Institutions demand to be graded differently

Primary school head teachers now want the national examiner to adopt a marking system that grades public schools differently from private institutions in Standard Eight final examinations.

The Kenya Primary School Heads Association’s Joseph Karuga said candidates from public schools were learning under extremely difficult situations and could thus not be graded using the same system as learners taught under more friendly environments.

Reacting to a Nation special report that exposes the fall in former public academic giants, Mr Karuga, the Nairobi Primary School head teacher, said the free primary schooling programme was the cause of the woes the public schools were facing.

For example, he said, the fees that pupils in private schools pay was much higher than what the government provides for free primary education.

The government pays only Sh1,020 per pupil in primary schools, hardly enough to purchase necessary reading and learning materials.

"Fees in private schools can go to as high as Sh100,000 per term, whereas the government gives us only Sh1,020 per child annually," he said.

"The pupils in the public school cannot achieve as much with that kind of investment."

Mr Karuga suggested that the two categories of candidates should not be graded using the same exam since they had wide disparities in their school environment.

The Nation report confirmed that the free primary schooling programme and unethical practices of some private schools have thrown public institutions off the national performance tables.

The public primary schools are crying foul that their enrolment have more than doubled while their teacher numbers have been cut by half, consigning them to poor performance in the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examinations.

Those interviewed also accused private schools of poaching their bright pupils who ended up uplifting the academies.

In Nairobi, some of the schools that used to shine but have since fallen off the charts include Olympic Primary School in the sprawling Kibera slums, Utawala in Embakasi and the Nairobi Primary.

In Kisumu, Arya and Kibuye public schools have gone to the dogs, as have Hill School and St Mary’s Primary in Uasin Gishu County.

In Nyeri, King’ong’o Primary School is alarmed at the number of candidates scoring 100 marks out of the total 500, admitting that the free learning programme was taking toll on quality.

A survey by Nation revealed that a number of public primary school in the country had suffered a massive exodus of their bright students to private schools who are on a mission to get all the top performers to boost
their performance. They do so by offering scholarships to bright pupils from public schools.

So bad is the situation that in the 2013 KCPE examination results, only Kericho Primary School and Kathigiri boarding school in Meru managed to have a candidate ranked among the top 10 nationally.

The other eight were from private schools in the country.

"In the top 10 most improved schools nationally, nine were public schools, an indication that government schools can perform well if they put more effort," said Education Cabinet Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi when releasing the results on December 31.

Out of the 47 counties, 220 out of a total 235 schools listed among the top five in every county were private schools – 95 per cent of the top five slots in all counties.

However, more than 96 per cent (221 out of the 235 schools) of bottom five schools in each county were public primary schools.

Mombasa and Kisii were the only two counties where private schools dominated the bottom five.

Reacting to the Nation story, Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang said the ministry would hold discussions to help transform public schools.

He said the real gains of free primary education would be better realised if public schools were re-evaluated to transform them to centres of excellence.

"We are engaging relevant stakeholders and we want to set a stop to this trend," Mr Kipsang said. "Public schools must be made to perform at any cost."

Public school teachers accused private schools of "stealing" their bright pupils whom they had nurtured at the lower classes.

"It is disheartening to lose these kids who we usually nurture at the lower classes," said Olympic School deputy head teacher, Mr Caleb Ochieng.

Source - Daily Nation

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