Stakeholders Question Fate of KCSE Candidates Who Fail to Pursue Tertiary Education
Education stakeholders have called on the government to urgently put in place interventions to address the plight of more than 500,000 Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) candidates who fail to transit to the next level each year.
Even as they call for remedial action, some educationists are of the view the government has historically not had a plan for Form Four leavers who fail to qualify for either university or college education.
“To avoid the disappointment of getting admitted to college and failing to join university or college for lack of fees, and given that applying for college is not free, many youth simply don’t apply,” said Dr Emmanuel Manyasa, a director at the Global Education Monitoring lobby group and a fellow at UNESCO.
According to available data, more than 70 per cent of the students who sit for KCSE each year have been dropping out after Form Four and remain unaccounted for academically.
This, according to Dr Mercy Maina and Margaret Waithaka of the Career Development Association of Kenya (CDAK) calls for urgent remedies to save a situation.
“We have always asked ourselves where these number of Form Four leavers disappear to. This has been the trend each year. But the problem is caused by lack of information and poor preparation for the students on transition to the next level after KCSE,” says Dr Maina.
While officially launching this year’s Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service (KUCCPS) placement results, Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu disclosed that of the 870,561 candidates who were eligible for placements in universities and colleges, only 285,698 had submitted applications for placements through the KUCCPS portal.
This means that 584,863 Form Four leavers have been thrown into the cold and may either join the anti-social life or the informal sector for the lucky ones. Dr Maina and Ms Waithaka who have been observing the trend for the last eight years, say that despite educationists, teachers and the private sector raising the red flag, the government has not seen it prudent to put in place intervention measures.
In 2018/2019 there were 653,787 candidates, out of whom 490,335, or 75 per cent were not placed anywhere. Only a paltry 163,452 were admitted to universities (68,550) and Tvets (94,902).
In 2019/20, over 690,000 sat the exams, out of whom 488,359 (70 per cent) dropped out meaning only 205.411 joined universities (89,488) and Tvets (115,923).
The following year, 752,933 candidates sat the exam, with 535,493 dropping out while only 217,440 joined universities (122,831) and Tvets (94,609).
In 2021/22, a total of 870,561 students sat for KCSE, with 584,863 being left out, translating to 68 per cent with only 285,698 being admitted to universities (141,198) and Tvets (144,500).
Ms Waithaka, who doubles up as the CDAK board chairperson, says that the 2021/202 Economic Survey indicates that the transition rate from secondary to post-secondary education in the last five years has been about 30 per cent and the remaining 70 per cent is not generally accounted for.
“This year’s placement is not therefore shocking or exceptional. This trend has been repeating itself annually,” Ms Waithaka observes.
Dr Maina and Ms Waithaka blame the poor transition on poor perception of higher education and lack of support; poor academic preparation and transition; career uncertainty and cost of higher education.
Whereas the government has invested heavily in tertiary education through capitation and students’ loans, it has not done much to enlighten the students on how they can take advantage of such initiatives to overcome their financial barriers.
“Some students have concern over their parents’ financial status especially those who have had struggles to pay secondary education. Such students fear to apply for post-secondary education due to perceived inability to afford higher education, “says Ms Waithaka.
Ms Waithaka and Dr Maina blame schools for preparing their students for grades while ignoring to teach them on what next after attaining the grades.
“Thousands of students who score low grades give up hope and lack direction on how to move to the next steps. This group may be the one that contribute to the 70 per cent who do not proceed to the next level beyond secondary education,” says Dr Maina.