When candidates start rehearsal for the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examination this Friday, it will mark the end of an era of the 8-4-4 system in primary school after nearly four decades.
According to the Kenya National Examinations Council (Knec), KCPE and the Kenya Primary School Education Assessment will be done in the same period.
Rehearsals for KCPE and KPSEA are set for Friday, October 27.
Both KCPE and KPSEA exams begin on Monday, October 30, and end on Wednesday, November 1 with the rehearsals set for Friday, October 27. according to Knec.
For 38 years, schools and learners scrambled for top positions, and the announcement of KCPE examination results evoked excitement and disappointment.
Teachers who taught subjects or headed schools where students continuously posted good results earned deserved promotions or rewards.
While those whose subjects or schools performed dismally got demotions or were reprimanded.
Sometimes, agitated parents would ‘chase away’ a head teacher whenever a school posted poor results, demanding his or her immediate replacement.
At least 360,000 candidates sat the KCPE examination for the first time in 1985, ushering in the 8-4-4 system.
Close to four decades later, focus turns to the Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC), where learners will be assessed through a new education system – Kenya Primary School Education Assessment (KPSEA).
Bungoma DEB Primary School head teacher Tobias Khisa was in the first cohort that sat KCPE exam in 1985.
“Nobody knew what the paper looked like as we had no past papers to refer to,” said Mr Khisa.
“When the results were released, it looked like everybody performed well save for those who came to repeat from the old education system (CPE) who were learning Kiswahili for the last time,” he added.
He believes the 8-4-4 system was the best thing that ever happened.
“As we move towards CBC, the country will produce job creators, and not job seekers.”
Bungoma DEB will present 486 learners for KCPE exams and another 516 for KPSEA, according to Khisa.
“You would go nowhere if you failed in KCPE exam, but a bright future beckoned for those who passed with flying colours. This is what our teachers used to tell us when the exams were approaching,” said Isaiah Okumu, a resident of Kakamega.
Mr Okumu, a former pupil at Langata West Primary School said: “Teachers used to assure us that by getting good marks and joining a national or a provincial school it was a gateway to secure a slot in the university and have a great future.
“KCPE exam was a matter of life and death as it determined your destiny. By not proceeding to secondary school, it meant you would be a pauper while going to a good school was a direct ticket to good life,” said Ruth Minish, Fesbeth Academy director.
Ms Minish, who spoke during the school’s prayer day, told the candidates, “You are like our last born in the 8-4-4 curriculum but that doesn’t mean the system wasn’t the best, it shaped the careers of your parents and your teachers.”
Fesbeth Academy has 237 candidates.
Kakamega Primary School head teacher Dickson Wanyangu told learners not to fear but to borrow a leaf from the past classes by posting sterling performances during the school’s prayer day.
“Let us sign off in style as we have always done. All we want is for each to score above 350 marks,” he said.
Kakamega Primary School will present 546 KCPE candidates and 571 KPSEA learners for assessment.
According to Basic Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang, about 1.4 million learners registered for this year’s KCPE, the highest number in the history of the exam.
Another 1.2 million Grade Six learners are expected to sit KPSEA.
Before 8-4-4, there was the 7-4-2-3 curriculum consisting of seven years of primary education, four years of secondary education, two years of high school, and 3–5 years of university education.
In Taita Taveta County, at least 8,000 candidates will write their KCPE examination.
County Commissioner Josephine Onunga declared yesterday that all examination centres will be a no-go zone for unauthorised persons.
The commissioner, who is also the county security committee chairperson, disclosed that the county security committee is working with Knec to secure all examination centres to avert cheating.
At Nguraru Public Primary School in Wundanyi town, the headteacher Parmenas Muteti said he had invited parents for prayers.
In Narok County, officials manning this year’s national examination have been warned against engaging in any form of malpractice.
Sub-County Director of Education Walter Wanjala said any Centre Manager, supervisor, or invigilator who will be found helping students to engage in exam irregularities shall face the full force of the law.
“Let me talk to the school heads because that is where the problem arises. Don’t be tempted in any manner to assist candidates to cheat in the exams,” he said.
He said it is the responsibility of the principals and those mandated with supervision to ensure the exams were conducted freely and fairly.
In Trans Mara East, a total of 14,946 candidates will sit the national exams.
At least 5,114 will sit KPSEA, 6,758 will sit KCPE, and 3,074 will sit KCSE.
He said 135 officials had been contracted to man the examination in all the 132 examination centres in the Sub-County.