Some 615,773 candidates will Monday start their Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examination that will once again be administered under tough regulations aimed at curbing cheating.
The candidates will start with Mathematics Alternative A at 8am followed by Chemistry at 11.30am.
The examination will be done at 9,350 centres across the country with the government putting on notice all cheats.
Other subjects lined up for the week include English (functional skills), English (comprehension, literacy appreciation and grammar), Kiswahili (insha), Kiswahili Lugha, English (creative composition and Essays based on set texts), home science, art and design, building and construction, electricity and power mechanics.
This year’s private candidates will also sit their theory examinations in a public school identified by the sub-county directors of education.
The group that will be sitting this year’s Form Four examination sat their Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examination in 2013 in which 647,602 students out of 844,475 were selected to join Form One in 2014.
This means that 31,829 (five per cent) who joined Form One will not complete secondary school.
Last year, 574,125 candidates sat the examination in 9,154 centres.
And, in order to maintain high level of integrity, the management of this year’s examination has been enhanced with introduction of new features.
This year, the candidate’s personal details have been captured on the answer sheets, which include: a photograph and index number to avoid impersonation.
The Ministry also acquired more containers for storage of examination materials. Last year there were 346 containers but this year, there are 419.
Each container will have a double locking system with a security padlock and keys, which the Deputy County Commissioner and Sub-County Director of Education will have.
Kenya National Examinations Council has for the first time combined the question papers and answer booklets into one document for all the subjects or papers where this was applicable.
This means that the candidates do not have to be issued with separate answer booklets, making the administration of examinations more efficient and effective.
This year, the examination materials must be collected not before 6am by centre managers under tight security unlike last year where the collection was starting at 5.30am.
Also, any officer found guilty of encouraging irregularities will be liable to a fine of Sh5 million or a five-year jail term.
The officers, who include supervisors, invigilators and centre managers, will be required to collect relevant information and evidence, which could be used in court or at the National Examinations Appeals Tribunal in case they encounter suspected cases of irregularities.
The development follows the amendment of the Knec Act 2012 early this year.
Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i last week announced that three new security levels had been introduced in the management of the examinations to ensure credibility.
However, he declined to discuss those new security levels.
Some 419 Deputy County Commissioners and Sub-County Directors of Education and Education Officers will be deployed to manage the 419 examination containers in the country.
The KCSE examination will end on November 29 and the answer sheets are expected to be delivered to Knec headquarters for start of marking between November 30 and December 1.
This examination is expected to be out early compared to last year’s when the examination was released on December 29.
The delivery of examination materials to the containers started last month and is being done in phases. The final dispatch will be on November 17.
This year, deputy head teachers will remain in school to assist their head teachers who act as centre managers.
However, where a school has more than one deputy, only one of the deputies can be in the school at any given time and teachers will be expected to remain out of the examination area.
The marking of examinations this year will attract more attention after the Knec and Ministry of Education abolished moderation of the examination results last year.
Last year, it was only 141 (0.02 per cent) candidates who obtained an overall mean grade A in the examination compared to 2,685 (0.51 per cent) in 2015.
The same drop was also recorded in the total number of candidates who scored the minimum university entry mean grade requirement of C+ and above.
The number of candidates who got the minimum university entry qualification of mean Grade C+ and above was 88,929 (15.41 per cent) last year compared to 169,492 (32.23 per cent) in 2015.
A report by the Ministry of Education’s directorate of quality assurance and standards revealed that inadequate English language skills contributed to poor performance.
English is the language of introduction yet some students make use of sheng in communication and written language.
Other issues that were identified as contributing to poor performance were misunderstanding and misrepresenting questions, poor time management skills, failure to follow instructions, failure to understand examination terminology and examination phobia.
“Some subjects like technical oriented ones have had very low candidature.
"This was an indicator that learners were not keen in registering subjects that would otherwise enhance their skills,” the report by the Pius Mutisya-led directorate added.
Last year, the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) demanded the audit of the results claiming that they had not been moderated by Chief Examiners in order to ensure credible grades.
In the examination, no candidate scored A in English subject while only 28 got A- , 371 got B+ and 2,397 got B.
In Kiswahili 662 candidates scored A while 3,606 managed A-, and 13,380 got A in mathematics.
In Laikipia, Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers executive secretary Ndung’u Wangenye urged the union members to avoid engaging in unethical conduct during the month-long exercise.
“We have issued firm instructions to teachers to ensure the exercise is smooth and no misconduct arises.
"We told them the union will not condone any form of unethical conduct and they should as well not entertain any,” Mr Wangenye said.
He said the giant union had resolved not to defend teachers found culpable.
“As a union we have hopes that teachers monitoring the examination will not breach any of the rules and regulations. We have sensitised and warned them,” he said.
Additional reporting by Joseph Wangui