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Knec’s new five-year examinations plan to address clear threats

By Augustine Oduor - January 10th 2022

Kisii County Director of Education Pius Ngoma, Director Nerea Olik and Kisii High School Principal Morris Ogutu (right) during the KCSE examination, 2019. [Sammy Omingo, Standard]

The Kenya National Examinations Council (Knec) has laid bare a plan it will rely on to develop, administer and guard the credibility of tests over the next five years.

The plan will also guide school assessments, according to the examinations agency.

This came as Knec identified looming threats, weaknesses, and potential loopholes that may affect its operations.

In the plan, Knec has listed possible mass walkouts of teachers who participate in processing national examinations, continued examination cheating, political interference, inadequate secretariat staff, and cyber insecurity among its core concerns threatening national examinations.

Negative public perception, rapid technological change, natural calamities, examination-related litigation cases, and competition from other assessment bodies were also identified as potential weak links in the council’s operations.

Forgery of Knec certificates, nonresponsive or obsolete curricula in some courses, corruption, and unethical practices are also highlighted as looming threats to the administration of examinations.

Identified weaknesses

Internally, Knec identified weaknesses such as inadequate human resources, weak succession planning, inadequate financial resources, unresponsive organisation structure, low uptake and utilisation of research, and centralisation of its operations.

The council also cited insufficient feedback mechanisms, weak enforcement of rules and regulations, and heavy reliance on government funding as some of its weaker points.

These details are contained in its 2021-2026 Strategic Plan unveiled by Education CS George Magoha.

In a detailed explanation, Knec reveals its top strategic areas of focus that it must excel in to achieve its mandate.

Broadly, the plan lists quality educational assessments and certifications, research and innovativeness, strong digital infrastructure, security and integrity, strong and committed human resource, and solid governance and leadership as key areas of focus.

The details emerged as time is ticking towards a major transition that will see pioneer Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC) learners sit end of primary education exams in December.

The ongoing implementation of the CBC requires Knec to complete the development of the Competency-Based Assessment Framework (CBAF) up to Grade 12 and also for the Teacher Education level.

Knec is also expected to revise the legal framework, policies, strategies, procedures, rules and regulations to be in line with the requirements of the Basic Education Curriculum Framework.

The demands of the Competence-Based Assessment (CBA) will also necessitate a review of modes of funding as Knec will play a leading role in guiding on School-Based Assessments (SBA) and teacher capacity building on formative assessment.

And the council is also expected to develop new assessment tools and build partnerships with schools to enhance their access, continually build the capacities of teachers to ensure the institutionalisation of formative assessment and the success of CBA.

With a Knec full in-tray, parents, students, teachers, and other stakeholders have expressed concerns over its preparedness for the imminent transition to the new examinations regime under the CBC.

Learners presently in Grade Five are expected to sit their end of primary education exams under the 2-6-3-3-3 education system. This means that in April, when the new academic year begins, all the Grade Five learners will move to their final year class in primary education before transitioning to junior secondary school.

These learners should have sat school-based assessments at Grade 4, 5, and 6, cumulatively earning a maximum of 60 marks.

The national exams to be administered by Knec to these learners in December will only constitute 40 marks.

Stakeholders have raised concerns over Knec’s preparedness in managing examinations and school-based assessment under the new CBA regime.

The fears are coupled with expectations that Knec is projected to make elaborate preparations in line with the new and expanded roles in examinations and assessments.

In its elaborate response in the five-year strategic plan, Knec plans to pilot Grade 6 and 9 Assessments and Teacher Education level assessments as per the CBA Framework.

The council projects to progressively develop the CBA framework for Basic Education, Teacher Education, and Business and Technical Examinations.

It also plans to develop training manuals for teachers on CBA in line with the Basic Education Curriculum Framework (BECF).

Capacity building stakeholders on CBA, developing and conducting formative and summative assessments as per the CBA framework will also be undertaken by Knec.

And to improve best assessment practices, Knec plans to create stakeholder awareness for all assessments leveraging on social media technologies such as podcasts, animated videos, and YouTube.

It also lists collaboration with stakeholders such as Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD), Kenya Institute of Special Education (KISE), Ministry of Education, Teachers Service Commission (TSC), and Technical Vocational Education and Training Authority (TVETA).

“Knec shall also benchmark with regional and international examination boards on best practices in assessment and participate in regional and international educational assessment conferences,” reads the document.

And for quality assurance, Knec projects to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of CBA across all grades and also monitor and evaluate the assessment processes for continual improvement.

“Knec will embark on the development of guidelines and quality controls to ensure the credibility of formative assessments at the school level,” reads the document.

The strategic plan also reveals that Knec plans to implement robust digital infrastructure and innovative business solutions in line with ICT industry requirements and standards.

Under this strategy, the council will upgrade primary and secondary Council Data Centres and related infrastructure to support CBA.

Train ICT staff

It also plans to train ICT staff on security, networks, databases, and data centre technologies and also sensitise staff on general ICT literacy. 

Knec will also conduct staff awareness training on cyber security, implement Information Security Management System (ISMS) and acquire and establish secure cloud storage of organisational data.

“Knec will also acquire and implement an internal unified communication and information sharing system and review ICT policy and guidelines,” reads the report.

On infrastructure for security and integrity for the council’s services, Knec says it shall sustain and secure infrastructure in support of examination processes.

Security systems

Under this plan, Knec projects to enhance physical security systems, upgrade electronic security systems and also develop and implement security policies, procedures, and contingency plans.

The council also plans to acquire smart padlocks for use in examination storage containers and improve the printing capacity through modernisation of secure printing equipment and automation of printing process.

“Council shall also acquire a secure smart warehouse with adequate storage and complete and secure New Mitihani House.”

Overall, the Council plans to enhance prudent governance that promotes accountability and is responsive to the environment.

And to enhance governance and compliance with legal and regulatory requirements, Council plans to conduct review of the Knec Act (2012.)

It also plans to review Knec rules and regulations, develop and review Council operational policies and conduct legal and compliance audits.

Knec shall also review and implement Risk Management Framework and conduct review and development of Knec Strategic Plan.

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