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Did marks reduction mess private institutions?

By Augustine Oduor | April 18th 2021

Zilpah Milano, a candidate at the Orchard School in Kitengela, Kajiado celebrates with other pupils. [Peterson Githaiga, Standard]

Analysts are wondering why private schools performed poorly in the just-released Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCPE) examinations despite having had an edge on online learning during the Covid-19 lock-down.

Analysis of the 2020 KCPE examinations results shows that only five candidates from private schools made it to the top 15 bracket nationally, signaling a shift in scores compared to previous grades.

Previously private schools’ candidates have dominated the top 10 charts, with public schools sometimes missing out or only registering a dismal show.

In 2019, for instance, of the 30 best performing schools, only four public schools – Chakol Girls, Sangalo Central Academy, Kenya Navy School, and Kathigiri B produced top candidates.

Best performance came from High Peak School, Consolata School, Lizar Junior School, Emmanuel Academy, Green Cottage Academy, Riara Springs Academy, Ancilla Catholic Academy and Elsa Preparatory.

In the 2020 examinations, none of these schools produced a candidate in the top 15 category in the 2020 examinations.

In fact, new unknown schools emerged, posting candidates with top grades.

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Kenya Private Schools Association (Kepsa) however says while they may not have produced candidates in the top categories, the general mean score of private schools was good. “If you look at the grades beyond top 15, we have done very well. And we can assure you that after the analysis we shall have done well,” said Mutheu Kasanga, the Kepsa national chairperson.

Whereas Kepsa maintained that the performance of the schools was good, finer details show that most candidates in private schools did not do well.

Parents and teachers in some of the private schools have claimed that the moderation of the examinations by the Kenya National Examination council (Knec) may have disadvantaged the candidates.

Education experts, however, say most private schools lost quality teachers during the pandemic, to other professions.

Interviews with some of the private school proprietors also revealed that the poor show was a result of effects of Covid-19 that saw many teachers exit the institutions as schools were unable to pay salaries.

When the pandemic eased and schools opened, some schools were unable to attract good teachers, hence affecting preparation for the learners.

Teachers in some private schools pointed fingers at Knec, saying the latest results may have just exposed the management of the results of the examination by the agency.

The teachers argued that most children in rural areas were unable to access online classes for lack of infrastructure and that the results ought to have reflected this.

They also argued that public schools failed to offer online lessons while a majority of private schools successfully did so, with learners keeping abreast with the curriculum.

Knec insiders, however said moderation of examinations could not be blamed for the poor show by private schools. “The pass mark has never been shifted from 50 per cent and the results as were released captured the pass mark results,” said a Knec insider.

The official said Standardisation of the examinations was done even before the tests, with each child given equal chance to attempt all questions under the same duration.

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