New KCSE grading system allows students to get prime courses

Philip Ndinda Mulatya of Jamuhuri High School celebrates after scoring a mean grade of A in the 2023 KCSE Examination. [Jenipher Wachira, Standard]

More students can now enroll for top courses following the review of examination grading system.

Under the new system, only mathematics and the best-performed languages, out of English, Kiswahili, or Kenyan Sign Language, are considered mandatory for calculating a student’s final grade. 

The remaining five subjects are chosen based on individual performance, allowing students to shine in their areas of strength.

Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu has directed the Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service (KUCCPS) to review the university cluster subjects that decide which course a student qualifies to pursue based on their subject performance.

“I ask the Knec (Kenya National Examinations Council) to complete their processes and hand over the final results to KUCCPS to pave the way for the start of the placement process,” the CS said. 

This means that thousands of students who took the 2023 KCSE examinations will now have a shot at prestigious university courses that were out of reach for their predecessors.

The directive is part of changes in the grading of candidates adopted in September following recommendations by the Presidential Working Party on Education Reforms. 

Competition for the top courses is expected to be stiffer, with the number of students qualifying for university – those with Grade C+ and above – shooting up by 28,000 to 201,133.

This is 22.27 per cent of the candidates, compared to 173,345 (19.62%) in 2022. 

“This is as a result of the application of a new grading system that reduced the number of compulsory subjects required to compute the mean grade,” said the CS at the Moi Girls School, Eldoret, during the release of the 2023 KCSE examination results.

“The new reform measure will allow a larger number of students to pursue courses of their choice at the universities, diploma and TVET training at certificate and artisan levels.”

The CS also instructed KUCCPS to conduct awareness and career guidance exercises for last year's candidates, particularly on the new clusters and funding model.

Out of the 899,453 candidates who sat the examination, 1,216 (0.14%) obtained an average of grade A compared to 1,146 (0.13%) candidates in the previous year. 

Knec Chief Executive Officer David Njegere said the new grading system was necessitated by the rigidity of the previous one.

An analysis by the council shows that Kenya has been lagging behind in the number of grades posted by candidates equal to our university entry mark.

“The global benchmark for the C+(plus) grade is 30 per cent.  Kenya has not even reached 20 per cent,” Dr Njegere said in a previous interview.

Despite the review in grading, a large number of candidates (48,174 or 5.33 per cent) still scored a mean grade of E.

The CS has directed the Directorate of Quality Assurance to work with other field officers and teachers to investigate the cases of Grade E in each county and submit a report in a month.