Schools calendar overhauled in new war against exam cheating

Thursday May 19 2016

Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i addresses the media on May 18, 2016 when he announced changes in the school calander and the administration of national examinations. With him are Knut chairman Mudzo Nzili (left) and Knec Chairman Prof George Magoha. PHOTO | WILLIAM OERI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i addresses the media on May 18, 2016 when he announced changes in the school calander and the administration of national examinations. With him are Knut chairman Mudzo Nzili (left) and Knec Chairman Prof George Magoha. PHOTO | WILLIAM OERI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By OUMA WANZALA
More by this Author

The school calendar has been reorganised and far-reaching changes introduced in the administration of national examinations to curb cheating.

Education CS Fred Matiang’i on Wednesday banned all social activities in the third term — including prayer days, visiting, half term breaks, sports, prize-giving ceremonies and annual general meetings — to cut contact between candidates and outsiders.

He also shortened the period for the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education exams from six weeks to four and put headteachers directly in charge of the tests in their respective schools.

The exams are currently controlled by supervisors hired by the Kenyan National Examinations Council (Knec) from within the teaching fraternity.

To accommodate the changes, term two, which was initially scheduled to end on August 5, will extend to August 12, shortening the holidays to only two weeks from the previous four.

The third term will last only nine weeks from the previous 12, beginning on August 29 and ending on October 28.

Those sitting for the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education exams this year will start on November 1 and finish on November 3, while Form Four candidates will start on November 7 and finish on November 30.

EXAM CREDIBILITY AT STAKE

Announcing the changes on Wednesday in Nairobi, Dr Matiang’i said the government was desperate to ensure national examinations regained their credibility, following rampant cheating orchestrated by teachers, police and Knec officials.

He said all examination supervisors and invigilators will be vetted by the Teachers Service Commission to ensure they have no criminal record before they are allowed to handle the tests.

Dr Matiang’i also announced that no prayer sessions will be allowed for candidates during the third term, ending an old tradition where parents and friends of candidates gather in schools for prayer sessions that usually take a whole day just before the exams begin. 

“However, any prayer arrangement, as consistent with normal worship involving school chaplain and teachers will not be affected,” said Dr Matiang’i. He emphasised that the aim was to avoid unnecessary contact between candidates and outsiders during the exam period.

All non-academic activities scheduled for the third term will be carried out during the first and second terms.

To rein in teachers who have been helping students to cheat in examinations, Dr Matiang’i said school principals will now be in charge of their examination centres, assisted by supervisors.

“Together with the boards of managements, headteachers will take full responsibility and accountability for any examination malpractice that may be reported in their centres,” he said.

Dr Matiang’i warned parents, teachers and candidates that it will not be business as usual and those caught involving themselves in examination malpractices will be severely punished.

“It will not be monkey business any more. Get involved and be ready for the consequences,”  he said.

Knec Chairman George Magoha, Secondary Schools Heads Association Chairman John Awiti and  teachers unions attended the meeting at Jogoo House, where the changes were announced.

The government has been under pressure to reform the exams council, following last year’s massive irregularities that saw the results of about 2,709 primary and 5,100 secondary school candidates cancelled.

A least 10 senior officers at the council have been sacked over the scandal.

Mr Awiti welcomed the measures, saying they would help protect the credibility of the examinations.

Kenya National Union of Teachers chairman Mudzo Nzili and Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers Akelo Misori also supported the changes.