MPs taken through exams process, clear KNEC over KCPE claims

National Assembly Education Committee chairman Julius Melly during the touring of KNEC warehouse in Nairobi on Wednesday, December 6. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

MPs have cleared the Kenya National Examination Council (KNEC) of any malpractice in the just released controversial 2023 KCPE national examinations.

After three hours of touring the Council warehouse in Nairobi, the MPs said they had finally seen what it takes to administer, mark and release the examination results and commended the KNEC for the job.

“We have confirmed that the exam process was above board, and that it was carried out as per the regulations,” said Julius Melly, who led the National Assembly Education Committee.

The verdict came after the Tinderet MP led his committee members in conducting a nationwide investigation for the 2022 examinations after which they released a report.

And this year, the uproar that greeted release of the 2023 KCPE, pushed the MPs to start another round of inquiry to establish what may have gone wrong.

On Wednesday, the MPs were taken to the Optical Mark Reader (OMR) room, a protected space that is exclusive to senior KNEC officials and security officers.

Here, the MPs were shown the marking process of KCPE multiple choice questions, how marks are electronically keyed in and how Kiswahili Insha and English Composition marks are integrated.

KNEC chief executive David Njengere said during the marking process, OMR machines are utilized for multiple-choice papers, while manual marking is employed for compositions, Insha, Kenya Sign Language, and papers for visually impaired learners.

All marked papers undergo a rigorous confirmation process by subject experts to ensure accuracy.

Njengere further explained that KNEC's validation process encompasses raw score processing, confirmation of captured marks, combining marks, standardization, and analysis of KCPE results compared to previous years' trends.

Basic Education PS Belio Kipsang revealed that in 2018, KNEC acquired 20 Optical Mark Reader machines to improve the efficiency and accuracy in document reading.

“The OMR machine has a speed of reading 225 copies per minute. This means in one hour, the machine can mark up to 75,000 answer sheets,” he said.

KNEC said a test subjected to the machines revealed a 99.9 percent accuracy in determining the correct mark of a candidate.

The MPs also had a rare chance to see how live marking and scoring of the Grade Six Kenya Primary School Education Assessment (KPSEA) is done.

KNEC also took the MPs through its warehouses where the materials are stored after which the MPs visited the command centre where all the 40 marking centres are monitored.

The MPs then had question and answer session where they sought clarification on many examination issues and also asked hard questions about KCPE.

At the end of the meeting, they said: process was above board.

“We urge the media to report the issues in a balanced manner and avoid creating the impression that we are a nation of cheats. The committee thanks KNEC' for a job well done,” said Melly.

Melly said: “There are cases where KNEC needs to standardize a candidate's results. What's the margin of error for this? And what does KNEC do in the case of lost or misplaced scripts?”

Malulu Injendi (Malava, MP) said: “We have had complaints before, but this year we have had the loudest noise about the results. So far, the process we have seen seems to be foolproof. Was the noise by the public justified?”

Kipsang while explaining why there might have been an uproar in the results said this being the last KCPE, many schools wanted to outdo the performance of the previous years.

“As we produce the report of this year's KCPE, we will be able to bring out the situation clearly and address the issues that may have caused the uproar over the results that may not have been correct,” Kipsang said.

KNEC found itself inundated with 712 queries from concerned parents and schools seeking a review of the recently released Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examination results.

Amidst growing discontent, KNEC dismissed criticisms directed at the KCPE exams as unfounded, describing them as mere "hot air."

However, the uproar led to the identification of 133 cases where scores were initially missing, primarily impacting the Kiswahili Insha scores of affected candidates.

In a presentation to the MPs, Njengere said that there were some 1,935 cases of missing scores.

Out of this, he said 133 cases were rectified and new results issued.

Additionally, 334 candidates were confirmed as absentees during the examination period.

Njengere dismissed social media reports that some schools received scores where all learners had similar marks in some subjects.

“All the cases that have been posted on social media of schools having all candidates with similar scores are doctored results,” Njengere said.

Njengere said that they run a programme that flags out examination centres where more than 80 percent of the candidates had identical responses.

He further explained that a school with 30 or more candidates has almost zero chance of candidates presenting identical responses when working independently.

He said that their system flags examination centers where over 80 percent of candidates produce identical responses.

He refuted claims of schools with all candidates scoring identically, stating such instances as manipulated results.

“There have never been any school with a candidature of more than 30 that all of them have scored identical marks in a subject in KCPE exams,” Njengere told MPs.

The MPs sought to make sense of the uproar registered after the release of the 2023 KCPE exams.

To address any discrepancies or errors, Njengere revealed that the results provided to candidates are provisional for 60 days, allowing ample time for rectification.

Addressing delays in result dissemination via the SMS platform, KNEC cited challenges faced by service providers in importing data from Microsoft Excel into their database.

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