KCSE grad­ing sys­tem should be trans­par­ent

Business Daily (Kenya) - - EDITORIAL & OPINION - Her­ine Otieno-menya, PHD can­di­date in math­e­mat­ics ed­u­ca­tion at the UK’S Sh­effield Hal­lam Univer­sity

Grow­ing up, it was com­mon, es­pe­cially dur­ing ex­am­i­na­tion pe­riod, to hear a “keep quiet” shout from a mem­ber of class when­ever other mem­bers of the class “lost their cool” and got too rowdy for read­ing. One can sur­mise that for the last few months the Kenya Cer­tifi­cate of Pri­mary Ed­u­ca­tion (KCPE) and Kenya Cer­tifi­cate of Se­condary Ed­u­ca­tion (KCSE) ex­am­i­na­tion can­di­dates across the coun­try, have been silently bel­low­ing “the keep quiet” phrase in their mind at the Kenyan pub­lic, more specif­i­cally our politi­cians.

Such in­dig­na­tion can­not be con­sid­ered out of place. For a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of can­di­dates, es­pe­cially those in day se­condary schools, the po­lit­i­cal noise that is yet to com­pletely ebb away has had a neg­a­tive im­pact on their fi­nal prepa­ra­tions for the ex­am­i­na­tions.

Yet for the KCSE can­di­dates, the noise and the emo­tional toil re­lated to the re­peat pres­i­den­tial elec­tion may not be their great­est con­cern. Gath­er­ing from a con­ver­sa­tion with a num­ber of can­di­dates in July this year and feed­back from over a 100 re­spon­dents who in­cluded stu­dents, teach­ers and par­ents from schools across the coun­try and tiers, some­thing closer home is both­er­ing our can­di­dates and their teach­ers.

Asked what they were most con­cerned about in their up­com­ing KCSE ex­am­i­na­tions, over 95 per cent of the re­spon­dents pro­ferred that they were deeply con­cerned about the lack of trans­parency sur­round­ing the grad­ing of their ex­am­i­na­tions.

The con­cerns were linked to the furore that arose ear­lier in the year about the mark­ing and grad­ing of the 2016 KCSE ex­am­i­na­tions be­tween Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion and some key stake­hold­ers.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­spon­dents, their con­fu­sion, con­cerns and anx­i­ety about grad­ing of the KCSE ex­ams was largely due to the very loud and al­most de­fi­ant si­lence from Kenya Na­tional Ex­am­i­na­tions Coun­cil (KNEC) of­fi­cials on the mat­ter.

Con­trary to their ex­pec­ta­tions, the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion did not take the ini­tia­tive to clar­ify and ex­plain whether the grad­ing sys­tem for the KCSE ex­am­i­na­tions had changed.

By the time of brief­ing for the 2017 KCSE ex­am­i­na­tions no of­fi­cial com­mu­ni­ca­tion and or anal­y­sis of 2016 KCSE ex­am­i­na­tion had been of­fi­cially re­leased to schools.

Ac­cord­ing to some of the teach­ers, their ef­forts to seek clar­i­fi­ca­tion from KNEC of­fi­cials as late as third term this year, months be­fore the ini­tial date of 2017 KCSE ex­am­i­na­tions from KNEC has been met by a sense of in­dif­fer­ence.

To put the con­cerns of the stu­dents and teach­ers into per­spec­tive, al­low me to point out that con­vert­ing raw marks into grades for sum­ma­tive high stakes ex­am­i­na­tions like KCSE is car­ried out by a ma­jor­ity if not all ex­am­i­na­tion bodies. The process is con­sid­ered key in en­hanc­ing mean­ing of such re­sults.

Specif­i­cally, ex­am­in­ers con­tend that sub­ject grades al­low for greater com­pa­ra­bil­ity of re­sults across sub­jects and across years. In other words it should be done for the sole pur­pose of stan­dard­iz­ing re­sults across all sub­jects; tak­ing care of the dif­fer­ent lev­els of dif­fi­culty across the sub­jects and years of ex­am­i­na­tion.

Best prac­tice in as­sess­ment re­quires that the grad­ing process be done by per­sons who have an un­der­stand­ing of the sub­jects.

An­other best prac­tice that is gain­ing trac­tion amongst ex­am­i­na­tion bodies glob­ally is that of mak­ing the grad­ing process and sys­tem pub­lic to all key stake­hold­ers.

For one, ac­cess to such in­for­ma­tion is in­creas­ingly be­ing con­sid­ered a con­sti­tu­tional right. More im­por­tantly, such in­for­ma­tion is con­sid­ered crit­i­cal for stu­dents’ strate­gic en­gage­ment with the learn­ing and ex­am­i­na­tion prepa­ra­tion process.

It helps them in set­ting prox­i­mal goals which in turn play a key role in boost­ing their con­fi­dence to­wards the ex­am­i­na­tions which more than in­nate abil­ity has been found a crit­i­cal de­ter­mi­nant of sum­ma­tive per­for­mance in most ex­am­i­na­tions. In ad­di­tion, knowl­edge of the grad­ing process and sys­tem is im­por­tant in mak­ing de­ci­sions on se­lec­tion of sub­jects for spe­cial­iza­tion.

Our KCSE can­di­dates do not de­serve any less and they know it. Based on my the­o­ret­i­cal un­der­stand­ing of learn­ing and as­sess­ment, I can con­firm that their con­cerns are valid. I there­fore im­plore all of us to join them in de­mand­ing that the grad­ing sys­tem be made clear.


EX­AMS KCSE can­di­dates at St Pe­ter’s Mu­mias Boys School in Kakamega.

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