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End of an era as non-ranking of schools eliminate song and dance

By Augustine Oduor | Dec 30th 2014 | 5 min read
Wilson Motanya of Kakamega Hills Academy celebrates with his father James Motanya at their Gesonso home, Kisii County.

Results for this year’s Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) exams are out, but minus the rankings that made song and dance part of the fanfare associated with the declaration of the victors nationally, among counties and even within private and public schools’ categories.

Something big was missing on the menu for releasing KCPE results because there wasn't that earth-shaking moment when the best candidate, school and county was named.

Also missing was the dance sessions as winning schools did jigs to celebrate their exploits, a ritual that would not end without the triumphant candidates being carried shoulder high by colleagues, teachers, friends and relatives.

The country was treated to an anticlimax yesterday when this year's KCPE results were released without any merit list indicating individuals and schools who did well.

In a break from the tradition when such days were greeted with wild jubilation, education stakeholders were left in a cloud of uncertainty following the Ministry of Education's decision to discontinue ranking of schools and candidates.

Education Cabinet Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi gave 11 reasons why ranking had been discarded. They included the unfairness of pooling privileged and poor schools in one cluster, the unorthodox means that some schools use to improve their mean score - such as letting weak candidates repeat Standard Seven and registering only a few bright ones - as well as demoralisation and stigmatisation of children in regions that perennially perform poorly, and have always remained at the bottom of the table.

And even with the low key ceremony, he said the performance of this year's candidates was "relatively the same" compared to last year.

This did not, however, dampen the spirits of some of the top achievers we caught up with immediately the results were released. By the time we went to the press it was evident that one of the highest marks was 441 out of the maximum 500 by Tracy Achieng of Light Academy, Nairobi.

Also starring with 438 was Alex Onsarigo, of MM Shah Primary School, Kisumu County. Others who had top marks included Pauline Wakiuru of Nyeri God Shepherd Academy and Linet Waithera and Felistus Waithera of High Peak Junior Academy, Naivasha, who scored 437 and 436 marks respectively.


There was joy when Mercy Nyaboke of St. Kevin Hill Nyali, Mombasa scored 437 marks while Naomi Chepkurui of Bomet clinched 433, just like Biwott Goretti of Moi Primary School, Kabarak and Leah Njeri Wanjohi of Efforts Schools, Kirinyaga. Also scoring 437 was Mwika Valerie Wanjiru of Moi Educational Centre, Nairobi. Nicholas Isahi of Mululu Primary School Vihiga got 432 marks.

While releasing the results Kaimenyi said 5,584 candidates scored between 401 and 450 marks. This means that no candidate scored 500 marks and the top candidate scored about 450 marks. This is six points above last year's top mark of 444.

Overall, some 431, 686 scored the average mark of 251 and above. This means that 445, 981 scored 250 marks and below.

"The overall performance of candidates in the 2014 KCPE based on their standardised scores remained relatively the same when compared to last year," explained Kaimenyi.

The CS also announced that the ministry is inching closer to bridging the gender parity gap, noting that almost half of the counties registered more girls than boys.

"The number of girls who sat the examination increased from 413,390 last year to 437,228 this year, marking an increase of 23,838 girls, while boys increased from 426,369 last year to 443,258 this year, an increase of 16,889 boys," said Kaimenyi.

He said cases of examination irregularities have 'substantially' gone down with only 1,702 cases reported in 93 centres this year. Kiswahili and English, he said, still remain the most subjects most affected by the vice.

Kaimenyi announced that with the increased spaces in national schools, candidates who scored 200 marks and above will get places in secondary schools.

This means that 55,201 candidates who sat this year's KCPE will not get Form One admission. Some 27 schools were elevated to national status bringing the total number to 107.

The symbolic release of the results at Mtihani House, however, lacked the usual pomp and colour that has over the years become the hallmark of the national post-Christmas ritual.

Kaimenyi said the occasion served to officially release results and also as a rite of passage for children who have completed their primary education, and are about to embark on another phase of their education.

Among the CS's 11 points defending the end of rankings were unhealthy competition, increased examination irregularities and blatant disregard of ministry directives on banning of holiday tuition.

"Summative examinations such as KCPE and KCSE assess the product, not the process. Using mean scores alone to rate learners or institutions does not give conclusive evidence of the effects of other variables such as physical resources, teacher-pupil ratio, teacher quality, teaching-learning materials and school management which also impact on performance," said Kaimenyi.

Members of Parliament, private schools and a teachers union immediately dismissed the ban on rankings and cautioned the ministry against implementing a policy that will lower the standards of education.

House Education Committee Chairperson Julius Melly accused Kaimenyi of being "insensitive to parents and children who have worked tirelessly to post good results".

"This is totally unacceptable. The challenges the minister has cited are all failures within his ministry that he should tackle first. They do not have any correlation with ranking of candidates or schools," said Melly.

He revealed the House Committee will petition President Uhuru Kenyatta to transfer the CS to another ministry having failed Kenyans.

"The laptops project has failed. Now he comes up with an unpopular policy directive that will kill quality of education in schools. KCPE is a summative examination and parents and candidates must be ranked and appreciated for hard work," he added.

Accompanied by committee member Jacob Macharia, Melly said the policy must be revoked.

"This is unacceptable and we are not happy," he said.

The Kenya Private Schools Association (KPSA) also weighed in and accused the ministry of failing to tackle real problems within itself.

"It is the ministry that registered satellite schools. They should just de-register them. This has nothing to do with rankings. All the reasons he has highlighted are faults on the side of the ministry," said KPSA Chief Executive Officer Peter Ndoro.

Kenya National Union of Teachers Secretary General Wilson Sossion said Kaimenyi must not "intellectualise" the ills that have afflicted his ministry to discontinue ranking.

He said ranking has been the only "social tool" left for schools and candidates to compare and benchmark against, with a view to enhance education standards.

"We agree the schools are not the same, but why can't the ministry come up with ranking categories? How will teachers be held to account for posting bad results? How will the parents know a school's performance?  And whom did he consult before releasing the circular?" asked Sossion as he summed up Kaimenyi's action as "simplistic".

But Kaimenyi said the ministry is working on a "holistic assessment model" that will take into consideration all factors that determine performance of candidates and schools.

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