More than one million Standard Eight pupils will on Tuesday begin their Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examinations, whose results will shape their progress in the education ladder.
The tests, whose rehearsals will be today, herald a cutthroat competition for Form One places in reputable public and private secondary schools in order to increase chances for transition to higher education.
With the government pushing for 100 per cent transition from primary to secondary schools, however, it is expected that all the 1,088,986 candidates will be enrolled in secondary schools next year.
But as would be expected, many parents go for schools with a long and rich history of success in the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) exam and those which are well-equipped and adequately staffed.
This is why this year’s exams, like those in the past, are a sort of do-or-die affair.
Before 2016, when the current Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha took charge of the Kenya National Examinations Council (Knec), the tests had gained infamy and notoriety due to pervasive cheating and a myriad irregularities, which seriously dented their integrity and validity.
Thankfully, they have since regained their rectitude and respectability following an overhaul of the council and test management processes.
While wishing the candidates success in the exams, we urge the administrators to pull out all the stops to block attempts at manipulating or tampering with the tests and their results by ensuring they are conducted judiciously.
Prof Magoha, who has distinguished himself as a stickler for rules and a ruthless administrator, must continue with the push for clean exams.
However, the government should not be overzealous in fighting cheats as to compromise the validity of the exams by scaring the very candidates it is supposed to safeguard.
The police, especially, must operate covertly and avoid intimidating and distressing the young minds.
Supervisors and invigilators, too, must create a relaxed atmosphere in the exam halls to help the candidates to approach the tests with calmness and optimism.
Still, the appearance of top education officials inside the exam room must be minimised because their official demeanour and unfamiliarity to the candidates can only exacerbate stress and anxiety.
It might be a good idea to inspire the candidates by letting them know that while they should try to do their very best, no one will be left behind in the race for Form One places.
We need to diminish competition in exams since they are just a means for feedback to establish whether or not learners acquired the right knowledge and skills at any given level.
Good luck to all Standard Eight candidates!
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