Kenyan high school exam failure alarm bells ringing



More than a third of the applicants who took this year’s Kenyan national exams for secondary schools failed to achieve the grades that would allow them to attend professional courses, including degrees in teaching and nursing.

This raises questions about the massive failure of candidates for the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) exam and the future of those who failed.

A Nation analysis of the results indicates that a total of 504,415 candidates obtained a grade of C- or less.

Some 697,222 students took the exam and 72% of them scored below average, according to the analysis.

Last year, a total of 660,204 candidates took the exam and nearly a third achieved level C- and below.

They, like the more than half a million in this year’s class, have joined a growing population of high school dropouts who are either forced to take low-paid and poorly funded artisan courses or drop out altogether. the education system.



Education experts told the Nation Sunday that the massive failure of students at this level is unacceptable and alarming, and called on the Kenyan government to step in and tackle the problem which it believes is creating an unequal and unjust society.

A total of 29,318 candidates obtained grade E, of which the majority (17,894) came from sub-county schools. National schools produced 338 candidates with an E grade.

The data further indicates that 101,687 scored D +, 137,713 scored D, while 152,339 scored D-.

Extra-county schools produced 61 A’s, county schools did not produce A’s, while four A’s were from sub-county schools and 67 A’s from private institutions.

A total of 63,102 candidates obtained a C grade while 83,358 had a C- grade, which means that they can enter technical and vocational training schools, with a capacity of less than 100,000.

Kenya Post-Primary Education Union (Kuppet) general secretary Akélo Misori said the government appears to be focusing on quantity, not quality.

“We have schools that lack basic infrastructure and face teacher shortages, among other challenges,” Misori said, adding that such schools “cannot produce quality education. “.


A spot check revealed that a number of poorly performing institutions lacked basic infrastructure, including laboratories for science subjects, which are essential markers of performance on national exams.

Educator Andiwo Obondo agreed with Mr Misori, but added that the education system appears to be deliberately elitist as it focuses on and rewards the few candidates who do well in national exams while ignoring others.

“The majority of students with lower grades will be ignored and denied opportunities,” Obondo said.

“Last year a similar number of students scored D + and there have been no follow-up investigations to establish where they are or why they performed so dismally.”

To stem the problem, he suggested equipping and staffing county and sub-county high schools across the county.

This year, the number of applicants who obtained the minimum university entrance qualification of C + and above stood at 125,746, compared to 90,377 in the 2018 exam.

Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha, when releasing results last week, attributed the increase to recent reforms to the exam administration system, meaning that “candidates have settled down to work hard only under the direction of their teachers “.


But an education official who asked not to be named because he is not authorized to speak to the media said that if there had been an increase in the number of A’s and B’s, there had also had a worrying number of D’s and E’s, leading to inefficiencies and inequalities in the education value chain.

“This unhealthy focus on schools is forcing many people to rush to complete the program and take too many internal exams at the expense of real learning,” the official said.

The country is currently facing a shortage of around 100,000 teachers, and the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) notes that around 80,000 teachers are employed by the governing boards of public primary and secondary schools.

A study by Kuppet, the results of which were published last year, found that poor performance on national exams is a precursor to crime and unhealthy behavior in general, and affects the emotional balance of students. , democracy and social cohesion.

The chairman of the National Assembly’s Education and Research Committee, Mr Julius Melly, said parliament was alarmed by the performance and called for initiatives to build the capacity of teachers.


He advised those who did not qualify to join universities to take advantage of the technical and vocational training opportunities available.

“We have 5 billion Ksh ($ 500 million) to support TVET students and therefore those with low grades shouldn’t worry about fees,” Melly said.

But Dr John Mugo, team leader for Ujana360, a program of the ZiziAfrique Foundation that works with TVET institutions, said the government should equip institutions first if learners want to get quality training. .

Dr Mugo added that it is necessary to change the attitude of school leavers towards TVET to ensure that the country has skilled workers.

“Only 15% of candidates who pass national exams make it to university. This means that the remaining 85 percent must join TVET institutions, hence the need to invest more in them, ”he said.

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