared for the roll-out of the new curriculum. "We have invested a lot of resources in this programme and we were ready. It's the leadership of the ministry that has failed and it's time to leave and allow those who can implement it to take up the roles," said Mr Ndoro.
The review was mired in controversy since it started with several studies indicating that the government was not ready.
Lack of preparedness by teachers, poor infrastructure and lack of awareness by parents were major sticking points even as KICD insisted all was well. That was until last month when its own internal evaluation showed several gaps in the piloting phase forcing Ms Mohamed to call in the input of international experts.
"Some teachers are struggling with the concept and lacked the capacity demanded by the new curriculum," said the KICD report. Schools also did not have learning materials for the roll-out.
The report, however, still concluded that the quality of CBC implementation was 56 per cent; a pass under international benchmarks which require 50 per cent.
The proposal to change the system was contained in a 2012 report of a task force chaired by Prof Douglas Odhiambo, which proposed the scrapping of the 8-4-4 system of education.
Instead, it recommended a 2-6-3-3-3 system, which it says would ensure learners acquire competences and skills to meet the human resource aspirations of Vision 2030 blueprint.
The system would offer a choice of subject pathways at the end of the elementary school phase; ensure the attainment of 100 per cent transition rate from primary to secondary school, thereby reducing wastage by introducing automatic progression to the junior secondary phase.