The Ministry of Education yesterday released this year’s Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examination results slightly over two weeks after the national test was administered, setting the stage for a scramble for admission to the coveted national secondary schools.
Education secretary Fred Matiang’i said 9,846 candidates scored above 400 marks in this year’s exam, nearly double the 5,143 who hit the mark last year.
All those who scored more than 400 marks are assured of places in the national schools.
The results, which Dr Matiangi unexpectedly released Tuesday, show that 227,153 candidates scored more than 300 marks (out of a possible 500) — a five per cent increase from last year’s 212,284.
Dr Matiang’i said the improved performance was partly due to stricter administration of the annual test, concluded on November 2, and “adequate preparation of candidates.”
“Overall, the top score in this year’s KCPE is 455 marks, up from 437 marks in 2016. If last year’s top candidate was ranked, he would not even make the top 20,” Dr Matiang’i said.
“All candidates, who scored 400 marks and above, will be admitted to national schools irrespective of whether they sat their exams in private or public schools.”
National schools have a capacity to take in only 25,000 students, meaning there will be an intense scramble for the remaining 15,000 places when selection begins on December 4.
The results show that there was marked performance improvement in English, Kiswahili, Mathematics, Sign Language and Religious Education this year.
Dr Matiang’i did not provide a breakdown of the performance by subject but noted that “public schools were back in contention — the second best student having come from a public school.”
Six years ago, 30 secondary schools, including Karima Girls, Kapsabet Boys, Kanga High and Pangani Girls, were upgraded to national status, joining the ranks of Alliance, Mang’u, Kenya High, Nairobi School, Maseno and Loreto Limuru Girls.
The status upgrade policy has since been sustained, growing the number of national schools to 103.
Most KCPE candidates and their parents have, however, not changed their mindsets and still consider admission to the original national schools as the ultimate prize.
The infrastructure at the new national schools, they argue, do not match their newfound status.
Improved KCPE performance this year therefore means candidates must square it out for few places available in the ‘old national schools’ in about a fortnight.
Many candidates are expected to get admission to schools they did not choose or those that were not their first preferences.
“Placement of candidates into public secondary schools will be based on merit, quotas, equity, affirmative action and student choice,” Dr Matiang’i said as he sought to assure parents that the process will be free of discrimination.
A total of 790,680 candidates who sat the 2016 examination made it to secondary school in January, meaning about 151,000 missed out on Form One placement and were expected to join youth polytechnics.
This year, the Ministry of Education insists all candidates will go to secondary school in January when the Sh56 billion free secondary school education programme that the Jubilee government promised begins.
“Parents should not expect to go through the annual nightmare of school placement since we have put in place measures to ensure that all the candidates are admitted to secondary school,” said Dr Matiang’i.
A record 998,718 candidates sat the primary school exam, up from last year’s 952,386.
The number of candidates who scored less than 100 marks this year nearly halved to 2,360, marking a year-on-year reduction of 4,387.
Some 2,038 candidates with special needs sat the examination, with the highest candidate scoring 426 marks.
A total of 498,775 boys sat the exam, representing 50.19 per cent of the candidates. Female candidates were 494,943 or 49.81 per cent of those examined this year.
Dr Matiang’i lauded this near gender parity, noting that the percentage increase in female candidates was 5.64 per cent, higher than that of boys which stood at 5.34 per cent.
Twenty-seven counties, including Kakamega, Meru, Bungoma, Nairobi, Embu, Machakos, Vihiga, Kisii and Kitui, had more girls sitting the exam than boys.
This is up from 23 counties last year, which had more female candidates in the exam.