MPs have voted for reintroduction of the annual fanfare that is the ranking of schools’ performance in national examinations.
Lawmakers approved an amendment to the law that lifts the ban on listing of schools and candidates by order of performance in the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) and Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examinations.
But this time, performance of schools in activities outside the classroom shall be measured and ranked, according to the Kenya National Examination (Amendment) Bill, 2016, which awaits presidential assent.
“The Cabinet Secretary shall, in every academic year, rank institutions of basic education that offer primary or secondary education based on academic performance in national examinations and performance in co-curricular activities,” reads the KNEC Bill sponsored by Kiminini MP Chris Wamalwa.
The new legislation gives the Education CS the task of developing rules for school order of merit listing, which was banned three years ago by former Education CS Jacob Kaimenyi.
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Under the new changes, the CS will receive data from the Kenya National Examination Council (KNEC) and County Directors of Education, and thereafter publish a list of well-performing schools.
The Bill continues: “The CS shall as soon as practicable after the receipt of the data announce and publish the results and ranks of institutions...the CS my make rules for the purpose of ranking of institutions of basic education that offer primary or secondary education.”
The legislation, which could rekindle debate on the value of school ranking, is however silent on the weight to be placed on the two categories of merit, with MPs urging the CS to come up with regulations that will ensure fairness in the process.
“When the committee was discussing this Bill, there was a heated debate on how to rank schools fairly. That is why we suggested that we rank schools with a similar capacity. The only bone of contention is the weight to be given to the two criteria for ranking,” said Chair of the National Assembly Education Committee Sabina Chege (Nominated), whose committee introduced the changes.
“We should be able to establish what percentage goes to academics and what goes to co-curricula activities,” said Njogu Baruwa (Gichugu).
Samuel Gichigi (Kipipiri) added: “I’m happy that co-curricula activities have been considered in school ranking. I hope that the Cabinet Secretary will offer guidelines on how this will be undertaken.”
“The issue of co-curricular activities has been neglected over the years. We would like to promote such activities,” said Wilbur Ottichilo (Emuhaya).
Raheem Dawood (Imenti North) said: “We have seen students burn schools and we have put a lot of pressure on performance. Performance is not just in national examinations. We would like to see schools that do well in sports and drama as well.”
It was not immediately clear whether, should President Uhuru Kenyatta assent to the Bill, it would affect this year’s candidates.
Under the new rules, schools will be placed in distinct categories, which means that national schools, provincial schools and district schools will be listed separately, in a system the lawmakers said would create fairness.
While justifying the ban, the Ministry of Education explained that ranking bred unfair competition among schools leading to examination malpractices.
Education CS Fred Matiang’i Wednesday kept mum over the move by MPs.
The Standard however established that the Bill has unsettled education stakeholders, with some terming the move “a major disappointment”.
Teachers unions, civil society organisations and teachers gave mixed reactions to the Bill.
“This is a policy direction not a legislative issue. Policies running education need not be subjected to political emotions,” said Akelo Misori, the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) secretary general.
He said the reasons for abolishing ranking have not changed. “No amount of activism and pedestrian decision whether in Parliament will change them. Parliament should legislate on making schools the same in terms of facilities and teacher numbers in schools,” said Misori.
An education lobby group, Elimu Yetu Coalition, termed the Bill retrogressive.
“MPs are just pretending because ranking will not add value no matter indicators used. Are there methods to know how outside class activities can be measured?” Janet Muthoni, EYC national co-ordinator, posed.
But the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) Secretary General Wilson Sossion welcomed the passage of the Bill.
“This has been the position of Knut. The ranking tool should be discussed, improved and implemented through consultation,” said Sossion.