Just abandon National Exams

Written by
  • 5 years ago
  • Posted: March 19, 2014 at 12:36 pm

The release of KSCE 2013 results saw Maranda Boys miss out from the ranking despite the individual candidates receiving their respective results. This anomaly led the National Assembly to investigate the circumstances surrounding the release of the results. During their sittings, the committee on Education was informed that alleged KNEC officials were making calls to school Principals demanding payment for alteration of results – the Principal pays as demanded, the school’s mean grade is increased otherwise the mean grade is lowered.

One of the KNEC officials accused of making such calls is Mr. Paul Wasanga, the CEO of KNEC. Giving his evidence to the Education Committee of National Assembly, Mr. Wasanga said that it must have been conmen who registered lines under his name “Wasanga KNEC” and went ahead to con Principals of their monies. The report by Daily Nation does not tell us whether the exact phone number used as Wasanga KNEC does not actually belong to the CEO himself.

The fact that KNEC has been involved in National Exam leakages has been of general knowledge even long before I joined high school. As soon as I joined form one, I was told by my high school father to forget scoring straight As in all the nine subjects as we were in a school not privileged to get exam leakage. “The straight As by students in National and top Provincials schools is because the school revise the papers months or weeks to the National Exams”, he said. Then I joined the University where I happened to share classes and made friendship with some of the students from the National schools who confessed that indeed there were cases of exam leakages weeks to the National Exams. During the last weeks, my friends said, the students were actually being tutored on National Exams questions. In some other schools, students were given the exact National Exam papers to revise. A commenter by the handle Alf on Daily Nation agrees:

In all honesty, our education system really needs to be rebuilt from ground up as it’s just too rotten. Am saying this having gone through 8-4-4 system up till KCSE and can confirm that very many students in these so called “giant” schools do cheat , myself having studied in one of them. Leakage was way too common during my time and most well performing schools in the country were doing this. You would almost certainly be regarded a fool (or coward) for refusing to take leakage. It’s a shame the value of ‘A’ has lost meaning today and when I see some schools get a clean sheet of ‘A’s , I always shake my head because some of us know what truly happened.

Some of the schools who have been involved in the exam cheating have their results cancelled and the respective students involved in the cheating get barred from seating for National Exams for two or so years. But what happens to the Principals and teachers and KNEC officials who facilitate the said cheating?

Year in year out cheating on National Exams has been blamed on corruption and rotten morals. But what do we expect when the society has created a system that requires one to pass a given exam in order to shape your entire future? A student joins class one, learns a lot about life, language, objects, maths and how to dream for eight years – then one exam in the name of KCPE determines whether he or she will pursue the life and the objects and the dreams further in high school. If she happens to have fallen sick or faced a traumatizing life event a few days prior to the National Exams, his/her dreams get crashed – just like that. A single paper, the society has said, must determine the outcome of eight years of struggle – that single exam must be the one to judge the quality and quantity of knowledge a pupil has gathered for the last eight or four years and be allowed to shape the rest of the pupil’s future.

Apart from the prestigious names given to those who manage to appear on National TVs as the top students from the exams, the number of students who sit the KCPE vs the vacancies available in form 1 Nationally or vacancies in Institutions of higher learning necessitates invention of easier but better ways of beating the system…and there is no better way to beat the system than cheating. The scenarios are made worse at high school as it is from high school that a student either gains or loses the chance to pursue the career of his/her dreams at the institutions of higher learning. When everyone realizes that unless you cheat your future is doomed, the cheating business get competitive as everyone wants to cheat – then cheating gets commercialized and becomes an industry in its own right – and the industry players are the KNEC officials, school Principals, teachers, and the students themselves.

The solution, therefore, that can eliminate or lessen cases of cheating, is to abandon National Exams in totality. Students at all levels should be assessed using the Continuous Assessment Tests (CATs), the Random Assessment Tests (RATs) and probably using a school’s end term exams. For admission to a higher level of education e.g. high schools, colleges or University, it should be put upon the institutions themselves to develop Admission Tests to those applying. The applications would be based on aggregated marks from the CATs, RATs, and End Year Exams e.g. from class six through to class eight in cases of high school admission exams and form 3 and form 4 aggregate marks for college and University admission exams.

In the University, each department will administer its owns admission exams so that they admit students who have passed their own admission criteria instead of being forced (e.g. by former JAB) to take in students based on untrustworthy performances from National Exams.

Abandoning National Exams and letting high schools and colleges/Universities do own admission will eliminate cheating in National Exams. But I have heard stories of parents buying chances for their kids in high schools and colleges at the expense of students who actually deserve to be admitted. Abandoning National Exams is likely to increase the likelihood of parents buying the chances, and it will be at this stage where corruption will rightly be blamed for “cheating”.

What is your view? Share with us in the comment section below.

PS: The JAB route has actually made a number of students pursue careers their hearts were not into and in this case I’ve always given myself as an example. Although I had this dream of pursuing Electrical and Electronic Engineering, my performance in Kiswahili totally locked me out despite scoring top marks in all the four subjects needed for admission in that course. I’ve been wondering, to date, what Kiswahili got to do with Electronics or Electrical Equipment. This shuttered dream led me to waste five years in college pursuing a career based on a subject I hated in high school and today I’m still struggling to adjust my life career-wise. If Universities had admission exams tailored to get people really talented in that particular field, I believe I could have gotten admission at JKUAT or UoN to pursue the career of my choice.

What is your opinion on the topic?
Odipo Riaga
Managing Editor at KachTech Analytics Ltd
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Odipo Riaga is a Technology Blogger interested in emerging tech such as VR and AR, AI, Life Extension, Exponential Biotech, Immortality, Cyborgs and many others.
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