By BENJAMIN MUINDI email@example.com
Posted Saturday, January 7 2012 at 22:30
Posted Saturday, January 7 2012 at 22:30
Private schools in Kenya are in the spotlight for resorting to pass-at-all-costs frenzy in national examinations and using unorthodox means to make a name for themselves.
The practice has led to the schools – commonly referred to as academies – separating their pupils into cohorts of bright and dull and then registering them separately for the national examination.
Both groups study in the same class during the academic year, but the weaker pupils ultimately write their final examinations at a “satellite” centre, so as not to lower the mean grade of the parent school.
In other cases, devious proprietors “poach” poor but bright students from public schools and offer them bursaries or scholarships to sit national examinations at their academies.
This way they end up boosting the mean grade of the institutions as weak candidates are forced to repeat, or are not registered for the examination altogether under the pretext that they are not ready.
The Kenya National Examinations Council said some of these schools had also mastered “institutionalised cheating” where the community would come together – parents, teachers and the pupils – to abet the practice.
“Most cases of cheating in national examinations are recorded in the private schools,” council secretary Mr Paul Wasanga said.
He accused the institutions of erecting “walls” around them that not only prevented his officers from penetrating the institutions but also made cheating easier.
This led to the cancellation of Kenya Certificate of Primary Education examination results released last month in 344 schools countrywide, of which 144 were private.
Although fewer private than public schools were involved in the cheating, the bulk of the 8,000 cheaters came from private schools, he said. (READ: Record 8,000 exam cheats denied results)
“The government has been unable to tame the errant schools,” Kenya Private Schools Association (Kepsa) chairman John Mwai said, adding that cheating was becoming widespread each year.
Mr Mwai singled out the directorates of basic education and quality assurance and standards that are in charge of registering the schools and ensuring they follow standard practice in their operations.
He noted that in some cases, the quality assurance officers were compromised by rogue school proprietors to turn a blind eye to cheating.
“Otherwise how do you explain the fact that these acts take place every year, yet there are government officers who are supposed to control the sector?” Mr Mwai asked.
According to the official, the government should enact legislation to recognise Kepsa as a regulator of the institutions under its watch.
“This way, there will be an enforcement body that will check the malpractices of the institutions and also enforce disciplinary action on the errant ones,” he said, noting that the government seems to be overwhelmed as quality and assurance officers are supposed to visit the schools regularly.
Education Quality Assurance and Standards Director Enos Oyaya refused to comment when the Sunday Nation sought his views on how pupils could be registered at different centres but still learn in the same compound.
Where did the cheating problem in private schools begin?
Two years after President Kibaki’s administration launched the free primary education programme (FPE) in 2003, the government drafted Sessional Paper No. One (2005) as a roadmap to achieving the goal of Education For All by 2015.
After careful consideration of the massive resources required to attain the goal, the government realised that it was not able to raise adequate funds.
“In view of the heavy public support required for basic education, there is a need for increased participation by the private sector in the provision and expansion of education,” it was noted.
Therefore, the government moved to encourage investment from the private sector to sustain expansion and gave incentives, especially in financing and land acquisition, to make private education more attractive to investors.
The competition among the private schools has been cut-throat, and some resort to unconventional means to post good results that will serve as marketing tools for the institutions as their only survival technique.As a result, the number of private schools grew exponentially. Today, there are about 10,000 private schools out of which 4,124 had 130,000 pupils sitting the national examination last year while, in total, the institutions have about 1.5 million pupils.
The logic behind this is that parents will enrol their children in schools that perform well.
But the Sessional Paper foresaw such a situation when it advised that a policy through which to promote and regulate private investment, private school registration and quality assurance and supervision of the schools be developed.