End of 8-4-4 as candidates sit last KCPE exam

Nyeri Primary School's Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) candidates participate in a rehearsal session on Friday. The KCPE examination is set to commence on Monday. [Amos Kiarie, Standard]

After nearly four decades, the curtains will finally fall on the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examination.

Starting Monday, some 1,415,315 students will write the national examinations, marking an end to the cutthroat competition for stellar grades that has characterised the country’s education system since 1985 when the first batch of candidates were examined.

The three-day examinations will end on Wednesday, November 1.

The examinations will for the second year be administered simultaneously with the new Kenya Primary School Education Assessment (KPSEA).

KPSEA is the new primary exit examination under the Competency Based Curriculum (CBC) and are administered in Grade 6.

And this year, some 1,282,574 candidates will sit the tests.

Overall, a total of 24,906,837 candidates have sat the test in the 38 years it has been conducted.

This year’s exam is the 39th in its history and signifies not only the end of the KCPE but also marks the closure of the 8-4-4 era at the primary school level.

And next week’s exercise also marks a major transition from 8-4-4 to the 2-6-3-3-3 system under CBC.

Under the CBC, significant changes have been adopted in the assessment of learners where learners sit Continuous Assessment Tests (CATs) at the end of Grades 4, 5, and 6 to form the final mark at the end of primary school.

However, unlike the KCPE, the cumulative score of the learner will not determine the secondary school he or she will join; instead, the results will just inform education managers of the learners’ academic progress in primary school.

In Grade 9, the learners will also be required to take an assessment that will inform where they join senior secondary school.

They will take another assessment at the end of Grade 12 that will inform where they proceed for tertiary education.

The struggle by candidates to score higher marks in the 8-4-4 national examinations to secure plum slots in high schools and universities created shortcuts as teachers, parents and candidates, who broke security seals of the tests to access papers or bought them from cartels to give them an upper hand.

This behaviour set in motion efforts by the government to secure the credibility of the examinations through printing of the examinations abroad, a practice that education stakeholders termed as expensive.

Massive involvement of security officers, intensive monitoring and provision of daily allowances to administrators became necessary to forestall plans to cheat in the tests.

Yesterday, the Kenya National Examination Council (KNEC) chief executive Dr David Njengere said plans are complete to administer the tests.

“The examinations are secure, any one saying that he or she can access the papers before Monday, will be lying,’’ Njengere said.

Speaking at Athi River Primary School where he witnessed the exam rehearsal, Njengere said there was nothing to worry about as the council was well prepared.

He said the government will dispatch a multi-agency team in all examination centres to handle any eventuality during the examination countrywide.

‘’As a council, we are ready for any eventuality either El-Nino rains or any other matter that might come on our way. We will make sure that there will be no disruption’’ Njengere said.

Njengere said that the ministries of Education, Information & Communication Technology and Interior will jointly supervise the exercise.

‘’In matters of security, we have the Interior ministry that will take care of that, every candidate will sit for the exam’’ Njengere said.

The KCPE examination was first administered in 1985, marking the advent of the 8-4-4 education system. 

This change in the education system was a key recommendation of the Presidential Working Party on the Establishment of the Second University in Kenya (Mackay Report, 1981). 

It transformed the educational landscape, transitioning students from a 7-4-2-3 system to an 8-4-4 structure.