BY KABANDO WA KABANDO, GEORGE NYAMWEYA AND NDIRITU MURIITHI
The KCPE exam is a colonial relic, initially designed to filter out the natives from higher education, as they were not required at the top echelons in high numbers.
Indeed the system of filters, to support the pyramid structure of the education system involved a series of exams. The first was at standard 4, and was called common entrance. Thereafter there were exams at class 8, at form two, at form four, and at form six.
In this pyramid structure, only a paltry two percent was expected to make it to the university. The rest were expected to come out of the system to become clerks and nyaparas for the colonial system.
47 years after independence, the system has hardly changed. The system is still a steep pyramid. Out of the total population of primary school pupils of 8.6 million, only a paltry 297,000 make it to form four! That is why there is such inequity in our society.
The removal of the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education exam is timely, desirable and greatly beneficial. It operationalises article 53 (1) (b) of the Constitution of Kenya, which guarantees every child free and compulsory basic education.
The removal fulfils campaign pledge number one of all the Grand Coalition partners: 14 years of universal basic education for every Kenyan child, being two years of early childhood Education, eight years at the primary level, and four years at the secondary level.
The removal of the exam does not in any way mean there will be no assessment of the learners. Far from it. It is expected that a system of continuous assessment will be instituted. In addition, the science of education has proven that continuous assessment is a far better way to estimate the competences of a young learner than the one day exam. Indeed, this is what Universities and colleges do.
Removing this exam lays the ground for the transformation of the Kenya society. Form four leavers are inherently more trainable in modern technology; and can rapidly uptake skills. It also completes the over basic architecture of education, allowing the nearly 1,000 Youth Polytechnics constructed by CDF, LATF, Churches and communities to focus on providing quality technical skills.
In November 2009, a pilot curriculum was examined by the Kenya national Examination Council in 32 Polytechnics nationally. 72 percent of the candidates pass, some of whom are joining national Polytechnics, Technical Institutes, and even Technical Universities. KCPE cannot be such entry point.
How do we expect class 8 drop outs to benefit from increased devolved opportunities, and funds, when entries even to NYS, Police, and clerical jobs are hedged on minimum pass at Form 4? Even House-helps are now trainable housekeeping professionals.
Scrapping KCPE may not be popular, as indeed all bold revolutionary initiatives. It may even sound crazy, but most crazy ideas are change itself. It creates social equity, at a time when society is fractured by debate on haves and have nots. It is non-discriminatory, and in the spirit of the Constitution of the Republic of Kenya.
Right now, well in excess of 300,000 young people are filtered out every year by KCPE. It leaves these young Kenyans with vastly diminished chances of life.
When the Parliamentary Select Committee on the proscribed and illegal gangs went around the country last year, it found out that this locking out of over 300,000 young Kenyans was creating discontent, and was in part responsible for the emergence of these gangs.
In its recommendations, which have since been adopted by Parliament, the committee recommended that government ensures 14 years education for every child. One key way to do this is to remove the KCPE exam.
Are there benefits? Of course. But also, there are costs involved. The question is how much.
The case for marginal returns on investment on education is proven world over. However we estimate these additional benefits to be Sh3.4 trillion over a 25 year lifetime earnings. We have only taken five additional cohorts of 300,000 forms fours. That is, how much would they earn over a 25 year period, if we did educate them to form four, instead of class 8.
Marginal costs per year over four years
The marginal investments have an added benefit, in that they will result in much diffused fiscal stimulus, involving 10,000 physical classes (buildings, plus desks) every year for four years. And in many instances, primary schools will just be upgraded, as some already are, to fit the system.
We will require an addition 10,000 new teachers per year, for the first four years. That is one teacher for every additional class of 30 students, and would cost 2.5 billion per year.
There will be an incremental subsidy. Right now the subsidy at secondary school is Sh10,250 per student per year. That works out to three billion for the 300,000 additional students.
This works out to roughly 5.5 billion per year, plus the costs of putting up 10,000 new classes, and equipping them with desks.
Compare that, to the Sh270 billion, or about 30 percent of the annual national budget, monies lost due to corruption!
Vision 2030 is about new literacy standards as much as it is about access to basic opportunities to all. The Katiba is about basic rights for all as it is about giving our youth entitlements previously exclusively accorded to those who can afford.
We the authors are products of primary school national exams, yet we know that many more, even better gifted classmates, missed high school because of the rough ring at class 7 (CPE) then. Let’s unblock the potential of all young Kenyans.
Please, quality education for all. Please.
(Kabando wa Kabando is MP for Mukurweini, and Assistant Minister for Youth and Sports, Hon. George Nyamweya is lawyer and nominated MP, and Hon. Ndiritu Muriithi is MP for Laikipia West, and Assistant Minister for Industrialisation)