Concern as national schools record 338 grade Es this year

Friday, December 20th, 2019 00:00 |
Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha (right) receives the 2019 KCSE exam results from Knec chairman John Osanti at Mitihani House in Nairobi on Wednesday. With them are acting Knec CEO Mercy Karogo and Education PS Belio Kipsang. Photo/PD/John Ochieng

As the dust settles over the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examination results released on Wednesday, questions are emerging over the inordinately large number of students in national schools who scored the lowest mean grade of E.

Concerns crop up despite the fact that the institutions absorb the best performers in the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) exam, receive the highest resource allocation and have better facilities such as libraries and laboratories compared to lower categories of schools.

The 2019 KCSE exam statistics show that 338 candidates in national schools scored a mean grade of E, 856 attained D- (minus), 988 had a D (plain), 1,442 scored D+ (plus) and 2,417 had a C- (minus).

Questions arose even as some analysts attributed the shocking outcome to possible exam cheating in the 2015 KCPE exam which saw the number of irregularities grow by 60 per cent to 2,709, from 1,007 in 2014.

Speaking to People Daily yesterday, experts in the education sector and teachers union leaders said that though the performance of candidates is individual, thorough investigations ought to be done to establish reasons behind a large number of Es in this year’s exam. 

“The result raises serious fundamental issues like establishing what the national schools have not been doing right and the need to analyse the equity model that has been adopted to access national schools,” said educationist Amos Kaburu.

“We also need to ask the question; If schools receive a child with, say 400 marks in KCPE, does that automatically translate to a mean grade of A in KCSE? Are we getting value from the huge investments pumped into national schools?” he posed.

Skewed allocation

The Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) secretary-general Akello Misori said that much as it is normal to get different grades in an exam situation, it is always a challenge for some schools which have inadequate infrastructure and teachers.

“The policy of allocation is skewed and must be changed. We do not need to categorise schools for certain people.

The ministry should work towards rationalising this system and develop a template within which students should advance from primary to secondary schools,” he said.

While releasing the 2015 results, the then Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i cited collusion as the most common form of exam malpractice, accounting for 98.7 per cent of the total number of cases reported. 

Although analysts did not want to get into details about the irregularities, they said some of the students who joined national schools may have been assisted to get higher marks in order to secure a place in the higher category schools yet they were not deserving.

The 667,222 candidates who sat the 2019 KCSE exam did their primary school exams in 2015.

According to the KCSE data released by the ministry, 279 candidates from extra-county schools scored a mean grade of E, 2,089 students from county schools had E grade, 17,894 from sub-county schools, while 8,718 from private schools got the same grade.

Drastic reforms

In total, out of the 667,222 candidates who sat the exam, 29,318 scored E.

There were 152,339 candidates who scored D- (minus) in all categories of schools, 137,713 had D (plain), 101,687 had D+ (plus), 83,358 had C-(Minus) and another 63,102 of them had C (plain).

The increase in the number of Es comes three years after drastic reforms in the administration of national examinations were introduced in 2016 when only 141 candidates scored a mean grade of A (plain), down from 2,636 in 2015.

Out of 577,079 candidates who sat the same exam, 88,929 scored between A and C+ (plus).

In 2017, 142 candidates managed a mean grade of A (plain) but the number increased to 315 in 2018.

And yesterday, Kaburu said there is a need for comprehensive dialogue to understand situations the candidates operate in as well as their psychometrics, given that national schools absorb the best candidates from every region.

According to him, the fact that national schools receive higher capitation, have better facilities and an adequate number of teachers coupled with the education economics, students ending up with a mean grade of E is a critical question that should be explored.

Kaburu stated the need to enhance the capacity of examiners, saying the idea by the Kenya National Examination Council (Knec) and the Ministry of Education to guard the marking process requires re-evaluation.

“This is a serious concern. Are we intentionally sabotaging the equity model? Are we even giving special focus to all the students? We need to have an accountable system to understand what is happening,” Kaburu said.

Policy analyst and researcher in education and development Andrew Riechi said various circumstances are at play, explaining that individual results are unique to every student in national schools and are influenced by a number of factors, including how the students were admitted to the institutions.

“Various factors influence individual learners in exams and could have been at play in this instance. Some of them could be a bit slow, others may not be reading extensively, some may have not been attentive and also circumstances of admission to those schools,” Riechi said.

It is also important, explained Riechi, for everyone to understand the objectives of both primary and secondary schools.

Equal opportunity

“There are goals for every education level and unfortunately, some of the teachers do not know them and focus on mean scores. For instance, the first objective of primary education at every level is to promote numeracy, literacy, communication skills and creativity...if all these could be met for all learners we could see a lot of change,” he said.

Educationist and founder of University World Agency Collins Abuga said national schools recording grade E calls for urgent standardisation of all secondary schools and provide equal opportunities.

“The results have shown that people can get good grades wherever they are, whether in national or other schools. There is a need to expand exposure for all schools in terms of resources and infrastructure,” said Abuga.

Similarly, he said the environment for administering exams in primary and secondary schools are different.

He noted that in some instances, there is ‘drilling’ in primary schools for the sole purpose of passing exams which come in multiple-choice format unlike the situation in KCSE exam where students are required to generate content to get a grade. 

This, he said, could become a challenge to some.

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