By WACHIRA KIGOTHO
Most Kenyans, irrespective of their social background, support free primary education and have faith in the credibility of KCPE as an effective assessment tool mechanism, according to a Basic Education Study report released on Tuesday.
The study by a Nairobi-based social and market design company — CPS Research International — and which was carried in 11 counties, showed 84.5 per cent of the general public supported free primary education as it provided access to education for pupils from poor households.
However, only 14.6 per cent of the respondents did not support free primary education since it affected quality of education because of poor infrastructure and high pupil-teacher ration in public schools.
The FPE programme had support of university and secondary schools students, teachers as well as primary school pupils. In this case, 87.7 per cent of primary school pupils supported the program, perhaps because they are direct beneficiaries, and 80.5 per cent of university students also threw their weight behind it.
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Only 17.8 per cent of university students and 12.3 per cent of primary school pupils responded negatively on account of poor quality of public schooling.
However, the most robust support for FPE was recorded from secondary school students where 92.9 per cent said they supported it not necessarily because they were beneficiaries but because it accorded every a child a chance to basic education.
Asked as to whether KCPE should be abolished as recommended by the Task Force on the Re-alignment of the Education Sector to the Constitution of Kenya 2010, about 63 per cent of respondents from the general public that included parents were against the idea. However, 35.4 per cent were on the opinion that the exam had no value as it only promoted rote learning.
Views regarding scrapping of the KCPE were also held by teachers’ unions, head teachers’ association and civil society.
Respondents from these constituencies argued KCPE does not prepare pupils for secondary education. Nonetheless, such views were unpopular among primary and secondary school as well as university students who argued KCPE was a vital academic assessment tool, added value and prepared pupils for secondary education.
Of the general public, 66 per cent were of the view KCPE should be retained in the school system while only 14.6 per cent were of contrary view and 19.3 per cent were non-committal. The survey shows 65.9 per cent of secondary students, 67.9 per cent of university students and 76.9 per cent of primary school pupils were opposed to scrapping of the KCPE.
“Majority of the respondents from the three groups are of the view that the KCPE prepares students adequately for secondary education,” says the study.
According to CPS principal researcher Dann Mwangi, the study also sought views of Kenyans on other key education issues such as the free tuition secondary education, laptops to primary schools, upgrading of county schools to national schools, holiday tuition in primary schools and conversion of middle-level colleges to universities.
“We wanted to establish the opinion of the general public and key stakeholders in education on issues of access, retention, equity, quality and relevance in education,” says Mwangi.
The research also sampled views as to whether tertiary institutions should be converted into universities or university constituent colleges and almost all respondents were against the idea.
“A big number of middle level training colleges were upgraded to universities without sufficient thought to the consequences,” said an official at the Ministry of Education.
The general public and university students were of the opinion that it is wrong to convert middle-level colleges and polytechnics into universities. Both cohorts at 75.4 per cent and 65.4 per cent respectively noted that the newly elevated institutions are not well equipped, lack qualified teaching staff and that the conversion is not designed to close any existing gap in the academic or job market in the country.
Nonetheless, such views were opposed by secondary students and primary school pupils who at 47.1 per cent and 58.5 per cent supported the idea of increased number of universities in the country. Only 37.6 per cent of secondary school students were not in favour of elevation of middle-level colleges to universities, while 15.3 per cent refused to disclose their views to researchers on the matter.
As for primary school pupils, the majority argued that more the elevation increased access to higher education.
No doubt both primary and secondary school students seemed to be acting in self interest as they were direct beneficiaries of the policy. The two groups were overwhelmingly in favour of conversion of some county secondary schools to national schools as well as introduction of centres of excellence schools.
Whereas almost 70 per cent of primary school pupils supported the policy of conversion of county schools to national schools, only 58.4 per cent of the general public respondents were in favour.