The number of Standard Eight candidates who scored 400 marks and above in the final cohort of the 8-4-4 system of examination dropped by 10 percent to 8,525, hitting a three-year low, weighed down by a decline in performance in all but two test subjects.
An analysis of the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examinations shows that on the flipside, the candidates who scored below 100 marks rose nearly three times to a five-year high of 2,060.
As a tradition, candidates who score above 400 marks have a higher chance of placements in national schools, and the drop in numbers is expected to ease pressure on the scramble for admissions to the much sought-after institutions.
Official results released by Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu on Thursday indicated that the best student, Michael Warutere from Riara Springs Academy, got 428 marks out of a possible 500, lower than the 431 scored by the top candidate last year.
According to the data, English Language and Kenya Sign Language are the only subjects that recorded an improvement from last year’s scores while all the rest including English Composition, Kiswahili Language, Mathematics and Science posted a year-on-year decline.
Others swept by the degeneration wave were Kiswahili Insha, Social Studies as well as Religious Education.
Male candidates outdid their female colleagues in Mathematics and Science while the latter shone in the English, Kiswahili and Kenya Sign language.
The performance drop comes amid increased focus and investments in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) courses, seen as key to spurring homegrown innovation and industrialisation.
Kenya has in recent years heightened focus on STEM courses in a bid to build a bigger pool of professionals in medicine, engineering, computer science and other technical skills that are in short supply and needed to boost Kenya’s industrial and tech sectors.
The number of bottom performers, which rose to levels last seen in 2018 when it stood at 2,952, translates to 0.15 percent of the total 1.4 million learners who sat for the hindmost test.
Top students on the other hand, accounted for 0.61 percent in a protracted declining trend that started showing in 2021 when the absolute figure stood at 11,857 translating to 0.97 percent.
Last year, the number dropped to 9,443 accounting for 0.77 percent of the total candidate population.
The number of candidates who attained marks in the range of 300 to 399 was 352,782 accounting for 24.9 percent, while those in the 200-299 bracket formed the largest chunk at 658,278, translating to 48.5 percent.
Learners in the 100-199 marks band totalled 383,025 that represented 27.1 percent.
Mr Machogu has, however, issued an assurance that all the candidates will be placed in secondary schools in line with the government’s 100 percent transition policy, adding that the State will look for about 9,354 students who missed the 2023 exam to offer them a special test in January next year.
“To ensure no candidate misses out on joining Form One from the final 2023 KCPE examination cohort, the Ministry of Education will conduct thorough mapping on any of those who may have failed to sit the examination of this year in order to administer a special examination in January 2024. The indicative figure we have is 9,354,” said Mr Machogu in his address.
The finalisation of the special exam will mark the closure of the 8-4-4 system and usher in an era of the new Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC) system that follows a 2-6-3-3-3 education cycle, which means learners will transition through a total of 17 levels, each lasting a year.