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It’s time to ask hard questions as we celebrate KCSE results

By The Standard | Published Sat, December 31st 2016 at 00:00, Updated December 30th 2016 at 19:45 GMT +3
A student in an exam room holding a KCSE paper. (Photo: Courtesy)

The worth of any education system (efficiency) is normally measured by the value obtainable from the inputs made over a period of time. The proportion of learner growth and development attributable to the totality of the learning experience constitutes the output. These output attributes include but are not limited to literacy and numeracy skills, positive social attitude, civic responsibility, religious piety and others.

As a country, we have arrived at a destination in history where business cannot go on as usual. We are at a crossroads and we need to ask ourselves hard questions. These questions must include: What is happening to our children through the schooling cycle? We need to shift gear from the excitement brought about by Free Primary Education and subsidised secondary that purely addressed the question of how many children were in school. We must now continually question the net improvement of the composite skills obtained as a function of being educated.

For purposes of this argument, allow me to dwell on external efficiency (a cost-benefit analysis monetary investment versus the outcome – learned skills and attributes with attendant income returns – whether project or real) of our education system since there has been hue and cry about the mismatch between the product and the market expectation for some time now.

As reality on the Kenya Certificate for Secondary Education (KCSE) results sinks; we need to ask ourselves: Have we obtained our return on investment? For illustrative purposes, I use the secondary school tuition subsidy for day schools which currently stands at Sh12,870 per student per year. At this rate of investment, the nation sunk in more than Sh7.4 billion on tuition alone for the candidates who sat KCSE in 2016 using day school tuition subsidy rates!

Of that investment, 33,399 learners scored E! This means, Sh430 million was invested towards this result - this is a direct investment by the Kenyan tax payer that has not given us any return!

What does this mean? Did we prepare these learners adequately for the examination? Did we test them on what was relevant to them and the country? Where are they going to go? By declaring they scored E, have we handed them a death penalty?

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This thinking is linear and rather simplistic but startling at the same time. Did we need to invest Sh430 million on learners, keep them in school for 12 odd years so that they exit with nothing? What should we be doing differently?

This nation is ripe for dialogue on which way education! The management of the national examinations this year had two unique attributes: The creation of an examination window (month) and the centralisation of marking to allow for closer quality control and integration of technology.

This meant the levels of control were unheralded and the presence of armed policy, senior government officials was unprecedented! What was the cost of managing this process? Is the cost commensurate with the bloat and ghost (cheating/fraud/collusion) we badly wanted to eliminate?

As we loud Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i and his team for managing and eliminating to a large extent the intervening variables that were affecting the evaluation process negatively, we also need to look over our shoulder and ask who has been facilitating and investing in the fraud that has engulfed our education system. Is the sector ready and ripe for retributive justice for past and present misdeeds?

The players in the sector need to quickly find a way of returning sanity to education by institutionalising the changes that have been made in managing the 2016 examinations and insulate the sector from the personality syndrome so that if the President were to exercise his powers under the Constitution and reshuffle his Cabinet, we are not left in disarray!

Wishing the candidates who earned their grades genuinely this year all the best as I give special mention to the teachers, parents and all other players who made this happen.