The recently-released results of the 2016 Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education exams are something to celebrate and grieve in equal measure.
While we celebrate the efforts made so far to restore sanity to the education sector, particularly through eliminating exam cheating, the results raised a red flag.
That 149,929 and 33,399 candidates scored D- and E respectively is worrisome. The low scores and other assessment reports show that there is a learning crisis.
The recently-launched Uwezo Kenya Sixth Learning Assessment Report shows that only 30 out of 100 Standard Three pupils can do Standard Two work, while eight out of 100 pupils in Standard Eight cannot. This is an indication that our education system is inefficient and many children are going to school without really learning.
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After spending eight years in primary and four years in secondary school respectively, the majority of our children have not acquired the skills needed to become productive and successful citizens.
But why the low scores? Some attribute them to the tight measures put in place to curb cheating; others blame the inadequacy of learning infrastructure and the poor quality of teaching. The fact is, there is a lot of waste in our education system coupled with inefficiency and dishonesty at all levels.
Moreover, our current system favours only those who are cognitively gifted and aggravates inequality.
Out of the 141 candidates who scored straight As in the 2016 KCSE exams, 86 were from Kiambu and Nairobi counties while Turkana and West Pokot failed to record any As.
The Uwezo report shows that Standard Three pupils in Nairobi County are five times more capable of doing Standard Two work than their counterparts in Turkana.
The biggest challenge we are facing is not just exam failure but an inefficient education system in totality. Our education system does not focus on the delivery of results at every learning level.
We keep spending huge amounts of resources on the education sector, yet there is no coherence across educational policies, no clear route from policy to implementation and no effective governance and accountability mechanisms.
The teachers who teach our children and set exams are the same ones who marked the final examinations and the majority of students got Ds and Es. What does this say about the quality of teaching?
The Es, Ds and those who cannot do class work clearly show that we have failed demographically as a nation; that we are not investing wisely in human capital.
This means we have a sizable number of people who, after 12 years of schooling, have no primary and secondary-level skills. Yet for our economy to grow, we need people with basic and high-level skills.
The learning crisis we are currently facing will significantly slow down progress in achieving all the development goals and in particular Vision 2030.
Quality education at all levels is core in the realisation of a sustainable development path.
The confluence of the ongoing curriculum reforms process, recent release of 2016 KCSE exam results and research evidence such as the Uwezo report provides us with an opportunity to rethink how much we focus on results at every level.
What we need is a strong results-driven education system that can bring long-lasting change to the education sector.