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Banned examination ranking system may have negative repercussions we are oblivious to in Kenya

Updated on February 3, 2015

As it happened when the year began

The decision by the Ministry of Education to abolish examination ranking, that has since taken effect in the release of 2014 Kenya Certificate of Primary Education results is something that may have mixed repercussions. Though the Education Cabinet Secretary Prof Jacob Kaimenyi gave a shallow insight that this year and last year’s results are almost the same; failure to rank schools and individual students may have eager ears missing on crucial details.

According to CS Kaimenyi, ranking has more demerits than merits. He says that it raises the stakes by instilling unnecessary competition that pushes many schools, teachers and students to the brink of engaging in examination cheating. Taking into account that schools have different facilities and human resources in terms of teacher-pupil ratio, to him, abolishing ranking comes as one amongst many solutions to balance the playing field.

In the past, the government has criticized schools that run tuition programmes for ‘overworking’ the learners and using unnecessary means of generating revenues. He pointed to a scenario where children have complained about their busy schedules that deprive them the opportunity to engage in other co-curricula activities like sports, which are important for harnessing of talents. As a result of the need to keep pace with the heightened level of competition, some schools have resorted to focusing on theoretical subjects while relinquishing subjects like music and arts which are equally pertinent for the gifted pupils, he adds.

When looking at the reasons that have been given for the abolishment of the ranking system, they appear genuine. Much can be added to the list because even shallow teaching methods that are aimed at passing examinations, known by many as ‘drilling’, are creations of the much contested examinations. It is not far off the mark to say that most private schools acquire their large number of admissions after posting ‘impressive’ examination performances while remote public schools that are deemed as ‘donkeys competing horses’ are given a wide berth. In addition, ranking schools with smaller numbers of candidates would be a confirmation that ranking has no meaning.

However, the exiting ranking system looks like a victim of misinterpretation by the custodians of the process. As was pointed out by the chairman of Kenya Union of Teachers (KNUT), Wilson Sossion, Kenya may not get the opportunity to assess her academic standards in the Global Competitive Index against other countries. Perhaps Sossion’s assertion that the move looks like a Public Relations gimmick may attract much eye-brows, but as it appears, there is still much to be done. The gains of ranking system have been realized in assessing the performance of schools. Thanks to our media and the examination ranking system that Kenyans knew about Nyakemincha Primary School in Kisii that posted meager results in the KCPE.

This may have been a disguised blessing because the school may not be ranked from the bottom of the table after the wake up call. To alleviate the problem of unnecessary competition coupled with examination cheating; perhaps we need more structural reforms in the education department. Corruption should be fought as fiercely as possible so that examination anomalies are not experienced. Lastly, parents and teachers need grading rubric to know the trends in academic performances by schools because not all schools are good and vice versa.

Kenya's Education Cabinet Secretary. Prof Jacob Kaimenyi
Kenya's Education Cabinet Secretary. Prof Jacob Kaimenyi | Source

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