KCSE results reflect students’ abilities, learning conditions

Monday January 1 2018

Those aggrieved by the 2017 KCSE examination results argue that they have ‘sentenced to death’ the dreams of more than 540,000 students after only 11 per cent of the registered candidature attained the university entry grade of C+. These sentiments connote that, to have passed the exam one has to attain that grade and, for one’s dreams to be valid, it’s a necessity to join university.

A reputable trade unionist and educationist even complained that the 11 per cent, which is only 70,000 students, will see about 25,000 university slots left unfilled.

Similar pejorative overtones have been asserted by distinguished educationists, professors, politicians and other highly dignified professionals.

But these sentiments are copiously bleeding from a melange of intellectual and professional dishonesty, information deficit, diversionary politics and selfishness.

They are meant to undo the reforms being pursued by the Education Cabinet Secretary, Dr Fred Matiang’i.


The CS seeks to ensure that that underprivileged B+ scorer from the village school who earned their grade by genuine sweat stands a fair chance to study the highly contested courses.

That had become impossible owing to the unfair trade that systematically advanced too many fake grade As, which at some point locked thousands of deserving B and B+ scorers out of university when the cut-off point was 69.

According to the Kenya National Examinations Council (Knec) grading system, D+ is the KCSE pass grade. This is given at the back of the KCSE certificate. Knec classifies grades A and A- as “very good”, B-, B and B+ as “good”, D+, C-, C and C+ as “average”, D and D- as “weak” and E as “poor” performance. No wonder, anybody with a D+ and C- qualifies for a majority of certificate courses and C most diploma courses.

Therefore, the factual pass rate for the 2017 exam was 42 per cent, which is 260,000 of the 615,000 students who scored at least a D+. That is just below half of the candidature — an average performance, which is not far from the reality in terms of students’ abilities and learning conditions.


Of the 7,000 secondary schools, less than 5 per cent are in the national category— to which a majority of A scorers get admitted. Granted, the incongruences in learning conditions — coupled with the average performance at KCPE — the 2017 results are no surprise. They reveal the true abilities of students and the disparities in their learning conditions.

Therefore, only 11 per cent making it to the university is not an absurdity. Neither does the 11 per cent imply an 89 per cent failure.

The government should not yield to the call to lower education and exam standards to mask the foregoing realities.

Quality education being pivotal for the rest of the sectors of our economy, I urge Dr Matiang’i not to capitulate to the pressure to support an education trade whose sole goal is to match the admission capacity of universities and the interests of a few individuals at the expense of long-term socio-economic gains.

MULONGO ABIUD, via email.