The top candidate in the 2016 Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) exams scored 437 marks, Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i announced on Thursday.
This is a 12-mark drop from last year's 449.
In the results released at the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) in Nairobi, only 5,190 obtained 400 marks and above compared with 7,560 in 2015.
And for the first time in Kenya's KCPE history, Dr Matiang'i said all candidates would receive their results as there was not a single case of cheating.
Only 21 cases of malpractices and attempted cheating were reported across the country, he said.
But Dr Matiang'i disappointed the expectations of the nation when he announced that schools and candidates would not be ranked, saying the law ordering the return to the old tradition took effect too late.
President Kenyatta assented to the 2016 Kenya National Examinations Council (Amendment) Act in late August and it came into effect in October.
Before heading to KICD, Dr Matiang'i briefed President Kenyatta on the results at State House, Nairobi.
He was accompanied by Kenya National Examinations Council (Knec) chairman George Magoha, Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang, Teachers Service Commission CEO Nancy Macharia and Knec acting CEO Mercy Karogo.
Some 952,021 candidates wrote the tests from November 1 to November 3 — an evaluation that marks the transition from primary to secondary schools.
Of these, 50.3 percent were boys. A total of 1,950 special-needs candidates sat for the exams, with the top managing 421 marks.
The Cabinet secretary said that starting next year the government would pay KCPE exams fees for all candidates in both private and public schools.
And in addition to the ongoing efforts to curb cheating, Dr Matiang'i said all private candidates will have to write their tests at centres approved by the Education ministry.
Headteachers will also be required to register all their candidates as one entity in one centre, after it emerged that schools seeking a higher ranking were listing pupils at different centres.
This year's release was a clear break from tradition in terms of timing — the results are being issued at the beginning, not the end, of December.
Former Education Cabinet Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi had banned ranking, saying it created unnecessary competition and encouraged cheating.
But in August this year, MPs passed a new law reintroducing the annual fanfare that had become the hallmark of the results announcement.
And instead of measuring and ranking performance in KCPE and KCSE tests alone, the 2016 Kenya National Examination (Amendment) Act requires the minister to also rank performance of schools in co-curricular activities next year.
Reports by Harry Misiko, Stella Cherono and Wanderi Kamau.