Last year’s Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education examination candidates who get their results today are lucky because a majority of their peers dropped out of school before reaching Form Four.
In spite of free primary education and subsidised secondary schooling, a whopping 58 per cent of children did not sit the KCSE examination, shows a review of education data by Nation Newsplex and the Institute of Economic Affairs.
...many children who do not remain in school long enough to become KCSE examination candidates.
The analysis concludes that before and during the FPE era, most children dropped out in the primary school years. Fewer students dropped out of secondary school.
While some children may have dropped out in lower classes due to repeating, the number was offset by older students who dropped down from senior classes.
In last year’s KCSE examination, 525,802 candidates were only 42 per cent of the 1,252,400 children who enrolled in Standard One in 2004, the second cohort of free schooling. Those who actually made it to Form Four at the beginning of the year were 27,700 more than the actual KCSE exam candidates.
The dropout rate in 2015 was a seven per cent improvement on the previous year, when the first cohort to benefit from free primary education sat the KCSE exam.
By the beginning of 2014, 65 per cent of the original 1,311,700 that enrolled in Standard One had already dropped out.
The announcements of national examination results tend to focus on transition from Standard Eight to Form One or from secondary school to university. However, this approach obscures the many children who do not remain in school long enough to become KCSE examination candidates.
Children who drop out miss out on training and educational opportunities that require at least a secondary school certificate. They are likely to earn less in their lifetime and suffer more ill-health.
It is clear that FPE has improved completion in primary school. However, the progress has been slow and a pupil is still most likely to drop out in primary school.
BENEFICIARIES OF FPE
By 2002, 44 per cent of pupils who began their primary education in 1995 — the last group to complete primary education before the introduction of FPE — had dropped out before reaching Standard Eight.
Eight years later, in 2010, 33 per cent of the pupils who enrolled in Standard One dropped out before getting to Standard Eight.
This means that the completion rate for the first full beneficiaries of free learning was 11 per cent higher than that of the 1995 group.
282,978 pupils or 30 per cent of the children who began school in 1995, did not make it to secondary school.
In 2011, 37 per cent of the students who began Standard One in 2004 had dropped out before Standard Eight.
The quality of education continues to be a concern. According to the 2015 Education Sector Report, the ministry increased capitation for FPE by 40 per cent from Sh1,020 to Sh1,420 per pupil per year.
However, Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i, recently complained that the textbook-to-pupil ratio remained unacceptably high; one book being shared by five learners.
JOINING FORM ONE
According to the Basic Education Statistical Booklet 2014, more than three children in public primary schools in Samburu County, and more than four children in Turkana share a science book, while three public primary school children in Wajir share a mathematics textbook.
The largest single dropout rate is during the transition from Standard Eight to Form One.
From the pioneer FPE class of 2003, 60 per cent of those enrolled in Standard Eight — or 522,000 learners — joined Form One in 2011. If all primary school years are taken into account, it means only 40 per cent of those who started Standard One were admitted to secondary school.
In 2003, 47 per cent of the students who sat KCPE examination the year before joined Form One. This means that 282,978 pupils or 30 per cent of the children who began school in 1995, did not make it to secondary school.
In January, Dr Matiang’i estimated that 18 per cent of the 927,789 pupils who sat KCPE in 2015 — about 167,000 learners — would not be admitted to secondary school.
That figure comes to around 13 per cent of the pupils who started Standard One in 2004. But a review of Form One selection data by Newsplex revealed that a higher number — 35 per cent — did not join Form One.
TRACKING SCHOOL PLACES
In 2014, the number of primary schools increased by 22 per cent — from 24,114 to 29,460. In the same period, there were 8,734 secondary schools in Kenya, a 41 per cent increase from 6,201 in 2010.
While government statistics track increases in number of schools built every year, there seems to be no evidence of similar tracking, or even forecasting, for the number of actual school places required.
It is not clear whether the government has predicted for example, based on birth rates, how many school places will be needed five years from now and made provisions for them.
Four per cent of children who started their primary education in 1995 dropped out of secondary school before they got to Form Four. However, 12 per cent of the first FPE class, or three times the percentage of the 1995 class, dropped out of secondary school before 2014. Only one per cent of the second FPE class dropped out of secondary school in 2015.
Subsidised secondary education was introduced in 2008. The subsidy pays for tuition and operational expenses. In the 2014/2015 financial year, capitation for free secondary education was increased by 25 per cent from Sh10,265 to Sh12,870 per student per year.
After getting to secondary school, students face the challenge of securing grades for university entry. In 2014, 149,717 scored the minimum entry grade of C+ or higher. That was 31 per cent of candidates who sat the exam, and 11 per cent of those who enrolled in Standard One in 2003.