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Mass ‘tests’ await pupils once schools resume

By Augustine Oduor | September 19th 2020 at 03:00:00 GMT +0300

The Government is planning to administer national assessments for all primary children when schools reopen, to evaluate their understanding following several months of closure.

The Saturday Standard has established that the Kenya National Examinations Council (Knec) is already developing assessment tools that will be sent to schools to gauge learners’ entry behaviour before learning takes off.

All assessments will be done in schools where teachers will mark and upload the scores onto the Knec portal.

Schools have remained shut since March when the first Covid-19 case was reported in the country and Cabinet Secretary for Education George Magoha has been accused of giving mixed signals about their reopening.

On Tuesday, Magoha said the decision on whether to reopen schools will be announced after a mega stakeholders’ meeting that is expected to take place on or before September 25.

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Looming reopening

The development of assessment tools might be the light at the end of the tunnel. According to plan, schools will be supported to print and administer the assessment tools.

The programme is part of the Sh1.5 billion Global Partnership for Education (GPE) boost towards the Government’s schools reopening preparations.

The Teachers Service Commission, Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development and Knec are set to benefit from the grant, which the World Bank will supervise.

According to the plan tabled by Knec, assessments for Grade One to Standard Six will be done mainly in foundational numeracy and literacy, mathematics, science and languages.

Learners in Standard Seven and Eight will be assessed in all the KCPE subjects, according to the plan.

Proposals have also been made to conduct similar learning assessments at secondary school level for Form One to Form Four to inform on any learning loss and institute necessary recovery measures.

Knec says the assessment process is meant to assist teachers understand the status of learners’ understanding and the results will neither be used to rank children nor determine transition to next classes.

Finer details reveal that all learners in Grade One to Standard Eight across all the primary schools – public and private – will be targeted with the assessments.

According to the plan, Grades 1 to 3 will be assessed in foundational literacy and numeracy, while Grade 4 and Standard 5 and 6 will be assessed in mathematics, languages and science.

“At Grade 4, the Special Needs Education (SNE) pathway will also be assessed,” reads the document.

The details emerged during a high-level GPE Mission meeting held virtually under the banner of ‘implementation support mission for the Kenya GPE - Priede project Covid 19 learning continuity in basic education project’.

Top Ministry of Education officials and representatives from World Bank, United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) attended the meeting.

Knec Acting Chief Executive Officer Mercy Karogo yesterday said the assessments will go a long way in helping children catch up with lost time.

“Teachers will be able to evaluate the various understanding levels of children in their class and prescribe best ways of assisting them recoup lost time,” said Karogo.

Sensitise teachers

The Saturday Standard established that Knec is presently developing assessment tools for the targeted subjects and learning areas. The agency is also expected to develop administrative tools to guide assessments at school level.

Under the plan, Knec will sensitise headteachers on administration of the assessment and also upgrade its portal to cater for the extra classes.

After the administration of the assessments, Knec will verify and validate the scores already uploaded by the teachers and also conduct data analysis and interpretation. Knec will also generate a report on the findings and assessment results, which will be shared with stakeholders.

The details emerge against the backdrop of a World Bank report that warned that Covid-19 could lead to permanent loss in learning among children.

According to the recent report, five months of school closures due to Covid-19 will result in an immediate loss of 0.6 years of schooling adjusted for quality, bringing the effective learning that a student can achieve down from 7.9 years to 7.3 years.

“We were already living a learning crisis before the pandemic. With the spread of the coronavirus, the learning crisis will be even deeper – the baseline from which we need to accelerate and improve learning is now even more challenging,” reads the report.

Children have been out of school for about six months, which presents devastating effects to quality learning. With suspension of national examinations, failed online lessons and uncertainty over transition, learners have suffered major psychological setbacks that may impact their memory of subject areas.

Knec Education CS George Magoha
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