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Big jump in number of students qualifying for varsity admission

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Big jump in number of students qualifying for varsity admission

George Magoha
Education Secretary George Magoha. FILE PHOTO | NMG

The number of students who attained grade C+ and above in this year’s Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examination jumped by 39 percent, creating a possible admissions challenge for public universities.

Education Secretary George Magoha said the number of students who scored above C+, the minimum grade required for admission to university, rose to 125,746 candidates from 90,377 last year and 70,073 in 2017. This signals that more than a fifth of those who qualified to join university are unlikely to get space in Kenya’s public universities which admit less than 100,000 students annually. The alternative is for them to join the parallel degree programme as self-sponsored candidates.

The improved performance offers a boost to the parallel degree programme in public universities, also known as Module II, which has been hurt by a lower number of students scoring above C+. In the past three years, nearly all students who scored C+ and above were admitted to the regular programme, and this reduced the pool of learners available for private universities as well as self-sponsored degree programmes in public universities. The drop in the number of students pursuing the parallel degree courses, whose fees are based on market rates, has in turn hurt university finances, leading the institutions to freeze hirings and slow down expansion plans as they struggle with debt.

Said Prof Magoha: “These results show marked improvement in performance compared to those of the last three years. This is indeed a confirmation that our teachers are now preparing candidates better and that the learners themselves can now engage in studies well.”

This year’s results show that 627 candidates scored A, up from 315 last year while 5,795 attained the A- grade compared to 3,419 the previous year. This now sets the stage for a scramble for top courses like medicine, pharmacy, engineering, IT and architecture that are attractive in the job market.

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From the results released yesterday, Kenya High emerged as the best school with the highest number of students who scored A, followed by Kapsabet High School, Alliance High and Moi High School Kabarak, with Alliance Girls closing the top five positions.

Most parents whose children scored more than 400 marks and above in this year’s Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) exam fought to get space in these top schools. Though Kenya has increased national schools to more than 100, most parents have, however, not changed their mindsets and still consider admission to the original national schools as the ultimate academic accomplishment for those who sit KCPE.

Wednesday’s results also show that 319,340 students scored D and below compared to 344,502 the previous year. This year, 29,318 students failed the exam, having scored the lowest grade E, down from 30,854 last year and 35,536 in 2017

Prof Magoha pointed out that cases of cheating had been dealt with following a multi-sectoral effort to curb the malpractice.

“I can now confidently report to the nation that the mission is largely accomplished. We have managed to completely wipe out the cartels in the sector that leaked examinations year in, year out. We have restored the credibility of our national academic credentials,” he said. English, Kiswahili, Chemistry, Biology and Mathematics recorded significant improvement in this year’s exams.

Undergraduate enrolment in public universities has dropped by 56,988, marking the first drop in 21 years on the reduction of parallel degree programme students. Data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) shows that university enrolment dropped to 382,971 in the year to June from 439,963 recorded a year ago — making this the first fall since the academic year that ended in June 1998.

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