Each year around this time, our 8th and 12th grade Ndoto students are under an incredible amount of stress, due to mandatory exams where the outcome will determine their academic future.
At the end of primary school, students in the 8th grade have to take a comprehensive exam known as the K.C.P.E. (Kenyan Certificate of Primary Education). Our students are currently taking this timed exam which goes from 8:00am-3:30pm for four days and covers six different subjects: English, Mathematics, Kiswahili, Religious Studies, Science, and Social Studies. In each section, information is recalled from their entire primary education up to 8th grade.
The test fee is 800 KES (approx. $9 USD), and the rules and guidelines are grueling: students must arrive at a specific time before testing, are not allowed to leave the room at all, must not speak to classmates the entire day, and if their writing is smudged, or poorly written, they are kicked out. Students that are kicked out of the test, will not receive a score for that subject, and will likely have to repeat 8th grade.
After students finish this exam, they have to wait a month or more to get their results. The reason there is so much stress is because their exam results dictate if and where they can go to high school.
The perfect score on the K.C.P.E is 500 points. In 2013, Ndoto’s 8th graders scored an average of 320/500 points on the K.C.P.E. exam which was above the national average of 250/500. For the students that qualify to go to high school, their test results determine if they will go to a national, provincial, or district high school.
National high schools require 450 points or above on the K.C.P.E. and are typically schools for the extremely bright and wealthy. The students have better learning materials and travel opportunities around the country and abroad. Almost all students who attend national schools will progress on to the university level. We have several Ndoto students who have scored 450 points or above on their K.C.P.E. and have been accepted into these prestigious national high schools.
Provincial schools are ranked lower than national high schools, but the students at these schools still receive some educational opportunities similar to those at national schools. The cost to attend these high schools is cheaper and about half of the graduates will go on to a university.
District high schools are for the less bright and poor students. These students do not get the chance to travel or learn from exceptional leaders. Only a small percentage of students from these high schools will go on to attend a university.
About 80% of our Ndoto students attend provincial high schools, and many of them would have to attend district high schools or stay home from school for months at a time, if not for their sponsorship.
High School Exam:
Similarly, 12th graders in Kenya take a comprehensive exam called the K.C.S.E. (Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education). These students test from 8am-3pm four to five days a week for three weeks. The students are tested over seven subjects, and each section is timed. The amount of pressure that our students have during this time can cause ulcers, sickness, and extreme anxiety. Each school has a prayer day for the students before they begin their exams, and families pray for peace, protection, and provision during test time.
For students to be eligible to attend a university, they have to score a C+ or better. Students that desire to be doctors or engineers must score an A, those wishing to study law must score a B, and teachers or nurses must score a C+. Those who score a B or better receive a government sponsorship to help pay for their education, but it is still not enough to cover the cost which is why many still need a sponsorship from an organization like Ndoto to help them achieve their dreams.
Ndoto adheres to the standards of the rest of the country and requires students to score a C+ or better in order to be sponsored beyond high school. Those that score below a C+ may be eligible for a diploma (equivalent of an associate’s degree) or vocational training. Last year, Ndoto’s 12th grade students averaged a B-, which is well above average. Out of 2,283,038 students who tested, only 18.93 % scored a B-, while 71.71% scored a C or below, leaving the bulk of graduates without the option to attend a university, and unable often times to get good jobs.
When I was growing up, I thought the TAAS test was hard! I don’t think I could have ever made it through this process in Kenya knowing that high school was not a guarantee. I remember feeling so much pressure taking the SAT to get in to college, but when I look at the pressure our students deal with in Kenya, I realize I had it easy. I also know that students feel so much pressure to get an education so they can help support their parents and siblings.
Please join us in praying for our students as they finish up their exams wait for their results to come out, which can take several months. Thank you for your prayers and for your support of students so they don’t have to worry about their school tuition costs but only about passing these tests well.