The number of candidates who scored 400 marks and above in this year’s Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examination dropped by 15.4 percent, pulled down by poor performance in science and mathematics.
Education Secretary George Magoha Monday said that 9,770 candidates scored above 400 marks in the exam compared with 11,559 last year and 9,846 in 2016 — marking the first drop in recent years. The drop looks set to ease pressure on the scramble for admissions to the coveted national secondary schools.
As a rule, candidates who score more than 400 marks are assured of places in national schools, including the upgraded institutions that are perceived as less attractive by parents.
“In the 2019 KCPE examination, candidates improved in four of the six examination papers offered compared with 2018. There was, however, a slight drop in mathematics and science,” said Prof Magoha when he released the results.
The ministry did not disclose the subjects’ mean scores, but the drop comes amid increased focus and investments in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) courses, seen as key to spurring innovation and industrialisation.
Kenya has been promoting STEM, especially among girls, as a step in building a larger pool of professionals in medicine, engineering, computer technology and other technical skills that are in short supply and are needed to boost Kenya’s industrial sector. Kenya has recently seen a rise in the number of graduates with liberal arts degrees in a job market that is already saturated and is hardly creating enough formal jobs to absorb the large number of graduates.
This year’s KCPE results, which were released less than three weeks after the end of exams, show that 243,320 candidates scored between 301 and 400 marks (out of a possible 500) — an 8.7 percent increase from last year’s 223,862.
More than 76 percent of the 1,083,456 candidates who sat the exam scored 300 marks and below. The number of candidates who scored less than 100 marks more than halved to 1,173 from 2,952 last year.
The top candidate, Andy Munyiri, of Damacrest Schools in Thogoto scored 440 marks. Three candidates tied in the second position, two of them girls from public schools.
Prof Magoha said the results showed that that public schools were back in contention for sterling performance.
“That public school candidates matched their private school candidates is proof that our Free Primary Education Programme has come of age and that our teachers are excelling in spite of the higher enrolment,” he said
“I want to assure you that all pupils who sat for the exam will get admission and I want to repeat this,” said Prof Magoha, adding that Sh8 billion had been allocated to build classrooms and laboratories in 110 sub-counties in 30 counties next year.
Eight years ago, 30 secondary schools, including Kapsabet Boys, Kanga High, Karima Girls 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 upgrade policy has since been sustained, growing the number of national schools to above 100.
However, many KCPE candidates and their parents have not changed their mindsets and still consider admission to the original national schools as the ultimate prize.