WORLD OF FIGURES: Unpacking the intrigues behind Form One selection

Saturday February 20 2016

Principals and teachers of various national schools write admission letters to pupils during Form One selection at the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development in Nairobi. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

There is a widely held, but false, belief that the most important consideration for admision to a public secondary school is the pupil’s performance at Kenya Certificate of Primary

Education (KCPE). That is simply not true: KCPE is not the most important factor — it’s not even the second.

The greatest factor in Form One admission is the pupil’s choice; followed by the “home county” and, finally, the KCPE score. A student who scores, say, 470 marks but doesn’t

choose Alliance High School has zero chance of getting selected there, while one who gets 250 and chooses it as his first choice has a higher chance. If the latter pupil turns out to be

the best in his county, he will certainly be admitted to Alliance.

But the one with 470 will be left out even though his is the highest score ever recorded in the history of KCPE! For this reason, the student’s choice is very important and should be made with utmost care.

In a bid to help candidates make wise choices, starting this year, national schools have been grouped into four clusters. Even though no explanation has been given about how the

clusters were decided upon, a look at the list reveals that it is mainly based on past performance and the location of the schools.

The 18 “traditional” national schools are all in the same cluster and there is a new rule that a candidate can only choose one national school from one cluster. Therefore, it will not be

possible for a boy to choose, say, Mang’u High and Starehe Boys Centre.

This is a good move by the Kenya National Examination Council. It will help avoid cases of candidates only choosing high performing schools and, of course, missing them.

However, there is a small, but important matter that needs urgent attention: the freedom of choice must also include the right not to choose.

I have been independently informed by two KNEC officials that it is mandatory for candidates to make four choices of national schools. Those who wish to choose just one are not

allowed to do so.

A candidate may wish to study at either the Kenya High or Precious Blood, in that order of preference. However, the first is a national achool while the second is extra-county.

Forcing this candidate to choose four national schools (one from each cluster) means that chances of getting her second choice (Precious Blood) are reduced because it automatically

becomes the fifth choice!

The reason is that the admission process starts with national schools before going to county ones. This is not fair. As a parent, I know that exam performance is not the only

consideration that goes into choosing a school.

Still, one question remains: what is the criterion used in deciding whether to classify a school as national? I have asked around and no one seems to have an answer — including the

Education ministry! We have always assumed it is performance but we know county schools that out-perform national ones.; Twitter: @mungaikihanya