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Abolishing ranking should not eliminate competition

By Kenneth Kwama | December 30th 2014

The release of the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) exams results yesterday by Education Cabinet Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi was a whimper and did not have the bang effect the ceremony has been associated with over the years.

Everyone was left to speculate on what could have been had the former system of ranking schools and pupils been used.

This removed the pomp from the ceremony and Kaimenyi did not help matters when he stated that this year’s performance was relatively the same as last year.

Opinion on whether it was necessary to abolish the ranking system was varied.

Those who faulted the move argued ranking inspired competition among students and schools.

Those against ranking said it discouraged average students from striving to perform well academically and led to congestion in some schools which are said to perform well, leaving others with few students.

So it is inevitable that the abolishment of school performance tables, which usually follow the release of exam results, will be hailed with different levels of enthusiasm by different stakeholders.

Professor Kaimenyi pointed out 11 reasons why it was necessary to scrap the ranking system.

Among the reasons given out was that it creates unnecessary competition among schools, which may as a result lead such schools to engage in examination irregularities to compete favorably.

The professor also said that it is not fair to compare schools that have distint differences in terms of resources, infrastructure and which admit students with diverse entry behavior.

It all makes sense.

Tables, like statistics, never tell the whole story. They do, of course, show schools where results are not so good.

But good or bad performance in education depends on many factors, including intake.

But it should not be lost to the government and other stakeholders that competition could be compromised by lack of a clear school ranking system.

The ranking system was used by students paying large and ever-growing amounts of money to select the good schools they wanted to attend.

It was also necessary for parents who needed comparative information to help their children make smart choices.

So when government objects to rankings it seems like the real intention is to avoid accountability and healthy competition, which does not sound good for the sector.

The Ministry of Education has explained that it is in the process of establishing the Education Standards and Quality Assurance Council, which will be mandated to quality assure basic education in schools.

This too is a good idea, but some stakeholders have been left wondering why the ministry found it prudent to initiate the new system without the new quality assurance body.

This could compromise standards if not done in good time.

The ministry should make establishment of the quality assurance body a priority to help parents, teachers and students hoping to join good schools.

This is the only way to mitigate failure to rank academic performance of candidates, schools and counties in national examinations. It will bring sanity to the sector and assure about the future of education.

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