Make Knec a trusted agency that assesses success, not failure of learners

Kenya National Examinations Council (KNEC) office at Mitihani House, Nairobi. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

The ongoing public discourse surrounding the recently unveiled Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examination results demands a broader conversation on the direction of competency measurement at different learning levels.

Amid claims ranging from technical issues with the shortcode to alleged discrepancies in scoring and aggregation, it is crucial to scrutinise the veracity of these assertions from three distinct perspectives.

Firstly, what anti-malpractice measures did the Kenya National Examinations Council (Knec) implement this year? Secondly, what is the statistical analysis of aggrieved examination centers versus those without complaints? Lastly, what path should the country take as the 8-4-4 system concludes at the primary school level?

On the first issue, Knec implemented various measures to ensure a smooth examination process from candidate registration to administration. Notably, there were no reported instances of candidates missing exams due to registration issues, and stringent control measures minimised malpractice to just two cases, as announced by the Education Cabinet Secretary of Education during the release of the results.

The Ministry of Education has arranged a special examination in January 2024 for the 9,354 candidates who couldn’t sit the exam due to various reasons, including adverse weather conditions.

Regarding the second perspective, a total of 1,405,557 learners across 28,533 centres sat the KCPE examination. Out of these, the majority of the schools are satisfied with the results and only a few private schools have lodged complaints officially with Knec. While the Council says it continues to review appeals from candidates/schools filed officially, it is imperative to acknowledge that appeals by themselves do not construe culpability on the part of Knec in any measure and it is within the statutory rules of the Council to receive, examine the complaints raised against available evidence across various parameters and reach a fair conclusion.

In the complaints so far on social and mainstream media, there are citations of discrepancy that only tilt towards low marks and not any complaints lodged in regard to “unfairly awarded high marks”. This is the elephant in the room that is closely connected to the third perspective on our national culture around certification for competence. Should it be an examination or assessment for potential?

Knec, on its own, does not hold the answer to this question. It is given a mandate through Parliament, and it is important that the public be fully informed and participate in the next set of public consultations when the recommendations of the Presidential Working Party on Education Reforms come to the floor of the House.

While the 8-4-4 system has its advantages, it also birthed a culture that placed examinations as a one-strike system where in three days, a learner’s competence for eight years is reduced to a failure or success by the grading that follows immediately after the release of the examinations.

For most learners, failure to be in the top-tier bracket spells doom. In the current context, only 8,523 candidates scored 400 marks and above. The unseen, unrecognised, unmentioned, and covered in obscurity are the 383,025 learners who are below 200 marks.

These students often have to bear the brunt of their marks, despite their character, values, talents, and other skillsets that they possess simply because the examination process is a one-strike that condemns them often to sub-county or day schools. Often, these students lack the confidence to face life because their competencies and potential are all measured in a three-day examination.

This is the conundrum that the Competency Based Curriculum (CBC) should seek to address by transitioning Knec from a purely examination to a competence assessment agency whose decisions will not be interpreted as finality in a learner’s journey when we know that three days cannot and should not determine the future of any child.

It is, therefore, imperative that even as the public discusses the recent results, key stakeholders, from the government, learners, and teachers, broaden the conversation to empower Knec to be an agency of trust, and integrity that assesses success and not failure of learners.

-The writer is a communications and international development specialist. He can be reached via [email protected]


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