In a troubling trend, performance in Mathematics and sciences in the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KSCE) examination has been declining for the last three years, a Nation Newsplex review of national examination data reveals.

As candidates prepare to sit the 2017 KSCE starting Monday, the analysis finds that an overwhelming majority of the KCSE candidates failed in Mathematics and the sciences from 2014 to 2016.

Nearly 90 per cent, or 493,184 of the 569,733 candidates who sat the Mathematics Alternative A paper last year scored between C- and E. This was about a 10 percentage increase from each of the two previous years.

In contrast, four per cent (20,682) of the 2016 candidates scored either an A or A-. Half the candidates scored an E, the lowest grade, while the average mean grade was D, a drop from D+ in 2014 and 2015.

Performance in the Maths Alternative B paper was even worse, with 99 per cent of the 1,442 candidates who sat the paper scoring less than grade C. Less than one per cent, or three candidates, scored either grade A or A-.

On average, the proportion of candidates who scored the two top grades in both Mathematics papers was almost three times less than in 2014.

Last year, only 18 per cent of candidates who sat the Biology examination got at least grade C, a drop of more than half compared to 2015 when 40 per cent of candidates attained the grade and in 2014 when 38 per cent did the same.

The share of candidates who got D- and E in Biology in 2016 was almost triple (48 per cent) that of the previous year when 18 per cent of candidates got the same grades. In 2016, nearly 50 per cent of the candidates recorded the two lowest grades.

On the opposite side of the scorecard, only one per cent of the candidates got either A or A- in 2016, a fall from four per cent the previous year and five per cent in 2014. The mean grade attained in the subject last year dropped two places to D from C-.

Physics and Chemistry

Performance in Physics was better than in the other sciences. Half or 74,768 candidates who sat for the exam got grade D to E, a 12 per cent increase from 2014.

In contrast, only nine per cent or 13,026 scored an A or A-. The mean grade was C-, a drop from the last two previous years when the candidates recorded the midday way grade C.

With an average grade of D, performance in Chemistry was worse than the previous two years. In 2016, nine in ten candidates scored less than grade C compared to 7 in 10 in 2014. More than two-thirds of the students got D- and E while only one per cent scored A or A-.

As the 2017 KCSE exam starts, parents, teachers and student across the country are hoping that this year’s performance will reverse the downward trend, both in overall performance and in Mathematics and the sciences over the last three years.

More than half (52 per cent) of the 2016 KCSE candidates scored between mean grade D and E meaning that they did not even qualify for post-secondary certificate courses. This was almost double the share of candidates who scored the lower grades in the previous two years. In 2014, 128,885 (27 per cent) of the candidates attained grade D to E compared to 133,563 (26 per cent) in 2015 and 295,463 (52 per cent) in 2016, a major increase.

Only one in six candidates attained the university cut off point of C+ compared to a third in the two previous years.

Fewer and fewer students are attaining grade A in the KCSE examination. Last year 141 or 0.02 per cent scored grade A, down from 2,685 or 0.5 per cent the previous year and 3,042 (0.6 per cent) in 2014.

In 2016, only 23 per cent of the candidates scored a mean grade of C and above which was about half the proportion who managed the grade in the two previous years. Only one in six candidates attained the university cut off point of C+ compared to a third in the two previous years.
A baseline study by the Centre for Mathematics, Science and Technology Education in Africa (Cemastea), a government agency, shows that teachers routinely advise students they consider weak not to take up science courses, when they should be encouraging them instead.

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