Africa 10.8.2016 01:58 pm

Kenya’s primary school exams ‘should be scrapped’

Dr. Sheila Wamahiu, lead researcher and founder of Women Educational Researchers of Kenya. PHOTO: Roseleen Nzioka/ANA

Dr. Sheila Wamahiu, lead researcher and founder of Women Educational Researchers of Kenya. PHOTO: Roseleen Nzioka/ANA

The research found that values and ethics were largely absent in Kenyan primary schools due to omissions in the primary school curriculum.

A consortium of education researchers has advised the government of Kenya to scrap national exams at the primary school level to ensure a smooth transition into high school and curb cheating and unhealthy competition.

A team of 700 data collectors countrywide, led by seven researchers, collected and analysed data for a study that is believed to be the best evidence-based project the country has ever carried out in the education sector. The study covered 5% of all primary schools in all the 47 counties between 2014 and 2015.

The research found that values and ethics were largely absent in Kenyan primary schools due to omissions in the primary school curriculum.

Themed, “Value-Based Education Study”, it is anchored on the Kenyan constitution’s values as spelt out in the preamble, the bill of rights and chapter six. It is also anchored in the Education Act of 2013 and other Education sector policy documents.

Lead consultant of the research, Dr Sheila Wamahiu, who is also founder of the lead consultant agency, Women Educational Researchers of Kenya (WERK), said that the study sought to
investigate the values embedded in the current public education system with the aim of addressing knowledge gaps in the area of values and value education in Kenya, as well as influencing the ongoing national education reforms in the country.

Wamahiu said that the study defined value as “beliefs and ideals believed to be worthwhile, important and worth striving for”, and that parents and teachers were the main role models and
channels of inculcating values in children by dint of time spent with them.

The study describes Kenyan national examinations as “high stress”, leading to “unhealthy competition, cheating and exclusion of those who are not academically inclined”.

The study recommends the elimination of the culture of the “mean score” and scrapping of the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE). It should ideally be replaced by a system of
assessment that moves away from the focus on “regurgitating facts to recognition of the learning needs of the whole child and is values friendly”, said the report.

On the positive side, the study said that exams promoted values of hard work, commitment and self discipline.

The study identified the “hidden curriculum” as a critical barrier to achieving a fully value-based school. The “hidden curriculum” is the unintended learning resulting from all that goes on within the school setting, said the study. The study noted that children may acquire unintended values from the hidden curriculum when it conflicted with the official curriculum.

Wamahiu said that not one single school sampled out of the 1,500 schools, whether secular or faith-based, was fully value-based. However, faith-based schools did better than the secular ones. All schools in the study were particularly weak on the values of tolerance and inclusion.

She said that the core values in value-education were respect, tolerance, peace and equality.

These values were inter-religious, constitutional and universal and inter-linked, said Wamahiu.

The study showed that Value Education may be taught through one or multiple channels such as school-based clubs and co-curricular activities.

In a speech read on behalf of the Minister for Education, the Principle Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Dr. Bellio Kipsang, recognised the study as a ground-breaking one on value-based education in Kenya.

Kipsang said the study was timely as the Ministry was currently reflecting on the state of the country’s education system which he described as “devoid of values”. He noted that both the education sector and the wider society were undergoing challenges which indicate a conspicuous absence of values.

“This is evidenced by the recent widespread student unrest and arson attacks on their own schools and cheating in national examinations,” said Kipsang, adding that many other vices wrought schools. He said pupils lacked proper role models as Kenyan politicians and other adults communicated negative messages imparting negative values to the youth and children.

He urged curriculum implementers to engage social media to enhance transmission of values in schools.

“With the ongoing comprehensive education curriculum reform process, I see this as an opportunity to engage and ensure that values are put at the centre of our education system,” said Kipsang.

The Chairperson of WERK, Dr Charity Limboro said that the research was also a contribution to global knowledge on Value-Based Education. She said that WERK was committed to linking “evidence to advocacy and action”.

Other recommendations made by the researchers include the integration of the four core values of respect, tolerance, equity and peace into the curriculum and teacher training; reviewing school rules and regulations to align with the values stipulated in the Kenyan Constitution; intensification of parental education and community sensitisation on value-based education and
equitable distribution of resources to bridge the gaps between the elite schools and public schools.

– African News Agency (ANA)

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