It’s mass failure after school Covid break

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Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) candidates have recorded poor grades in school-based assessments, exposing the huge learning gaps caused by the effects of prolonged closures.

More than half of the 1.1 million Class Eight candidates who sat the tests scored less than an average of 50 per cent mark in most of the subjects assessed.

“Majority of Class 8 learners performed below average. This is evidenced by the substantial proportions of learners who did not attain the minimum benchmark 50 per cent in most of the subject assessed,” reads the Kenya National Examination Council (Knec) report.

The details are contained in the just released Kenya Global Partners in Education (GPE) Covid-19 Learning Continuity in Basic Education report on Class 8 learning assessment.

The report shows that the candidates scored a mean of less than 50 marks in English Language, Kiswahili Language (Lugha), Kenyan Sign Language, Mathematics and Science. In English Composition, Kiswahili Composition (Insha) and Kenyan Sign Language Composition, candidates registered a mean score of less than 40.

The mean score for Social Studies and Religious Education were 60 and 30 respectively. The mean scores in the above subjects are presented out of 100.

Subjects that candidates posted higher mean grades were Islamic Religious Education with an average of 60.11, Christian Religious Education (58.75), Science (57.85), Hindu Religious Education (55.5) and English Language 50.34.

The poor show among the candidates’ demonstrates that the 10-month stay-at-home may have eroded subjects concepts learnt by pupils before schools closed in March, last year, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

And with about a month to the start of KCPE national examinations, the results of the assessments are a wake-up call to learners and teachers to step up preparations.

Kenyan Sign Language (KSL) registered the lowest mean at 36.9. English and Kiswahili had mean scores of 44.73 and 46.64 respectively.

Most shocking is the finding that most of the learners did not have the essential understanding skills that are critical in determining learning outcomes.

“Of concern are the substantial percentages of pupils not attaining minimum proficiency levels in language skills, yet research has shown that proficiency in reading/language has a bearing on acquisition of other educational outcomes,” reads Knec report.

Just like in KCPE national examinations, pupils in private schools registered higher mean scores in all the assessed subjects compared to those in public schools.

Report also reveals that learners in urban schools registered higher mean scores compared to their counterparts in rural institutions in all subject areas assessed except in KSL.

In the results, girls performed better in languages than boys while male learners scored higher grades than girls in Mathematics and Science. Girls attained higher means scores in both English Language and Composition posting 51.35 and 46.58 respectively against 49.31 and 42.85 for boys.

Gender comparison

In Kiswahili, girls attained 49.68 and 49.04 in Language and Composition respectively against 48.29 and 44.2 attained by the boys respectively.

Boys performed better than girls in Mathematics and Science, posting 45.39 and 44.39 against 59.24 and 56.49 for girls respectively.

The tests were administered when schools opened for second term late last year, following the Covid-19 pandemic. The programme is part of the Sh1.5 billion Global Partnership for Education (GPE) funding, supervised by the World Bank.

According to the report, 995,225 sat the assessments across 21,244 primary schools.  Another 196,224 learners from 7,217 private schools registered for the tests.

Overall, 1,121, 903 candidates sat the school assessments whose results are now out. The assessments were administered in all KCPE subjects. 

Overall, 17 out of the 47 counties had mean scores above 50.  Nairobi recorded the highest mean score of 59.20 per cent followed by Garissa (56.34) and Mandera at 55.11 per cent. The lowest mean scores of 44.34 per cent was registered in Turkana. Tana River recorded 44.37 per cent and Samburu 44.51 per cent. 

“The counties reporting the lowest mean scores are all located in ASAL,” reads the report.

The tests administered at school level were expected to gauge learners’ entry behaviour after the long period of school closure to inform possible learning gaps during the Covid-19 period.

According to Knec, the results of the assessments were expected to help craft interventions to be put in place to address the gaps as teachers start crash programme to cover lost academic time.

It its proposals, Knec says: “Boards of Management, head teachers and teachers should put measures in place to ensure targeted interventions in key skill/content areas such as reading comprehension.”

The results now put pressure on both candidates and teachers to step up preparation for the national examinations to be administered in one month’s time.

Details of the report show that in majority of the assessed subjects, many learners scored between 26 per cent and 50 per cent. Only Science, CRE and IRE had a large proportion of pupils scoring between 51 per cent and 75 per cent.

“Notably close to two thirds or 60. 87 per cent of Class 8 learners did not attain minimum proficiency level in Cloze test and close to half (48.72%) did not attain the minimum proficiency level in reading comprehension,” reads the report.

Cloze is a test of reading comprehension that involves having the person being tested supply words, which have been systematically deleted from a text.

Knec report further says that low proficiency levels were observed in Kiswahili, where 61.01 per cent of Class 8 learners did not attain minimum proficiency level in reading comprehension (ufahamu).

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