All Systems Goes As 2022 KCPE, KPSEA Exams Commence.
Today marks the beginning of a major transition away from the cutthroat tests that have been the hallmark of the 8-4-4 education system.
More than 3,4 million candidates will take three separate national examinations, marking the beginning of a major transition away from the tests that have been the hallmark of the 8-4-4 education system.
The second-to-last cohort of 8-4-4 will graduate from elementary school at the same time as the first group of the Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC) – Grade Six – takes their first national exam under the 2-6-3-3-3 system.
Even if the transition plan for Grade Six students is still unclear, they will indeed have completed the first portion of their primary education under the planned education changes.
Next year, the final 8-4-4 candidates will take the Standard Eight and Form Four national examinations, bringing to a close a system of education that has been characterized as fostering rote learning and supporting high-stakes national testing.
Approximately 1,244,188 applicants will take the Kenya Certificate for Primary Education (KCPE) examination today, while 884,263 will take the Kenya Certificate for Secondary Education (KCSE) examination.
Another 1,287,597 students will participate in the inaugural Kenya Primary School Education Assessment (KPSEA) examinations.
Although the triple national tests will be conducted simultaneously, the load on candidates under the two assessment regimes will be distinct.
In contrast to the KCPE and KCSE candidates, who will strive to earn a perfect score, the KPSEA applicants will only be aiming for a maximum of 40 points.
These Grade 6 students earned a cumulative score of 60% on the Grades 4, 5, and 6 teacher-administered examinations.
The examinations are taken in the sixth-grade usher in a new testing system known as Competency-Based Assessments (CBA), which are administered mostly by classroom teachers to measure learning progress and readiness for transition to elementary, secondary, and higher education.
The examinations currently being administered under the CBC include formative and summative assessments.
Nonetheless, as Grade Six students prepare to take the first tests, it is important to note that they mark the end of nearly four-decade-old national assessments that have become too expensive to administer.
As the number of applicants taking the KCPE and KCSE increased due to the 100% transition strategy, so did the expense of printing, transporting, and administering the exams.
Teachers, parents, and students violated test security seals to gain access to test papers due to candidates’ efforts to earn higher marks on the biennial 8-4-4 national examinations to acquire coveted positions in high schools and colleges.
This behavior prompted the government to safeguard the legitimacy of the examinations by having them printed elsewhere, a move that education stakeholders deemed costly.
A massive deployment of security officers, constant surveillance, and the giving of daily stipends to administrators was required to prevent exam cheating.
The Standard has determined that printing the two examination papers abroad a year costs approximately Sh1.5 billion, or nearly half of Kenya National Examination Council’s budget (Knec).
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which delayed the school schedule, Sh3 billion will be spent this year on printing the papers, as two sets of tests will be administered.
All KCPE examination papers are reportedly printed abroad due to the multiple-choice structure of the questions, which makes them susceptible to leakage.
And previously, just seven KCSE papers were printed outside the country. These were multiple-question papers on the disciplines of mathematics, Kiswahili, geography, and English.
The remainder of the exams, including chemistry, physics, biology, optional exams, and response sheets, were printed locally.
However, with the test reforms established in 2016, it appeared that more papers are printed abroad, which means that the cost has also gone up.
And education stakeholders are now proposing improved new methods that will further reduce the cost of giving CBC examinations.
In the meantime, management of the 8-4-4 tests continues to cost the Education Ministry and Knec officials more money since they receive night-out allowances during their excursions to the printer in the United Kingdom.
During the visits at least twice a year, the officials observe all activities, including question creation, proofreading, printing, packaging, and financial transactions.
The Cabinet Secretary, Principal Secretary, Knec chairman, and council officials such as the officer in charge of test development, another officer from the printing department, finance, and examination administration are among those who travel.
Not only does sending these exams to other parts of the country from the Embakasi warehouse cost millions of shillings, but it also makes them more expensive.
George Magoha, who used to be the education cabinet secretary, said that test papers would continue to be printed overseas until CBC is used correctly.
“Once CBC becomes established, it will be over, as the examination fees will have vanished,” stated Magoha.
According to him, under CBC, children will have earned the majority of their grades at the school level, lessening the burden of national assessments.
“The child will have scored 60% on assessments, and you cannot sit on that child. So perhaps next time we can say, for the 40%, let’s put it here,” said Magoha.
However, education advocates believe that the predicted change to school-based assessments may reduce test administration costs, as the emphasis on exam scores will be diminished.
They contend that the propensity to cheat on exams will be eliminated when teachers are responsible for class-level grading.
Dr Emanuel Manyasa, Usawa Executive Director however disputed this.
“As long as secondary schools continue to be as unequal as they are, there will be competition for the few excellent ones. Exams will be susceptible to stealing. With more technical assessments at the junior and senior secondary levels, exam administration costs will stay high or increase, according to Manyasa.
He stated that the government has not yet devised a mechanism to transition and place kids into junior and senior secondary schools.
“They will find that the marks allocated at schools is spurious. And they will weigh the end of course marks more when they face the reality of placement,” said Manyasa.
Jonson Nzioka and Kahi Indimuli, the national chairs of the primary and secondary school heads associations, concur that CBC will significantly cut the cost of exams.
“The present examinations are heavily policed and a lot of contracted personnel are deployed to man the tests. This will not be the case under CBA,” said Indimuli.
According to Indimuli and Nzioka, national newspapers would be printed locally under CBC.
“With improved integrity among Kenyans, we can now print these examinations locally because we have good printers,” said Indimuli.
Nzioka stated that candidates will know their marks before to the conclusion of the examinations, which will not make the final exams as prestigious as the KCPE and KCSE.
According to many sources, the printing machines at Knec are comparable to those used elsewhere.
The difference is that foreign printers use advanced computer technology for cutting and packaging. If those at Knec are modified, printing can be accomplished locally. But they can also subcontract some of the job locally.
However, it is not all. During the administration of the examinations, senior government officials are paid thousands of shillings every day to supervise the tests across the country for a month.
Following significant modifications aimed at restoring the credibility of the national examinations, this method was adopted in 2016.
A multi-agency method to the administration of examinations was implemented where top government officials make unplanned trips to check the management of the tests across the country.
In addition, as of today, officials from the Ministries of Education, Interior and National Coordination, ICT, the Teachers Service Commission (TSC), and other semi-autonomous agencies (SAGAs) will administer the tests.
This also results in a cessation of business operations at the Ministry of Education during the full examination administration time, as senior officers are out in the field. In some instances, flight travel and lodging allowances are paid for senior officers from Nairobi who are dispatched to oversee the examinations.
In 2017, the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) reassessed the daily subsistence allowance (DSA) for domestic travel.
Officers stationed in Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, and Nakuru are compensated between Sh4,200 to Sh22,000 a day.
Those that travel to County headquarters, Malindi, and Naivasha are compensated between 3,500 and 18,000 Kenyan Shillings.
Government personnel assigned to the remaining towns are eligible for a daily stipend ranging from Sh3,000 to Sh14,000.
Government officers are entitled to between Sh3,000 (job classes A-E) and Sh22,000 per day, according to the rates (job groups U-V).