Parents express uncertainty over lack of usual KCPE exam rankings

A decision by the Ministry of Education to scrap the system of ranking candidates and schools in national examinations has left parents and candidates split and confused over its impact in the longer term.

Thousands of parents and teachers do not know what to expect when Education Cabinet Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi releases the results of this year’s Kenya Certificate of Primary Education ( KCPE) Monday morning, without the traditional merit list that has been the highlight of the ceremony.

The practice of ranking has in the past sent parents scrambling to televisions and reaching for their radios to follow live the release of the results, with some following up by buying the local dailies the next day to find out which school performed better in the national exams or if their children were among the top 10.

But today, the release of the KCPE results at the Kenya National Examinations (Knec) offices will be a dour affair, coloured more by the entertainment than the weight of expectation created by the old rankings.

Kaimenyi's move has not gone down well with a cross-section of parents interviewed by The Standard Sunday.

They said the removal of rankings denied them an opportunity to identify the performing schools. Evans Nasebe, a parent in Nairobi said ranking of candidates in KCPE helped parents identify which schools perform well in national examinations and should have been allowed to continue.

"This is a system that has been very good. It gives us parents a chance to find out which school and in which part of the country we can take our children to. In the absence of that, there will be no competition," said Mr Nasebe.

Healthy competition Isaack Njeru, a father of two students in high school, said ranking had persuaded him to take his children to one of the best performing schools in the country.

And he said ranking of schools and candidates produced healthy competition as schools and candidates strove to appear among the top 10. "I picked the best school after I read in the papers how it was performing. School rankings give schools an edge to compete academically and should not have been abolished," said Mr Njeru.

But Asha Otieno differed with the other parents saying she supports the abolishing of candidates' ranking since it laid more emphasis on emerging top.

"I feel the ranking system should have been abolished for primary and not secondary schools. Ranking places a lot of stress on students because it is imposed on them by the teachers who want to excel," said Ms Otieno.

But XN Iraki, a regular columnist with The Standard, said the ban would deprive parents of a key tool when choosing schools.

"Ranking has a great economic value, ensuring that information on good and bad schools is available publicly. The argument that schools use unorthodox methods to raise their ranks is an indicator that quality and compliance systems are not working.

Should we stop putting price tags on items in the supermarkets because of pilfering?" writes Iraki in his column to appear in tomorrow's Business Beat magazine in The Standard.

"The success of East Asian economies from South Korea to Singapore is based on competition with the best students and graduates becoming the leaders," he writes.

Knec Chief Executive Joseph Kivilu confirmed that they would not use the ranking system.

He said it is upon the ministry to come up with a new system if it so wishes, adding that it is not the prerogative of the examinations body to set the criteria for announcing the results.

"What we know is that the Ministry of Education banned the school ranking system and so it will not be there tomorrow (Monday)," said Kivilu.

He remained non-committal on the method and criteria that Knec has adopted. "I advice Kenyans to wait and see what will happen."

The glamour that always marks the release of Standard Eight and Form Four examination results was scrapped in November through a terse circular released by Education PS Belio Kipsang.

In abolishing the school ranking system, Dr Kipsang argued that ranking of examinations had been over glorified noting that it had contributed to some of the unethical practices that some schools were encouraging.

"Ranking of schools was leading to increased costs of education and making some schools either force weak children to repeat or register them in various examinations centres for fear that they would pull down the mean score of the schools," said Kipsang.

According to the Education ministry, schools had downplayed the educational role of co-curricular activities in developing the skills and other aptitudes learners had, but which were not examined in national examinations.

The circular did not prescribe any alternative criteria to be used in establishing the academic performance of schools and candidates but only spelt a raft of guidelines and regulations that could help improve school management and lower learning costs.

Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) has backed the ministry and maintained that rankings are not the hallmark of quality education. Kuppet Secretary General Akello Misori insisted that schools had made rankings a marketing strategy but the system does not guarantee quality education. "Over the years ranking has not been objective," said Misori. Standard - December 29, 2014

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