The recent call by MP Jeremiah Kioni for the abolition of KCPE exams has generated a lot of controversy. KCPE exams were introduced in 1985 ostensibly to act as a screening tool for applicants to high schools. Those with the highest marks go on to secure places in national schools. Then there would be those who would have performed fairly well who will go on to provincial schools. The rest would end up in district, village or harambee schools. Still, the academic ambitions of a majority of the students would come to an abrupt end as there aren’t enough high schools in the country to absorb all the standard eight pupils. Whereas an exam system is supposed to test the knowledge and skills of a student, it is still a matter of debate whether KCPE exams meet these objectives. In most cases, it serves a screening tool to weed off students that the system does not want. This is certainly a grave danger that the country is putting itself in.
The first KCPE was topped by Naeem Samnakay, who went to top KCSE exams again four years later at the Alliance high school. He is currently a pediatrician surgeon in Australia. However, not many KCPE stars have had such an amazing success. Some have fallen by the wayside and failed to appear among the top students in KCSE. Could it be that KCPE and KCSE test entirely different skills and hence the difference in the charts. Do the exams measure critical reasoning, analytical thinking and creativity or is it simply a case of who can regurgitate the most information. These are serious questions that Kenyan educationists must answer if the exams are to serve any useful purpose. Otherwise the calls from the abolitionists will get even louder.