“These results are the true picture of the performance of our children and the debate should be about how to go about improving the situation, not changing what has happened.”
These were the words that the Cabinet Secretary for Education, Dr Fred Matiang’i, spoke on Friday while reacting to the uproar that has greeted the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education examination results, which he released on Wednesday.
The CS passionately defended the integrity of the results, saying the time taken to mark the papers was the same as that taken in the past.
According to him, the only thing that was not done this year was “massaging” the results to give a false impression.
“Since 1990, the marking of exams has always been completed before Christmas. What took place after that was people massaging results and trading in them.”
He said the Ministry of Education increased the number of examiners from 16,000 in 2016 to 20,000 and tightened security this year to enhance efficiency.
The marking of the bulk papers – the compulsory subjects done by all students like English, Maths and Kiswahili – actually took a whole month because it started from November 17 and ended on December 17. The results were released on December 20.
The CS insisted that the reforms he has instituted in the education sector were beneficial to the country and that he could defend them anywhere.
If pushed, he said, he would administer what he called a “shock therapy” on the country by revealing full details of what used to happen to exams before the reforms.
“The commission is preparing the report and it will shock the country when we are called upon to present it in Parliament,” he said.
The Parliamentary Committee on Education has said it will question the CS and Knec officials over what it called “mass failure” after over 350,000 candidates scored D and below.
In 15 counties, not a single candidate made it to the top 100.
Dr Matiang’i revealed how exam leaks used to be executed, saying one way was to set the papers a year or longer before the due date.
“Members of cartels then moved around with diskettes doing business,” he said.
Storing the exams in police armouries across the country worsened the situation.
“Now we keep the exams in containers and we have centralised marking for easier monitoring. We also have new teams setting exams all the time and we only set the same year.”
He denied claims that non-teachers were involved in the marking or supervision.
“Teachers set the exams, they administer and they mark. I only get to announce,” he said.
The CS also defended the system against accusations of encouraging wastage by churning out failures.
He said the capacity to absorb those with low marks in technical colleges was “bigger than the number of students we have with lower than C plus grades”.
“Few people know that we have Sh1.2 billion in higher education funding, which the President has insisted should be ring-fenced for technical colleges.
"It is a shame that we are importing welders when implementing projects like the ongoing railway building and oil exploration. We need artisans; the current ratio of engineers to artisans is very low.”
He accused his critics in the teachers’ unions for “masking the real issues” when they know that all was not well in the old system.
“Look, for instance at the number of As that used to be earned in certain schools. Was that the true reflection? Why didn’t they call for remarking then?”
He said his decision to ensure “only the truth was emerging from marking” has been vindicated by the mass failure in some university courses where nearly all students are repeating classes yet they got As in KCSE.
“I will continue doing what the President has assigned me to do because he is keen that we improve our systems and institutions. No country has developed by compromising standards.”