To understand KCSE results, look at the teachers and how they teach
6 months ago, 29 Dec 19:52
The administration of the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) and the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) are considered by most Kenyans as being essential in the development of a credible education system. Such national exams are believed to motivate our children, lift some students to world class standards, help increase the national productivity and contribute to the restoration of our global competitiveness. Contrary to these beliefs, the examinations are largely based on the simplistic stimulus-response view of learning. The two examinations are essentially evaluating knowledge on the basis of the candidate’s recall of what he/she had previously learnt. Strictly speaking, assessment measures should be concerned with evaluating a candidate’s abilities across the whole spectrum of Bloom’s taxonomy of learning, not just knowledge acquisition but also application, synthesis and creativity. KNOWLEDGE The trend of KCSE and KCPE results over the last three years has been of interest to those of us in research and statistics due to the perceived drop in performance. A statistical evaluation of the validity of the 2017 KCSE examination papers in mathematics, biology, chemistry, Kiswahili and CRE for example, reveals startling results that perhaps the critics of the performance should make reference to before making their unsubstantiated criticisms. All these papers received high statistical indices in both content and construct validity. They revealed high correlations between the substance of the papers and the expected learning outcomes as per the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development syllabus. In other words, the examinations measured what they were supposed to measure. The difference with the 2017 examinations from the previous years was that they challenged students to use the knowledge learnt to apply, synthesise and even postulate on possible happenings in a given context. CHEATING The 2016 KCSE papers were replicas of the previous papers, only that the variable of cheating was eliminated. Our teachers ‘teach to the test’ and students routinely go through numerous past paper questions knowing that the examination will have a close semblance to previous papers. This is not learning. It is mere memorisation, hence the catastrophic results in biology and CRE in 2017 for example. This year’s examinations were based on the high cognitive constructs of Bloom’s taxonomy. In fact, these results bring to the surface the false pedagogical approaches in the Kenyan classroom and the need for major reforms in learning dynamics in our schools. I use the performance of the above four subjects and the validity of the test items therein to encourage all of us to embrace research to guide our pronouncements on such weighty matters that confront our education system. RELIABILITY Quite often, validity is sacrificed for reliability and this mistake usually results in measures being only concerned with the behaviour of scores rather than the intellectual value of the results. Being concerned only with the acceptability of candidates’ scores does not tell us whether such candidates have the capacities to engage constructively with the expectations of the 21st century economy. In evaluating KCSE results, the following factors ought to ...
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