• A week after the release of the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education, candidates are waiting for the selection process which will earn them slots in various secondary schools in the country.

    The examination that saw 937,467 pupils sit for the national exam was marred with irregularities in addition to the five-week teachers’ strike that put a lot of pressure on the candidates.

    While there has been an increase in the number of candidates who sat for the exam last year, the statistical representation of the performance remains almost constant over the last two years.

    Below, I have highlighted notable details that you might have missed.

    Waiving the examination fee has boosted the number of students taking the exam

    Following the examination fee waiver in public schools by the government, more students are set to take their national exams. Passed in 2014, the 2015 candidates are the first beneficiaries of the waiver.

    In a statement by the Education Cabinet Secretary (CS), Dr Fred Matiang’i, in the financial year 2014/2015 Ksh 2.9 billion ($28 million) was paid by the government to Kenya National Examinations Council as examination fee. This waiver however, does not apply to private schools which continue to pay their registration fees to the council.  

    The number of students who sat for the exam in 2015 increased by 48,304 from 889,163 in 2014.

    Releasing the KCPE examination results, Dr Matiang’i said the number (937,467) was the highest recorded since 1985, when the first exam results were released.

    “There is a significant increase in enrolment when the 2015 figures are compared to 2014. We attribute this to waiving of the fee,” he said.

    Up to KShs 3 billion ($29 million) will be used to pay the registration fees for public Standard Eight and Form Four candidates in 2016. This means that many more learners will be able to sit the tests.

    English Scores remain poor

    Although English language was among the subjects that recorded improvement compared to last year’s performance, in general it was still poorly performed.

    The data released by Kenya National Examination Council shows that the subject that registered the best performance was religious education which had a raw mean score of 70.20%.

    In contrast, English composition had the lowest score of 41%, which the CS attributed to learners lack of ability to creatively and coherently express themselves in prose. This downward trend of poor performance in English composition is causing language experts sleepless nights trying to figure out how to improve English language and composition.  

    Further analysis show that female students performed slightly better in English language, English composition, Kiswahili Language and Kiswahili Insha during the 2015 KCPE. Male students on the other hand, did well in mathematics and sciences—trends that have been replicated in previous years.

    Changes in the selection process for students entering Form one

    The new guidelines released last week by the Education Principal Secretary, Dr Bellio Kipsang will see five top candidates in every sub-county placed in national schools of their choice irrespective of their gender.

    This process is open to learners from both private and public schools provided they have exemplary performance.

    While this comes as good news to parents and students, pupils from private schools are likely to take up more slots in the national secondary schools as their performance is better than that of their counter-parts in public schools.

    In part, the guidelines read: “In order to recognize merit, the top five candidates of either gender in each sub-county will be placed in national schools of their choice where possible irrespective of whether from public or private primary schools.” 

    Under the new guidelines, Kenya’s 103 national schools can accommodate 20,291 students, whereas special needs schools can admit 996 learners. Extra counties will take up to 66, 647, county (12,0490), sub-county 434,048 while 44, 078 form one students can be taken in by the private schools.

    The estimates for every school have been arrived at by computing 45 learners per class.

    Exam malpractice still rampant, schools and students remain unranked

    Last year, schools and students remained unranked just as observed in 2014 when the government abolished rankings. This, according to the government would help curb exam irregularities caused by unhealthy competition among schools and candidates.

    Speaking about cheating in examinations, Dr Matiang’i described it as the lowest form of intellectual dishonesty adding that county directors should take responsibility for cheating in their regions.

    The 2015 KCPE examination identified 2,709 as the number of candidates involved in exam irregularities. This number is slightly more than that posted last year which stood at 1,702 pupils. Out of the 47 counties in the country, only 12 were free of exam malpractices.  

    Additionally, Dr Matiang’i directed that 3-year data on KCPE results be made public to encourage regional discussions and review of trends in performance.

    More emphasis put on curbing absenteeism

    Although the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, through the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) has embarked on education reform, which seeks to shift from the subject-based to a competence-based curriculum, issues like teachers’ absenteeism need to be handled in order to boost education in the country.

    To address the matter, the Dr Matiang’i gave stern warning to teachers who abscond duties which has contributed to poor performance especially in public schools.

    “Teacher absenteeism is something we have to deal with,” the CS cautioned adding that the “problem is getting chronic. In some counties about 70 per cent of teachers are away from school on any given day.”

    He noted that the mean score in private schools had increased while that of public schools had declined. Private schools score increased from 229.4 in 2014 to 230 (2015), while that of public schools declined from 187.8 in 2014 to 180.7 in 2015.

    Moreover, the curriculum reform whose vision is “nurturing every learner’s potential” will address key issues such as ethical values, equity, diversity, equality of opportunity and excellence for all learners.

    KICD has been tasked with conducting a needs assessment to determine the actual market needs and identify the inherent gaps in the current curriculum.

    Despite the revised guidelines and strategies laid out to improve education in the country, more viable plans have to be put in place and followed to ensure students get the best out of education. Plans will remain vague if no controls and checks are set up for effective and efficient running of the education system.