Confusion over placement of learners in Junior Secondary School

With less than 10 months before the first batch of pupils under the Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC) sit their final tests in primary level, confusion shrouds the modalities through which learners will be placed in Junior Secondary School (JSS).

On Thursday, stakeholders in education sector are expected to meet in Nairobi to among other issues discuss the placement of learners in JSS as well as deliberate on the five exams that will be administered this year.

The government has remained mute on whether the current categorisation of schools will remain in place or not.

In the present set up, there has always been stiff competition for places in national, extra-county and well performing schools with better facilities.

It will be a busy year for the Kenya National Examinations Council (KNEC)which will be expected to administer five exams.

The first set of exams will be sat in March this year; the 2021 Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) and Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE).

The 2022 classes will sit their KCPE and KCSE papers in December this year.

The Grade Six exams will also be done in December. These are the pioneer candidates under the 2-6-3-3-3 education system, who have been undertaking the new curriculum.

Although the government has disclosed that JSS would be domiciled in secondary schools, some primary schools with capacity will be allowed to host some, primary head teachers have been pushing to have grades 7, 8 and 9 hosted in the lower school levels.

But the proposal by the head teachers to push for Grade 7, 8 and 9 to be domiciled in primary schools, seems to have been blocked by the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) that has placed a caveat on primary school teachers who can be promoted to teach in secondary schools.

TSC has maintained that only teachers who scored a mean grade of C-Plus in the KCSE examination would be promoted to teach in secondary schools.

However, TSC has said it will start training secondary school teachers in April in readiness for JSS rollout next year.

Yesterday, National Parents Association chairperson Nicholas Maiyo said the Thursday meeting would strive to iron out some of the grey areas, particularly the placement of learners.

“True, there is much confusion that needs to be cleared over the issue and that is what we will be doing on Thursday.

Many parents are still in the dark over the criterion to be used in the placement of their children in JSS,” he ­said.

Overcrowding

Maiyo says that under CBC, the government intends to abolish categorisation of schools into national, extra-county and county.

“All the national secondary schools will be turned into centres of excellence and made to teach specific subjects such as arts and sciences. The schools will admit students for Grades 10 onwards,” he said.

There shall be 100 per cent transition from Grade Six to Grade Seven meaning that JSS will witness overcrowding unless the government moves to put in place enough infrastructure.

There are also suggestions that most learners should attend day schools at JSS to reduce congestion.

Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers (KUPPET) chairman Omboko Milemba and his Kenya Secondary Schools Head Teachers Association counterpart (KESSHA) Kahi Indimuli have warned that the government must move fast to clear the air over the placement issue.

“Even the Grade Six learners need to know where they will be at such a time next year. What criterion would be used for one to join some of the prestigious schools that have remained competitive for years,” Milemba said.

Indimuli further warned that congestion will reach crisis levels if the infrastructure in schools is not expanded by 2023 when there will be a double intake as the CBC rolls out in secondary schools.

Many schools were last year allocated more Form One students than their capacities.

“There’s an increase of students across the board, even last year, we were given more students than our capacity.

We have not increased the capacity of secondary schools in tandem with the learners leaving Standard Eight,” Indimuli said.

The government, however, downplayed concerns by teachers and parents over the apparent confusion over the criterion to be used in the placement of learners into JSS, insisting that there is no cause of alarm.

Implementation of Curriculum Reforms Principal Secretary Prof Fatuma Chege said execution of CBC is progressing well and is being done step by step.

According to the PS, the Ministry is already working on guidelines to transit from Grade 6 to JSS and will be made public in good time for all education stakeholders to understand the process.

“Let us not jump the gun, we are having a step by step implementation of CBC now in Grade 5.

However, we are in the process of developing guidelines on how the transition will be done next year so that it is done in a guided manner,” Chege said.

Little information

She said there are proposals to establish transition committees down to the school level to ensure a seamless process.

Currently, the Ministry of Education is conducting inspection of schools identified for construction of CBC classrooms across the country, with the deadline for the first phase of the project set for April.

According to parents, there is little information on how the placement will be undertaken since they are still not aware whether the current classification of schools will remain or not.

“There is little information on how placement is going to be done and the school administration seems not to be sure too.

There are fears that time is moving and we might be caught off guard,” said parents, with Grade Five children in one of the schools in Nairobi.

They also said they still do not know whether they will have to change their children to other schools again when the time for Senior Secondary comes.

Currently, students moving to secondary school make a choice of about 11 schools in four categories namely National, Extra County, County and sub-county schools.

According to taskforce report on CBC, the mode of assessment will entail a combination of teacher-administered formative assessment in Grades 4, 5 and 6 and a summative assessment to be administered by Kenya National Examinations Council (KNEC) at the end of Grade 6.

“The proposed weighting is 60 per cent for formative and 40 per cent for summative assessment.

The summative assessment is prompted by the need to allow learners from across the country to access schools which have superior infrastructure and a culture of good performance, thus enhancing equity,” states the taskforce report.

Under the construction programme, the Government has outlined the number of classrooms each county should have as part of the more than 10,000 needed to provide additional learning space for the over a million students to join Grade 7 next year.

The Government is to spend Sh8 billion for the programme to facilitate 100 per cent transition rate for learners to JSS.

Specifications guiding the programme state that the cost of building a single classroom has been pegged at about Sh788,000 with local contractors targeted to benefit.

The Ministry said that selection of the schools was informed by a GIS mapping of all secondary schools, conducted in order to establish the location(s), numbers of classrooms in each school and those under construction.

This was followed by a physical verification of the existing classroom capacities in all secondary schools across the country.

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