Private schools cry foul over KCPE marking

Monday, April 19th, 2021 00:00 |
Candidates at Moi Nyeri Primary School in Nyeri County sitting for the mathematics paper. Photo/PD/COURTESY

Echoes of disquiet have greeted the release of this year’s Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) exams by education cabinet secretary Prof George Magoha last week.

The angst emanating from sections of the over 7,900-member Kenya Private Schools Association (KPSA) stems from  a statement by CS Magoha before commencement of the examinations that administration and marking will have a “human face” meant only for a section of candidates particularly from public schools whom the pandemic deprived valuable instructional time.

Prof Magoha in apparent response to parents concerns before the exam was quoted assuring the nation that administration and marking would take in account the challenges many candidates went through last year.

The 2020/21 KCPE exams results, taken by approximately 1.2 million candidates does not show any lack of instructional time, especially for candidates in public schools after schools closed in March last year, as it did not deter their march to the top.

The radio and TV lessons offered by the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) were also accessible to only a few from affluent homes.

The schools’ closure negatively affected learners. Leading to dropouts. The sector recorded the highest pregnancy, some opting for early marriage.

According to sources who spoke to Scholar, there was unfair standardisation with private school’s marks being chopped down by between 48 to 60 marks compared to the public schools whose marks were chopped down by between 19 and 25 marks.

”The reason as to why this cut was so harsh to the private school pupils is yet to be known.

Standardisation should be equal for both private and public schools since all students belong to the government,” said a teacher, who sought anonymity for security reasons.

Josephine Ndunge, Director Jupiter Academy in Nairobi, says to ensure that such complaints don’t emerge again in future, they should scrap off the standardisation aspect to ensure that every student what they worked for.

“We have never seen or heard about standardised salary, why should our children continue to suffer because of this.

The standardisation issue should be dealt with once and for all and if possible, done away with completely,” says Ndunge.

According to her, standardisation is not only affecting the final exam results for private school students, but also robbing them a chance to attend their dream schools since students from public schools are also given the first priority when it comes to school selection. 

Learning for candidates in most private schools, went on with virtual classes since coronavirus broke out learly last year.

Although the ministry of education was silent on the school mean scores, CS Magoha observed that though the number of candidates with at least 400 marks dropped compared to 9,000 plus last year, it commendable and remarkable compared to the past years.

Private schools dominated the 8,091, 2020 KCPE roll of candidates with at least 400 marks out of the possible 500 in the national tests, but for the first time in many years, only five candidates from academies sneaked into the top 15.

This apparent absence has aggrieved KPSA members, who have mourned that the absence of their candidates in the top five candidates nationally is disheartening.

They poured their hearts out with tweets and postings that questioned the integrity of the ministry of education KCPE ranking.

One in top 10

Proprietors and managers of private schools are wondering how a Covid-19 disrupted learning programme, limited access to online learning could endow the underprivileged candidates in public schools to perform better than their peers in academies.

A highlight of the analysis of the results showed that candidates from public schools scooped 10 out of the 15 top places in the exam. 

There was only one candidate from private schools who sneaked into the top 10 best KCPE candidates this year, a surprise departure from the past.

The top candidate was Mumo Faith Kawee of Kari Mwailu Primary School in Makueni county scoring 433 marks followed by Yvette Wesonga  Nanzala of Chogoria Primary School.

Castro William of Crystal Hill Academy coming up at joint fourth position with Lauren Chepkemoi was the only candidate from the private schools in the top 10 overall rankings.

This situation replicated across the country with top candidates from private schools outshone by their peers in public schools. 

Asked about the concerns raised by stakeholders in private schools, KPSA western regional patron Ruth Minishi says although there is a feeling the results were moderated and standardised in favour of candidates in public schools, there is no evidence.

“We understand that moderation and standardisation were done. But this situation where candidates in public school top the ranking nationally and in counties is still a puzzle considering that private schools still posted high mean scores,” says Minishi, who is also a director of Fesbeth Academy.

Isolated and individualistic

KPSA CEO Peter Ndoro, however, disagrees with the school of thought. “Nothing has come to our attention to indicate there was standardisation or moderation in the exam that targeted candidates in private schools,” he says.

He says the 2020/21 KCPE was credible, noting registration of candidates, administration and marking and management was done above board.

He says the disquiet over the ranking was isolated and individualistic. “The result shows an overall improvement index for us the private schools compared to past years. 

We sampled results of a number of top performing private schools in each county and compared them with past performances in the exam and our verdict is that private schools improved in spite of the challenges of Covid-19 and disruptions,” he explains.

“The mere fact that candidates in public schools scooped the top positions in the exam this year is not cause for alarm. In any case, some of those candidates are from schools that share a lot with us,” he adds.

A top Ministry of Education official who declined to be named because he is not authorised also denied claims that results were doctored to aid candidates in public schools.

He says the government statement that the exam would be administered and marked with a “human face” did not mean manipulation.

He says the long layoff in the education sector due to the Covid-19 pandemic exposed the teaching shortfalls in some of the academies, which could result in less optimal performance.

“The teaching methodology is important. Those taught well as opposed to ‘drilling’ were able to build on the knowledge and perform. Those accustomed to ‘pampering’ and drilling lost a thing in this exam,” he says

He also explained that the good show by public schools was due to the improved supply of instructional material by the government.

“The candidates would easily access books, but the significant fact is the leadership of the headteacher, teachers, and community,” explains.

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