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All set as mass tests for pupils start today

By Augustine Oduor | January 18th 2021 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

A teacher at a Standard Eight classroom at Kisii primary school. [Sammy Omingo,Standard]

After a 10-month Covid-19 imposed holiday, an estimated eight million primary school learners will this morning start a national assessment.

The week-long assessment is being administered by the Kenya National Examinations Council (Knec), but unlike other conventional examinations, there will be no ranking of learners according to the grades they score.

A circular released by Acting Knec Chief Executive Officer Mercy Karogo says the assessments will be administered up to Friday.

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

Under the GPE funding, schools are supposed to be supported to print and administer the assessment tools.

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

Knec said it has developed assessment tools that will be sent to schools to gauge learners’ entry behaviour before learning takes off.

According to Knec, starting this morning, Grade One-Three learners will be assessed on fundamental literacy and numeracy ­– English activities, Kiswahili activities and mathematics activities.

At the same time Standard Five and Six learners will be assessed on the grasp of English, Kiswahili, mathematics and science, while Standard Seven learners will be assessed about their understanding of all subjects examined in the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE).

“For all subjects or learning areas, assessment items will be drawn from previous classes/grades and Term One of the current class/grade,” said Dr Karogo.

This means for Standard Seven, for instance, learners will be assessed from Standard One to Six and Term One of Standard Seven.

Standard Eight teacher Samuel Mwangi in a Math class session at Josepgh Kangethe primary school in Nairobi on January 4, 2021. [David Gichuru,Standard]

Under the GPE funding plan, Knec is also expected to sensitise head teachers on administration of the assessment and also upgrade its assessment portal to cater for the extra classes.

After the administration of the assessments, Knec is expected to verify and validate the scores uploaded by the teachers and conduct data analysis and interpretation.

The examinations council will also generate a report on the findings and assessment results, which will be shared with stakeholders.

A recent World Bank report said several months of school closures due to Covid-19 would result in an immediate learning loss.

“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.

Knec guidelines

A guide on how to conduct the assessments requires that head teachers download and print the assessment tools from the Knec website and make them ready at least a day before start of the tests.

This means school heads are expected to have made the assessment material ready by close of business yesterday.

Knec guidelines also require that school heads must ensure they have the necessary infrastructure to download and print the material and also facilitate uploading of the scores.

"And those facing challenges with printing assessment material and uploading scores should coordinate with their respective sub-county directors of education for assistance,” said Karogo.

Schools without ICT facilities are advised to undertake printing in nearby learning institutions such as neighbouring primary or high schools, teacher training colleges, technical training institutions and universities.

The assessment rules require that the printed material must be stored safely in schools and only produced to teachers during assessment time.

“To ensure security and safety, the printed assessments tools should be stored in the head teacher's office in a lockable cabinet,” said Karogo.

To facilitate the exercise, the government has given schools Sh11 per child to facilitate the administration of assessments aimed at evaluating learners' understanding of subject areas after prolonged closure.

Primary school heads, however, said the money may not be adequate and pleaded with the Kenya National Examinations Council (Knec) to send additional money to facilitate the exercise.

Standard 8 candidates at Tracer Academy in Kisii County. [Sammy Omingo, Standard]

“We hope that the council will send us something as they did during Grade Four and Class Eight assessments that took place last year,” said Nicholas Gathemia, Kenya Primary School Heads Association (Kepsha) chairman.

“Yes we received some money last year, but we hope that Knec will send schools something additional from this kitty,” said Gathemia, adding that these preparations would require some money and schools were likely to struggle if not well supported.

Not enough money

Sources at Knec however said schools had been sent all the money for assessments last year.

"It's not correct to say that they do not have money. Knec released money last year and some heads still levied parents for the assessments," said the source.

Head teachers, however, said the money they received last year was for Grade Four and Standard Eight assessments, further explaining that the only other money they have received so far is Free Primary Education (FPE) capitation funds.

The FPE disbursement schedules released by Basic Education PS Belio Kipsang shows that only Sh11.54 was sent per child towards assessments and examinations.

“This money is meant for internal assessments but we know it may not be enough in line with the tasks to be undertaken during the administration exercise,” said Gathemia.

The results of the Learning Continuity in Basic Education (LCBE) assessments will help craft interventions to be put in place to address the gaps realised, as teachers start a crash programme to cover lost academic time.

“The assessment 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,” said Karogo.

The assessments are based on the realisation that after being away from school for 10 months, children must have faced devastating effects on quality learning.

Knec directs head teachers to ensure the stored assessment tools are only retrieved and issued to the teachers administering the tests based on the timetable.

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