The release of the 2019 Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) results saw a total of 699,745 candidates take the tests, stakeholders in the education sector have continued to raise significant concerns that have to be addressed even as we forge a way forward as a country.
The Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) earlier expressed concerns over what it termed as the ‘militarization’ of exams. This followed the stringent measures that had been put in place by the Ministry of Education and the Kenya National Examinations Council (KNEC) and the Ministry of Interior and National Coordination to curb exam cheating and other examination related malpractices that had taken root over time.
KNEC went ahead and profiled areas it termed as hot-spots, which included Migori, Kisii, Nairobi, Homa Bay, Wajir, and Garissa, with 300 schools put under watch following reports of planned cheating. As the exam ended, 21 cases of cheating had been reported, 90 mobile phones confiscated.
The issue of pregnant candidates, those who delivered, and the many others who were hospitalized during the examination period and their suitability to sit for the tests still rages on. The Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association (KESSHA) argues that KNEC should allow expectant and sick KCPE and KCSE candidates to sit fresh exams as this would allow them time to heal before being subjected to the national exams.
The mental and physical stability of a candidate plays a significant role in the final result attained at the end of an examination. A candidate, who is injured, sick in the hospital bed, in labour pains or has just delivered, cannot be expected to write the exams competitively.
However, in as much as such a policy would come in handy to the affected candidates and their parents or guardians, KNEC would, in the long run, find itself in a difficult situation, especially when the candidates are given the prerogative of making such choices. Even in instances where medical reports as proofs from doctors are submitted, there could still be loopholes for abuse, compromising the entire essence of the tests.
When it comes to the marking of the exams, concerns have also been raised with some faulting the process for being rushed to meet pre-set timelines in releasing the results. For the last few years, the results for both KCPE and KCSE have been released in record time, with every year striving for a new record.
What should remain clear is that examination is a process, and all the stages are equally important. The same vigilance, due-diligence, commitment, and honesty expected from the candidates and all those involved in the administration of the exams should be escalated even during the marking process.
During the marking of this year’s KCSE, a standoff ensued between examiners and KNEC at Machakos Girls over what they termed as low pay, harassment, and poor working conditions. Despite having resolved the standoff, KNEC needs to put in place measures to ensure the well-being of examiners in all marking centers is given priority even as they (examiners) are expected to work within the set regulations that govern the marking exercise for credible results.
The institutions that have been ear-marked as marking centers should have the carrying capacity and manpower to accommodate the expected examiners comfortably. A school that has a carrying capacity of one thousand students cannot be expected to host the same number of adults without over-stretching the existing facilities.
Considering the stakes placed on exams in this country, the release of examination results should be a culmination of a credible process that wins the confidence and trust of all stakeholders and those involved in the entire process. From the parents, students, teachers, the examining body, and other stakeholders in this sector, such should also be a period of self-reflection on the role played, resolving to ride on the strengths and working towards perfecting the areas of fault.
The writer is a commentator on Education issues. firstname.lastname@example.org