To re-test or not to re-test the 2015 KCSE candidates

A media report that the Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i had instructed university heads to have in place quality merit examinations for the 2015 KCSE candidates who will be admitted to their institutions came as a surprise to many Kenyans.


The minimum entry requirement for university admission in Kenya is C+, although those who attain C+ are admitted under the parallel degree programmes.

If this directive is implemented, it will be the first time since the 8-4-4 system of education was adopted for merit exams to be administered in Kenya.

Coming against the backdrop of an outcry over the massively leaked 2015 exams, which were lent credence by various media houses but largely denied by the education stakeholders, this move raises many questions.

Is it an admission that the KCSE 2015 examination was massively flawed?

The pre-university entry examinations would be an effective way to address the persistent complaint by various employers on the low quality graduates from Kenyan public universities.

It could also enhance quality and restore confidence in the education system that has many Kenyans doubting whether the grades attained by students represent their actual capability.

There are numerous cases in Kenyan public universities of students who attain very good grades in KCSE but fail to measure up to the rigorous course expectations.

For such students, the question that arises is whether there is a problem on quality of teaching at university or at secondary school level. Such an exam would therefore separate the chaff from the grain and help reduce such cases.

However, empirical studies would still need to be conducted to ascertain the benefits that would accrue from the quality or otherwise of the graduates that will be produced.

Nevertheless, the benefits of such an exam are likely to be realized if the exams test the students’ aptitude, analytical, comprehension, critical thinking and any such skills that may be necessary for subject specific disciplines.

Practical in Kenya?

Having outlined the benefits that would accrue from such a move, it is important to consider the practicality of it in Kenya. Does the Constitution allow re-testing? How will this move be justified against the existing constitutional dispensation?

On what curriculum will the test be based? More specifically, will this exam be standard across the universities and across the programmes? Will the examination be accredited by the government or by university senates?

Answering these question would help determine who would contribute to the questions — lecturers, KNEC, ad-hoc committees or secondary school teachers.

These are some of the issues we need to answers before embracing the project. It would also be important to outline whether this directive shift will only affect 2015 KCSE candidates or will be applied hence forth. This will help future candidates have the psychological preparedness for the test.

The impact of this on students will be enormous. It is obvious that if undertaken, the pre-entry exam will affect the educational calendar in Kenya. For students who will not have been admitted through KUCCPS, what standards would be set to ensure that all universities stick to quality standards in admitting parallel students?

What will happen to students who fail this test? Will they be forced to repeat? If yes, repeat what? The pre-university entry exam or the KCSE exam? Lastly, it would be important to know who will finance the Matiangi testing project.

The pre-university entry exam is a brilliant idea that would have numerous benefits if well thought out.

In Summary

  • The pre-university entry examinations would be an effective way to address the persistent complaint by various employers on the low quality graduates from Kenyan public universities.

  • It could also enhance quality and restore confidence in the education system that has many Kenyans doubting whether the grades attained by students represent their actual capability.

  • There are numerous cases in Kenyan public universities of students who attain very good grades in KCSE but fail to measure up to the rigorous course expectations. - By Teresa Okoth-Oluoch (Dr Okoth-Oluoch teaches at Masinde Muliro University) - Nation February 12, 2016. - http://www.nation.co.ke/lifestyle/weekend/To-re-test-or-not-to-re-test-the-2015-KCSE-candidates/-/1220/3073710/-/vcoxnyz/-/index.html

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