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Why government did not release names of top KCPE candidates, schools

 Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu releasing the 2022 KCPE results on December 21, 2022 at the Mitihani House in Nairobi. [Standard]

The government did not reveal the names of top performers in KCPE exams for the first time in many years.

Education Cabinet Secretary (CS) Ezekiel Machogu, while releasing the 2022 KCPE results, announced only the top score, and how marks were distributed in the different score categories.

He said the top score in the exam was 431 marks out of the possible 500.

It took journalists nearly an hour for the joint top scorers, Otieno Lewis Omondi of St. Peter's Mumias Primary and Fwaro Makokha Robinson of Christ The King Academy Bungoma, to be identified.

The Standard understands that President William Ruto has been keen on eliminating the ranking of pupils and schools in national exams.

The president has been consistent on his position that dates back to March 2015, when he presided over the opening of the USIU-Africa Science Centre. Dr Ruto was the deputy president at the time.

During his speech on March 16, 2015 at the USIU-Africa main campus in Nairobi, Ruto said: "You cannot condense what you have learned in eight years in primary education, or four years in secondary education, to one or two hours of exam. We really need to think about what we want. Is it to pass exams, impart knowledge, create skills and expertise or nurture talent?"

Ruto further said that the emphasis placed on national exams had reduced Kenya's education system to a conduit for "just passing exams".

Now in power as the president, Ruto has implemented the "no-ranking policy".

The Standard understands, through a well-placed source who sought anonymity, that before the 2022 KCPE results were released on Wednesday, December 21, the Head of State directed the Education ministry to do away with rankings during the release of the results.

The president had reportedly said that recommendations made by a special education task force in 2014 proposing the ban of ranking in national exams be adopted.

The Dr. Kilemi Mwiria-led task force, in its report, recommended that exams ranking must be reviewed and realistic measures of evaluating performance be adopted.

"The clamour accompanying announcements of the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) and the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) needs to be lessened, especially with regard to ranking top schools and students," read the 2014 report.

In its recommendations, the task force said if the government was keen on maintaining the schools and learners' rankings, then the said-rankings should only be used to inform Kenyans on the institutions that attained the basic minimum academic pass mark.

"Schools could be ranked by how many of their students have surpassed the 50 per cent pass mark," said the report.

Belio Kipsang, who was the Basic Education Principal Secretary at the time, said in 2014 that the Education ministry was "seriously reviewing" the manner in which Standard Eight and Form Four national examinations were being managed.

"There is need for an honest evaluation of exams. We must re-examine the entire process, from the setting, invigilation, marking and release of exam results," he said.

Kipsang said the exam cheating menace had persisted because of the high stakes placed on national tests.

"We've had many cases of exam cheating. We must think about how to end this. Ranking of candidates and schools in national exams may be part of the problem. We are placing too much emphasis on exams," he said.

Asked to comment on whether the Dr Kilemi Mwiria task force report influenced the decision to withhold the names of top pupils and schools in the 2022 KCPE, Kipsang, who rejoined the Education ministry as PS in President Ruto's government, said: "Once the Cabinet Secretary [for Education Ezekiel Machogu], who is my boss, has spoken during such a national exercise, and released the national examinations, we won't be in order explaining anything."

Senior Education ministry officials, who spoke to The Standard on condition of anonymity, said the government had deliberately made the decision to "tone down" the high stakes in national examinations.

Our sources said the President Ruto-led administration was concerned that the ranking of candidates had made some of the learners to be anxious during the release of results.

"Some children have died by suicide after the release of national examination results. Some school heads have been ejected from their institutions for not posting high scores," said one of our informants.

Another high-ranking source said: "There is every likelihood that a child and other people will try cheating [in exams] if they are trying to be Number One and will be glorified for the good results."

Another informant said: "Top private schools were getting free advertisement by the government when the Education minister called their names out as best-performing schools."

The Kenya Primary School Heads Association (KEPSHA) national chairperson Johnson Nzioka welcomed the government's decision to discontinue the ranking of schools and pupils.

"Ranking in national exams brings about unhealthy competition and motivates teachers and learners to pursue shortcuts," said Nzioka.

The Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers (KUPPET) Secretary-General Akelo Misori echoed Nzioka's sentiments.

"In education, we don't celebrate success as one would in a football tournament," he said.

The government hopes that the deviation would bring relief to parents whose children are scheduled to sit national examinations.

The 8-4-4 system, which is gradually being phased out by the CBC, placed emphasis on exam performance, several Education ministry officials said.

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