• In January, the Education ministry had promised no child would be disadvantaged in the exams.
• Teachers say the broadcast of lessons during the pandemic lockdown had less benefit to learners.
Kenyans will be waiting for the results of this year's KCPE and KCSE exams with bated breath given the fallout of Covid-19 on education.
Concerned that there could be overall dismal performance, some sector players are calling for leniency in the marking process.
KCPE candidates finished writing their papers on Wednesday, making room for KCSE candidates to sit their exam, which began on Friday and will end on April 16.
The completion of the exams will pave the way for the critical exercise of marking.
However, questions of how learners will fare in this year’s tests, given they were out of school for at least eight months, remains the main headache among stakeholders, with some calling for a contingency plan to factor in the time lost.
Although the Education ministry argues that the examination calendar was reviewed to push the exams from November 2020 to March 2021, other stakeholders are of the opinion that the period will not effectively change the disparities that happened. They say have proposed the government wait for the results then standardise.
Private schools moved to teach online during the pandemic. However, the larger pupil population in public schools relied on lessons broadcast on radio and TV.
Teachers have termed the broadcasts haphazard, saying they had less benefit to learners.
“The radio and TV lessons were quite limited and could not accommodate all learners, thus cannot be effectively considered to have helped the students to lessen learning losses suffered during the shutdown period,” Wilson Sossion, the Kenya National Union of Teachers secretary general, told the Star on the phone.
In January, the Education ministry promised that no child would be disadvantaged in the exams.
Education CS George Magoha announced that the setting and marking of the exams would factor in the time learners lost during the nine-month Covid-19 shutdown.
He did not, however, explain how that would happen.
“You don’t have to be afraid because we know you were not in school for nine months," Magoha said.
"Our job as teachers is to pick what you have in your brain, not what you don't have."
Form 4 and Std 8 candidates reported back to school last October.
Kenya is not the only country grappling with how to ensure fairness in education.
In the United Kingdom, pupils will have advance notice of topics to be examined and will be allowed to bring in aids such as formula sheets.
Students who miss exams because of the coronavirus will also have an opportunity to re-sit them or be assessed based on the results of other tests in the same subject.
A similar proposal has been fronted in Kenya. However, the Kenya National Examination Council does not have a history of or mechanism for administering substitute exams in its 30 years of existence.
Other stakeholders have pushed for a revised marking system for this year's tests.
Magoha's announcement followed the release of the Knec report on learning losses suffered during the pandemic. The study sought to establish Std 8 pupils’ performance levels in subjects examined in the KCPE exam after the prolonged closure of schools.
The report showed half of the candidates could barely make the 50 per cent cut-off mark in the test administered in October. However, the CS said the report was outdated and the situation had improved in the 12 weeks since the October reopening.
It was envisaged that the assessment would give insight into the loss occasioned by the lack of face-to-face learning and limited access to remote learning. It was to highlight areas for targeted intervention.
“I thank primary school teachers who used assessment results to address all the gaps that may have arisen from the learners’ long stay at home. I am confident the candidates will excel in their examinations,” Magoha said.
Magoha may be of the opinion that since the reopening much has been done to make up for the lost time, but some stakeholders think the report is indicative of what awaits the KCPE and KCSE classes.
The assessment revealed that pupils in schools located in urban areas registered higher mean scores than their counterparts in rural schools in all subjects assessed except in Kenya Sign Language.
National Parents Association chairman Nicholas Maiyo says learning gaps hit those in poor and rural set-ups the most during the shutdown because of lack of virtual learning.
"If you look at the performance of those in urban areas, it was better compared to those in rural and those in private schools outshone those in public schools," he said.
"This is because both those in private schools and urban areas are better equipped with devices, internet, mobile data and other resources to continue learning even when out of school.”