Release information to improve learning
The Education Ministry lived up to its pledge not to rank candidates or schools in the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education examination, whose results were released on Monday.
For the first time in many years, the public was starved of the fanfare of exam results release, and for good reason.
To a large extent, there has been concern that ranking had promoted unethical practices and reduced exams to a rat race where a few elite schools posted the best results and hogged the media limelight as their top candidates were feted publicly.
What was even more worrying was that some schools resorted to dubious practices such as forcing weak candidates to repeat classes or registering them in satellite centres so that they do not pull down the school’s mean grade.
Coaching and drilling of candidates became the norm, with children being forced to report to school early, leave late, and learn throughout the weekend and holidays.
The end result was a stressful system that created robot-like learners who were only good at regurgitating material rammed down their throats without distilling and critically examining the facts.
Yet ranking per se is not the problem; what is, is the perversion of the practice.
So we found ourselves in the unenviable position of having to throw out a practice because it had been bastardised and commercialised.
Even so, it is disappointing that in implementing the policy, the ministry denied the public vital information on the examinations.
Ranking of schools is one component of the examination results, but there are other essential statistics and information normally provided during the release. This information was not given out this time round.
THE EXTENT OF LEARNING
Examinations, whether summative or formative, serve to provide feedback on the extent of learning.
For that reason, information such as performance in subjects or by gender or regions is important in addressing weaknesses in the learning process.
For example, there has been concern about poor performance in some subjects, or by girls, or some regions and the consequence is that interventions
are required to redress the imbalances.
Without such information, it is difficult to mount appropriate measures and the problem is likely to continue to fester.
So, when Cabinet Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi directed that investigations be carried out to establish why some counties registered high gender disparity, it is useful only to the extent that one is dealing with access.
However, there are other variables such as quality, performance, and transition, which were left out, although they are equally critical in assessing the efficacy of an education system.
More fundamentally, access to information is a constitutional imperative. When the ministry denies the public basic and crucial information that it needs to make decisions on the children’s schooling, then it falls short of the legal expectation.
Inasmuch as the ministry has valid reasons for stopping ranking of schools and candidates, it must provide other variables for evaluating quality.
Withholding information from the public is unacceptable in this day and age. In the final analysis, examinations are as much tools for selection and placement as they are for determining learning outcomes. - Nation Editorial, Monday December 29, 2014. KCPE Results
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