Hot air: MPs fail to table evidence on 2022 national exams cheating claims

Moi Kapsowar Girls' High School Principal Hellen Nyabuto explains how CCTV technology has helped the school curb exam irregularities. [File, Standard]

MPs on Thursday failed to table evidence on examination rigging claims, raising questions about their probe.

Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu, Basic Education PS Bellio Kipsang and Kenya National Examinations Council (Knec) officials pressed MPs to present tangible evidence that last year’s Form Four national examinations were infiltrated.

The Julius Melly-led National Assembly Education Committee had been moving round the country and addressing the media after every town hall meeting with feedback that they had collected evidence to prove cheating.

And after two weeks of public hearings, the MPs met ministry officials and examination officers. After about three hours of sitting at a city hotel, Machogu said: “No single MP has come out to tell the country that such a school in my constituency has been performing poorly but this year (last year) has posted a huge positive deviation.”

He added: “We have less time to act on the rumours. When people are given opportunity to give evidence, they shy away. It is hard to manage rumours.”

The MPs had asked the ministry officials to answer whether there were cases of cheating, measures taken to curb the vice, whether marking and processing of examinations were thoroughly done.

At the centre of the claims by MPs were why some schools posted higher mean scores, how some schools produced many grade As and why others had 100 per cent transition to universities.

With nothing to table, the MPs treated the country to trivialities and numerous off tangent questions that were not aimed at addressing their rigging claims.

Melly had said that immediately after the release of last year’s KCSE exam results, there was an outcry over massive irregularities.

“A few minutes after the release of last years’ Form Four exams, there was an outcry from the media, teachers, and the public raising issues on the results which caught our attention. We did go round the country collecting views from the public with the aim of trying to find out the truth,”  Melly said.

But Machogu revealed that some of the falsehood was peddled by some high school principals who he said are in competition with each other, to malign the integrity of exams, terming them unfounded and erroneous.

“We want Kenyans to know the whole truth, nothing but the truth. The improvement of a school with a mean grade of 4 is not unique because it has happened before,” Machogu stated.

Machogu and his team however presented a blow-by- blow account of how last year’s national examinations compared with previous years complete with data to discount MPs claims.

In his presentation, Machogu dismissed reports that there was leakage in the exams, terming the claims as mere rumours, unfounded and erroneous.

Machogu presented data to show that the entry behaviour of candidates during Form One admission in 2019 mirrored their scores in 2022.

It also emerged that some principals peddle falsehoods against their peers who register higher mean scores thus fanning the narrative of irregularities in the examinations.

MPs also heard that the claim of more candidates scoring Grade As in last year’s examination was a falsehood, with Machogu laying bare data to show that there were higher numbers of the quality grade in previous years.

Overall, MPs meeting with ministry officials heard that there is a growing trend of concern where some Kenyans glorify failure and when candidates score higher grades they are branded as products of cheating instead of hard work.

Education PS Belio Kipsang said the motivation of sending principals to schools is to add value to children and wondered why people are more concerned with failure than positive results.

‘‘Is only in this country where massive failure is a normal curve but with few passes is an abnormal curve. If the normal curve is a failure, I don’t understand why we keep asking for changes of learners when posted,’’ Kipsang said.

‘‘As I sent my child to school I expect the child to perform better not to fail.’’

Kipsang noted that no single leader should compromise with the education of a country which he said informs the future of a generation.

‘‘We are dealing with issues which are important and crucial that define this country. Certification of our academic papers define where we will go in future,’’ he said.

Machogu explained that the 2018 performance by these candidates in class eight KCPE exams reflected the outcome of the last year’s exams.

Machogu wondered why those pointing fingers on the examination results are not concerned about the high number of learners who failed.

The CS also dismissed claims that many learners scored grade A. He said that while 1,146 students obtained a mean grade of A in 2022, some 1,138 learners scored the same grade in the previous exam.

This reflects an increase of only eight additional grade As.

“Many people are just concerned with the eight students. They are not bothered by the 354,000 learners who scored grade D and below,” Machogu said.

Knec Chief Executive David Njeng’ere said in 2021, the number of learners who sat the exam was 821,000 while 876,000 sat the exam in 2022.

Njeng’ere said with KCPE, there is a high possibility of maintaining a normal curve compared to KCSE citing the logistics.

“With KCPE candidates, learners are drawn from the same locality with the same characteristics. After the exam, the learners are placed in national, extra-County, county and Sub-County schools. National schools will see learners drawn from 370 marks to the top candidate in the results,” Njeng’ere stated.

Njeng’ere said a students’ performance at entry point in Form One with a low marks can end up gaining a good grade in the final exam at ordinary level depending on the environment.

“KCPE is used as a reference to give you expectations but not fix you at a point in the future. Some learners may join form One with 180 marks and end up with an A in KCSE,’’ he said.

Njeng’ere cited a case in 2017 where Sing’ore Girls, an extra-county school in Elgeyo Marakwet, emerged top in the country moving from a mean score of 4 to 8.

“There was no compelling evidence to cancel the results of the school. We must apply the principal of fairness in judging a school. Until and unless there is demonstrated evidence that there was cheating we will treat it as rumours,” Njeng’ere added.

Machogu urged MPs not to take a hard stance on schools when they post impressive grades saying this depends on teachers, parents and students’ input.