Teachers countrywide Tuesday administered the Grade Three assessment in a strict and controlled examination-like environment contrary to government assertions that the Monitoring Learner Progress (MLP) exercise is not an examination.
This is an indication that the teaching fraternity failed the Competence Based Curriculum (CBC) test.
A spot check by the Nation shows a clear disconnect between government policy and reality on the ground as schools and parents have taken to the exercise and created the same atmosphere associated with traditional examinations that CBC aims to get rid of.
Some schools had rehearsals for the assessment on Monday and others even have invigilators to oversee the exercise, which Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha and Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang have said is only meant to measure the success and challenges of the new curriculum.
However, teachers blamed the Kenya National Examinations Council (Knec) for not giving clear guidelines on how the assessment should be conducted. They also complained that the training they received during the April and August holidays was inadequate.
On Monday, Dr Kipsang said teachers are at liberty to administer the assessment at their convenience as long as all the tasks are given to the learners and assessed by the time schools close on October 25. Many teachers are struggling to complete the exercise by Friday this week. This was triggered by a timetable that has been doing rounds but which Dr Kipsang says is fake.
“Knec has failed to do its work. How can they just post the papers online with no instructions on administration of the assessment? A circular would have been sufficient,” a teacher who requested anonymity for fear of victimisation said.
He faulted the council for not offering enough guidance and support to teachers.
In the MLP, headteachers are expected to download the assessment materials from the Grade 3 portal and make copies available for each learner. They have complained that this is expensive as most of them have to download, print and photocopy at cyber cafes. This cost is not factored in the capitation that public schools receive from the government under the free primary education programme.
Class teachers are then expected to administer the assessment and also mark using scoring guides and rubrics also downloaded from the portal. They are then to give the scoring sheets to the headteachers who upload them onto the portal. Teachers blamed some curriculum support officers for piling pressure on them to complete the exercise this week.
“Those who are monitoring the MLP shouldn’t harass teachers but train, mentor and guide them on how to best implement the process efficiently and effectively,” a teacher said.
The assessment tasks, seen by the Nation, are not timed. English has 3 tasks organised in two sections (A and B). Task 1 is a face-to-face assessment where the teacher asks the learners questions that they are supposed to answer in English. Task 2 involves a reading aloud exercise whereas Task 3 has reading comprehension, language structures and functions and guided writing.
The Mathematics Activities has 25 questions that the learners write on the question paper.
In Meru, teachers in various schools said they were not briefed on what they were expected to do during the assessments. A teacher at a private school said that other than the training before the curriculum was rolled out, class teachers have not been briefed.
However, some teachers said children enjoyed the assessment, even as they complained of a huge workload in marking them. They said due to high number of pupils in classes and few teachers, it would practically be difficult to upload the results by the Friday deadline.
Eastern regional director of education Patrick Khaemba, speaking after touring various schools to monitor how the exercise was running, said he was satisfied with how the assessment kicked off in different parts of the region.
Mr Khaemba said a negative attitude towards the new curriculum was the main challenge “but teachers are getting used to the new teaching techniques”.
In Kirinyaga, at Alber-Kutus Boarding Primary School, teachers expressed hope that the pupils will perform well.
“It is a normal examination and we expect the pupils to pass,” said the school director Mr Albert Nyaga.
In Nyeri, the assessment was met by excitement and confusion by the pupils and teachers.
According to the headteacher at Sunrise Tetu Junior School, Purity Ndirangu, the assessment exercise went on smoothly with the pupils being excited to take their first national paper.
“The pupils were very happy and excited especially because the papers had the Knec logo. We however did not time them but within two hours, most pupils were done,” he said.
At Mt Kenya Academy, headmaster Matu Nderitu said that the communication from the ministry was confusing the stakeholders involved.
“We got a timetable but were advised not to use it. They say that the assessment will take one week, and then again they say the whole term,” he said.
In Mombasa, teachers said the activity is going on smoothly as they had prepared their students well for the assessment.
Ms Audrey Nyange a Grade 3 teacher at Star of the Sea Primary School said they are going to do one paper every day.
Additional reporting by Gitonga Marete, George Munene, Reginah Kinogu, Mishi Gongo and Dennis Lubanga