The number of girls who attained the minimum grade C+ required for university admission nearly halved in this year’s Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examinations, putting to question the Ministry of Education’s assertion that girls had pipped their male counterparts in the exams.
The results, which Education secretary Fred Matiang’i released on Wednesday, show that only 28,386 girls scored the C+ and above required for university admission, down from 50,415 that made the cut last year – representing a 43.7 per cent drop.
The number of boys who qualified for university admission on the other hand went up by 904 to 41,687 from 40,783 last year – or 59.49 per cent of the total students who qualified for university enrolment.
While releasing the results, Dr Matiang’i commended female candidates for sterling performance, saying they had outshone the boys. Kenya on Thursday woke up to a fierce social media war as parents, students and the general public interrogated the numbers only to find a completely different picture.
Dr Matiang’i’s observation may have been rooted in the fact that girls comprised six out of the 10 top scorers and 11 out of the top 20 students nationally.
Girls’ schools also dominated the top 10 places, led by Pangani Girls, which was flagged out as most improved school.
Alliance Girls High School, which finished in position three, had the highest number of ‘A’s (16) followed by Kenya High (position 4), which had 10.
Overall, 70,073 of the 610,501 candidates met the C+ threshold for university enrolment -- an 18,000 drop from last year when 88,929 candidates made the cut.
The results, which show a consistent decline of performance in national exams, Thursday attracted heavy criticism as a trend that is destroying the future of thousands of young people, many of who cannot even get admission to village polytechnics.
Opposition leader Raila Odinga expressed concern at the high number of students that are failing to make the transition to university.
“As the country commits resources to free learning and scales up enrolment, the whole purpose and value for money is lost when close to 90 per cent of those students eventually fail,” he said in a statement.
The 70,073 candidates that met minimum university entry qualification of grade C+ and above stands at 11.38 per cent, meaning that nearly 90 per cent of the KCSE candidates cannot go to university.
Mr Odinga said that the results were worrying given that Kenya needs skilled manpower to achieve its ambitious growth goals.
“Making the transition from high school to university is a significant, though not the only step, towards the realization of those national goals.”
A total of 611,952 candidates sat the 2017 KCSE exams but results from 10 unnamed schools have been withheld pending investigations. Dr Matiang’i said the decision to withhold results of the schools was meant to allow time for investigations whose findings will be made public on January 18.
The government has set aside Sh56 billion for the Free Day Secondary Education programme that is set to commence when schools open on January 4. The programme is expected to help the government achieve the targeted 100 per cent transition from primary to secondary schools.
The Ministry of Education in November released a circular outlining details of the programme.