School ranking a good riddance, say teachers


By Sam Otieno

Educationists have praised the abolition of school ranking in KCSE as the best way to eradicate cheating and unnecessary competition although parents want it reinstated.

Educationists are unanimous that big schools use the ranking to attract the cream of KCPE, most of which is from private schools, that excels in the primary school examination.

This has led to concerns that the education system was boosting, not discouraging, a class society as was planned at the time of Independence in 1963.

Students carry Coast top candidate Salyani Yasin of Memon School, Mombasa, after receiving results. He scored 86.756. [PHOTO: Maarufu Mohamed/STANDARD]

This year, the Kenya National Examinations of Council (KNEC) did not rank schools in last year’s KCSE as has been the tradition. Instead, it ranked the top 100 candidates nationally and in the provinces and a similar number of boys and girls’ categories. In 2002, KNEC

abolished ranking of districts and schools in KCPE. But Kitale Catholic Bishop Maurice Crowley has a different view. He urged the Government to reinstate the ranking system, saying it encouraged healthy competition among schools.

Maseno School Parents Teachers Association Chairman Otieno Obondi, too, said ranking was good because it encouraged positive competition.

"Competition is good. It encourages students and teachers to work harder," said Dr Obondi.

But self-styled Kenya National Association of Parents Secretary-General Musau Ndunda disagrees, saying ranking has more disadvantages than advantages.

"The only advantage is that schools use it as motivation to work hard to stay at the top. It is, however, responsible for cheating," he said.

Mr Ndunda says schools have devised dubious ways, including forced repetition of weak candidates and bribery, to ensure they stay on top of the charts.

But educationists say ranking has tilted the scales in favour of an elite crop of national and top provincial schools, locking out other institutions, new and old.

When ranking was in vogue, the list of the top 50 schools was predictable. If Nairobi’s Starehe Boys or Precious Blood Girls was not top, then Kianda School or Central’s Alliance High would take pride of place.

And when these schools are not tops, they run a close second. The list would also feature Central’s Mangu and Loreto Limuru, Nyanza’s Maseno, Bungoma’s Friends School Kamusinga, Nakuru’s Bahati Girls, Nyeri’s Bishop Gatimu Ngandu, among others.

These schools send the highest number of the 16,000 students to public universities to study prime courses such as medicine, pharmacy, law, commerce and engineering.

Long overdue

School principals termed the abolition of ranking as "long overdue", adding that it had promoted unhealthy competition among schools.

Kenya Secondary School Heads Association Chairman Cleophas Tirop said: "The system had narrowed down education to a grading affair that led to cut-throat competition at the expense of a holistic development of education standards."

According to Mr Tirop, ranking was responsible for the rot in education, including the ever-complex cheating in national examinations, forced repetition and centres for private coaching.

But in a move likely to elicit sharp reactions from the teachers and their unions, Tirop called for performance contracts in schools to replace ranking. He said schools had used KNEC rankings to assess performance.

"With the abolition of ranking, the department of quality assurance in the Education ministry should set up alternative parameters to measure performance. We propose a performance contract system for school managers," he said.

Nairobi’s KCA University Vice-Chancellor Daniel Oruoch said school ranking was ridiculous because institutions are not equal.

"Ranking assumes that all schools have the same physical facilities and resources and teachers with equal qualifications. This is not the case," Dr Oruoch said, "ranking of schools was done without a clear benchmark. It was like comparing an apple and an orange in nutritional value."

Oruoch said ranking had made some schools perceive themselves as outcasts. "The ranking system is skewed and has a negative impact in schools," he said.

KNEC Chief Executive Paul Wasanga defended the abolition: "Even without ranking, schools know what they got and can gauge the performance trend since 1989. They are in a position to know if they are improving."

Ranking came into sharp focus after the release of 2007 KCSE results when Mangu High School emerged tops followed by Loreto High and Limuru Girls.

The traditional order of academic giants that had stood firm for more than a decade was dislodged.

The dethroned giants claimed KNEC had conspired against them.

But Wasanga dismissed the allegations, saying: "How can a national examination body plot against individual schools?"

— Additional reporting by Kenana Miruka, Osinde Obare and Jane Akinyi

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