Varsity enrolment headache as fewer students make the grade

Education secretary Fred Matiang’i speaks during the release of the 2017 KCSE results at Nairobi School on Wednesday. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NMG
Education secretary Fred Matiang’i speaks during the release of the 2017 KCSE results at Nairobi School on Wednesday. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NMG 

Overall performance in the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) exam continued the slide that began last year after the Ministry of Education released results showing only 70,073 candidates attained grade C+ and above required for university enrolment.

This is an 18,000 drop from the results last year when 88,982 candidates made the grade in what was seen as the lowest performance in decades.

The 2017 results show that only 2,714 candidates scored A- and A – a near halving of last year’s top grades.

But Education secretary Fred Matiang’i, who released the results at Nairobi School, did not appear to be alarmed by the performance, which suggests deteriorating quality of teaching in schools or a system of education that is producing higher rates of failure with every passing year.

This year alone, 35,536 students flatly failed the exam having scored the lowest grade E.

540,000 below university cut-off grade

More than 540,000 of the total 610,501 students who sat the exams failed to attain the minimum C+ grade required for admission to university.

It means the country has nearly double the number of university places available compared to the number of students qualifying for enrolment and puts to question rationale for the Treasury’s recent approval of plans to expand hostels in three public universities.

The number of students scoring straight As increased by one to 142 as girls maintained their lead over boys in national exams — producing the two top performers.

Nairobi’s Pangani Girls produced the top student with a mean score of 87.01 followed by another from Moi Girls Eldoret who scored 86.6 points. The third candidate was from Alliance Boys with 86.7 points.

Dr Matiang’i noted that girls had outshone their male counterparts in six subjects while boys performed better than girls in 23 subjects.

“In the 2017 KCSE examination, female candidates performed better than male candidates in six out of the subjects offered.

"Male candidates performed better than female candidates in 23 out of the subjects offered,” said Dr Matiang’i.

Among subjects that saw female candidates performed better than boys were English, Kiswahili, CRE, Home Science, Art and Design and Electricity.

More hostels

Barely a week ago, Treasury secretary Henry Rotich cleared Embu University College, South Eastern Kenya University (Seku) and Moi University to build hostels that will increase accommodation capacity by 23,000 through a public private partnership (PPP).

Mr Rotich noted tremendous growth of public universities had put a strain on the budgetary allocations, increasing the need to partner with the private sector in meeting the accommodation needs.

The candidates included 315,630 males and 296,322 females, representing 51.5 per cent and 48.4 per cent of the total candidature respectively.

“This is an indication that the country is on the right path towards achieving gender parity in examinations enrolment, and indeed at the secondary school level,” said Dr Matiang’i.

English, Mathematics Alternative and Geography are among the 13 subjects that recorded significant improvement in performance in the 2017 examination. In 2006, only five subjects recorded notable improvement.

Of the 31 subjects that were examined, 13 recorded a significant decline in performance in 2017 compared to 20 in 2016.

Disciplinary action

Dr Matiang’i noted that 40 teachers, including school principals, are facing disciplinary action over this year’s exam malpractices.

Five candidates who were caught engaging in examination malpractices were disqualified even before the KCSE examination season was over.

Results for 10 schools that Dr Matiang’i declined to name were withheld, pending investigations expected to conclude in two weeks.

“We have decided to withhold the results of 10 schools because we want further analysis on the results. We will be able to provide a comprehensive report on the schools on January 18, 2018,” he said.

He announced a taskforce had been formed to audit examination malpractice cases some of which date back to 2009.

“The Ministry of Education and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions have resolved to form a multi-sectoral taskforce that will commence a fresh audit of the cases.

"Henceforth, we will require that such cases are investigated and necessary action taken within a year of the alleged offences being committed,” he said.