The pinnacle of the release of the 2019 Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) results was not the naming of the top candidate, who scored 440 marks, but in the declaration by the Education Cabinet secretary, Prof George Magoha, that all the candidates had passed! And the government intended to have all of them in secondary school.
Ironically, most of the top-performing candidates were shocked to learn that they had missed out on the schools of their choice and both the learners and their parents complained about it.
A total of 33,009 candidates were selected to join national schools based on merit and the order of choice and 184,816 enrolled in extra-county schools. The highest number, 669,145 pupils, was placed in sub-county schools.
The ministry is, literally, combing the country to ensure all learners go to school — whether the parents have fees or not — to ensure the 100 per cent transition is successful.
But that has come with challenges, including stretching some of the facilities in schools.
In the past few weeks, the CS has led ministry officials and local leaders in an unprecedented door-to-door campaign and calling on parents who had not taken their children to school to do so.
We have seen cases where pupils who had not reported to school were sent there unconditionally.
But what makes a school national, extra-county or sub-county? Is it the infrastructure, quality of the teaching or the category of learners who join them?
Is it the extent to which the students are transitioned to universities or TVET colleges?
The 8-4-4 system has, for a long time, been blamed for producing half-baked graduates who must be retrained to be competitive in the workplace.
The country is, hence, rolling out the ambitious transformational competency-based curriculum (CBC).
The CBC has been praised globally for preparing learners for the future by allowing them to advance based on their ability to master a skill or competency at their own pace, regardless of environment.
It is tailored to meet different learning abilities and can lead to more efficient student outcomes.
The system is in line with the Kenya Vision 2030, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the ‘Big Four Agenda’.
The pioneers have already undertaken the Kenya Early Years Assessment (Keya) examinations, which the CS said were not tests per se and, therefore, we do not results.
Learners will transition to junior high school after Grade 6 based on a summative evaluation of the continuous assessments generated over the years.
With CBC, it is now necessary to give all schools the ‘high school’ standard by 2030. That will ensure they are equipped in line with the demands of CBC key pillars.
Learners should transition to universities and courses of their choice.
At the launch of CBC, Prof Magoha reiterated that the government has set aside funds to improve infrastructure.
He has also agreed to the Kenya Secondary Schools Head Association request to increase fees so as to fund infrastructure.
The infrastructure here should include technology, physical and biological science laboratories as well as art and music studios.
School fees should also be standardised even as the government strives to scale up the free primary education to high school, and high quality standards must be maintained.
Ms Odhiambo is a development studies PhD student at JKUAT, [email protected]