Shocking details of how the marking of this year’s KCSE exam papers could have been compromised emerged Friday.
Interviews by the Saturday Nation team reveal that the teachers who marked the scripts worked under intense pressure.
The markers also said that some marking schemes had errors and that no moderation of the results was done.
Some of those interviewed also said the assessors never had a chance to review the work of the markers and therefore missed the opportunity to deal with any mistakes that may have occurred.
The results of the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education examination (KCSE) were released on Wednesday by Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i.
This year, the examination recorded worrying levels of failure.
At least 350,000 candidates got D grade and below yet only 142 candidates scored A.
Out of the 611,952 candidates who sat the exam, just 70,073 scored C+ and above and therefore qualified for university admission.
The markers gave an account of the depressing conditions under which they assessed the scripts, raising fears about the credibility of the results.
The examination was marked in a record 10 days.
Sources said there were errors in the marking schemes but these could not be corrected because there was no time to do it.
The emphasis appears to have been on the teachers to finish marking and have the results released in record time.
However, in an interview on Friday, Dr Matiang’i said that traditionally, marking of examinations is usually completed before Christmas and that the rest of the time before the results were released in February was spent “massaging” them.
Markers drawn from various regions, among them Nairobi, Nakuru, Kakamega, Vihiga, Laikipia and Migori counties and parts of the Coast, narrated how they were made to mark for long hours.
Marking started at 6am and ended at 10pm every day, meaning that the markers worked for 16 hours each day.
In some centres, the marking started at 4am and ended at 10pm. Ideally, the marking should start at 7am and end at 7pm each day.
Examiners who handled English Paper 3, one of the most taxing exams, worked from 4am to 10pm.
The paper was handled by 1,400 examiners. There were few breaks in between, and this led to widespread fatigue.
Ordinarily, markers require time to rest, review their work as and when necessary, including making adjustments if need arises.
“Right from the beginning we were reminded that the marking would be fast-tracked,” one teacher said.
“First we had been told we would begin marking on December 6 only to be called abruptly on December 3 to report to the centres and start working.”
But it was while at the centre that the real problems started.
Traditionally, the examiners are required to take two days to familiarise themselves with the marking scheme by going through dummies.
This time round, the familiarisation only took half a day.
At Moi Girls School in Nairobi where History Paper 2 was being marked, teachers realised that one question had the wrong answer.
However, nobody cared to do the correction as the push was to finish marking as quickly as possible.
Usually, after all papers have been marked, the examiners take time to review them to ascertain the validity of the marks.
Most importantly, moderation is carried out because raw answers may not reflect the validity of the test.
The marking error is -2/+2 and if an examiner goes beyond this margin, he is forced to remark the entire script. This year, this was not done.
During marking, examiners are put in a pool of seven with a team leader.
For every 10 scripts they mark, the team leader has to review at least two, which are picked randomly to verify if they have been marked well.
According to multiple sources, this process was skipped this year.
Unlike previously when the chief examiners were teachers, this time round, they were officials sent by the Kenya National Examinations Council.
Some of these officials were not familiar with marking.
“The decision led to us being overworked and made to mark extra scripts. I am sure several errors may have spilled to the final results,” one examiner said.
“Throughout the marking period there was no permission to get out of the centre. Even when an individual needed medical attention, it would be given within the marking centre,” another said.
Another examiner said that he and his colleagues were subjected to poor diet, which he said may have compromised their health and morale.
“We took the same meal almost throughout our stay at the marking centre — sukuma wiki and ugali. Nobody was allowed to go out of the marking centre and take their preferred meals,” the examiner said in an interview with the Nation team.
It also emerged that some of the marking centre managers were too harsh on examiners and subjected them to constant ridicule.
“The marking centre manager at (one school in Nairobi) was harsh and humiliated teachers from upcountry, reminding them that the institution where they were was a national school,” an examiner said.
According to the teachers who spoke to the Saturday Nation, the constant pressure and ‘harsh’ conditions may have affected the quality of the final result.
The Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) has come out to complain about the quality of the marking and grading of the exams.
Laikipia branch executive secretary Ndung’u Wangenye faulted the examination council for subjecting the examiners to unfavourable conditions that, he said, may have compromised the integrity of the results.
Kuppet’s executive secretary for the Migori Branch, Mr Samuel Jasolo, said the pressure under which the markers operated was not conducive for productivity.
“We cannot guarantee credibility of the results,” he said.
“The conditions under which the marking was done was bad and we cannot continue like that.”
Mr Jonathan Wesaya, an education expert, noted:
“With no room for standardisation and moderation, many teachers went for volume of scripts since payment is based on the number of scripts marked.”
Kuppet Busia Executive Secretary Moffat Okisai said without moderation and standardisation, the results are questionable.
However, some teachers from Kakamega and Vihiga defended the results, noting that all the scripts had been marked by Friday last week.
But they pointed out that the moderation system used during the marking, as well as the grading, were different from what schools use.
Reported by Eric Matara, Ken Kimanthi, Philip Onyango, Mwangi Ndirangu, Ken Bett, Mohamed Ahmed, Derrick Luvega, Benson Amadala and Dennis Lubanga