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Learning gaps as pupils approach key examinations

By Augustine Oduor | February 3rd 2021 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

Kakamega Hill Standard Eight candidates tackle a Mathematics test on October 21, 2020. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

A new report has revealed learners’ weaknesses across all subjects even as candidates prepare for next month’s national exams.

An analysis by the Kenya National Examinations Council (Knec) shows that many learners have weak competency levels and weak skills in various subject areas.

For instance, in English language, the Knec report found that a majority of Standard Eight candidates were not able to communicate using correct cohesive features, and most significantly, infer meaning.

Cohesive devices, sometimes called linking words, linkers, connectors, discourse markers or transitional words, include ‘for example’, ‘in conclusion’, ‘however’ and ‘moreover’.

Over two-thirds of learners expected to sit KCPE next month are also unable to punctuate correctly, the Kenya Global Partners in Education (GPE) Covid-19 Learning Continuity in Basic Education report says.

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It also found that nearly half of the candidates were unable to correctly use parts of speech in simple communication and identify or retrieve simple information in a passage.

This implies that majority of the learners are not able to analyse and interpret information in a passage, and correctly use grammatical categories such as tense and aspect.

On proficiency assessment, more than half (60.87 per cent) of the pupils could not correctly use modals, conjunctions and prepositions among others.

It also emerged that close to half (48.72 per cent) of the learners did not attain minimum requirement in Reading Comprehension.

“This means majority of these learners are not able to read for meaning. Low acquisition of comprehension skills is worth noting as it has a bearing on understanding of concepts in other subjects or learning areas,” reads the report.

In mathematics, report shows about 70 per cent of the learners were not able to work out evaluation of algebraic expressions (substitution), work out mean, mode and median and work out basic operations involving capacity.

A similar trend is observed at Grade Three and Standard Six where 66.47 per cent and 63.29 per cent of the learners, respectively, did not attain minimum competencies.

The analysis further shows about 65 per cent of the candidates were not able to work out word problems on operations on whole numbers, including activities in social life.

They were also unable to work out word problems on operations on whole numbers involving production, complete patterns with shapes or nets, and work out percentage decrease.

But the report also says more than half of pupils met the minimum benchmark in numbers, tables and geometry at 59.53 per cent, 60.91 per cent and 64.65 per cent respectively. Also, many of them attained minimum benchmark in measurement, averages and percentages, proportions and ratios and money. “This indicates that in these content areas, two thirds of learners did not meet the minimum proficiency levels,” reads the report.

Competency learning gaps were also noted in Kiswahili where close to three quarters (71.79 per cent) of the learners were unable to analyse character traits in a literary text and interpret meanings of words and passages.

The report also found that about half of the candidates were unable to communicate using sentences with correct noun-adjective agreement and locate specific information in the context of the passage. “This further points to gaps in reading for meaning,” reads report.

It says a number of learners did not meet minimum proficiency level in reading comprehension (ufahamu) and grammar (sarufi) at 61.01 per cent and 57. 41 per cent respectively.

In science, more than half of candidates were not able to interpret information from a weather instrument diagram and infer the correct use.

They were also not able to evaluate the scenario and make the correct judgement on the use of water and evaluate situations to determine the effects of sound pollution in an environment. A majority were also unable to predict the effects of moving air, explain the traditional and modern methods of preserving food or evaluate the importance of a particular nutrient in the diet.

“This points to low acquisition of higher order thinking skills,” reads the Knec report.

The report also says even though over 50 per cent of the pupils met the minimum benchmark in 10 out of the 12 content areas assessed in science, percentages of learners not attaining the minimum proficiency level in Soil and Properties of Matter was high.

“Low achievement in these topics is suggestive of the need for pupils to focus on content such as physical properties of soil, good and poor conductors of heat and their uses, and characteristics of matter,” it reads.

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