It has been agreed that junior secondary students would continue in primary schools after six years of studying under a new education curriculum, three years of school-based evaluations, and another three days of demanding Grade Six national tests.

After yesterday’s presentation of the first report of the Presidential Working Party on Education Reforms to President William Ruto, the Kenya Kwanza administration came to this bold conclusion.

The recently concluded Kenya Primary School Education Assessment (KPSEA) exam should not be utilized to determine a student’s placement in junior secondary schools, according to the report.

Instead, it will serve as an evaluation to track student progress in learning and inform stakeholders in the education sector of areas that need improvement.

The shocking decree on placement of learners has put to rest a debate that had split education stakeholders.

“Junior secondary schools – Grade 7, Grade 8 and Grade 9 – will be domiciled in the existing primary schools,” read a statement from State House.

The Kenya Union of Post Education Teachers (Kuppet) and Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) had been pulling in different directions on where the junior secondary learners should be domiciled.

Educationists and scholars also differed sharply on the matter, with some arguing that transition does not mean movement from one physical space to another, while others said the shift was necessary for learners’ psychological health.

Parents also said their children were too young to join secondary schools.

Kenya Parents Association chairman David Obuhatsa yesterday welcomed the decision. “Many parents were not comfortable sending children to secondary schools. Neither were they ready to pay school fees in secondary schools. We are relieved and now we will go to the festive season with fresh minds,” he said.

Sources in the Presidential Working Party on Education Reforms revealed to The Standard that concerns over the tender ages of primary school children and a strategic plan to avoid double intake pressures were some of the reasons learners in senior grades will remain in primary schools.

Parents were worried that their children would not be safe in secondary schools, which they interpreted to mean boarding institutions that are associated them with arsons and indiscipline.

Kuppet Secretary General Akelo Misori expressed dissatisfaction with the decision, terming it ‘inimical’ to CBC reforms. “Kuppet is deeply disappointed by the recommendations made in the interim report of the  Presidential Working Party on Education Reform. It is clear that the Working Party has decided to negate the essence of the Competency-Based Curriculum but only lacks the confidence to say as much,” he said.

He added, “The Working Party has created more problems than the one it sought to solve. Rather than pronounce itself on how the transition to JSS should be handled, it has falsely directed the Ministry of Education to ‘provide the necessary guidelines’.”

But Knut Secretary General Collins Oyuu hailed the decision, saying the task force had captured the views of teachers in the country.

“We are home and dry. We have scored highly in this game since most of our recommendations have been captured in totality. What we presented has been taken care of,” Mr Oyuu said.

The Knut boss said the three years of Grades 7-9 should be re-named senior primary school or intermediate level. “We even propose to them to have a different level of administration and also issue learners with a different set of uniforms to distinguish them from the lower level in the same set-up.”

Mr Oyuu said the union had raised the red flag when the new system was rolled out but their views were ignored. “We had three research findings way back before the task force was formed, which took us four months to come up with. We had actually thought of giving it to the former Cabinet secretary to use as a case study but we were told the train had already taken off.”

President Ruto’s decision reverses the Jubilee Government plan that saw former Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha make trips across the country to oversee construction of over 10,000 classrooms, gobbling over Sh8 billion. According to the new plan, those new classrooms will now be used to decongest crowded high schools as the government plans for transition from 8-4-4 to the 2-6-3-3-3 education system.

The government’s desire to see that some fundamental issues with infrastructure and teacher utilization were adequately handled throughout transition were apparent as well. According to our sources, the transition plan prioritized the complete exit of the 8-4-4 cohort in order to accomplish this.

As a result, the present Grade Six students will graduate from junior high in 2025, while the final 8-4-4 group, which will take the KCPE test next year, will enter Form One in 2024.

As a result, there won’t be any Form One classes in 2025, giving the government time to get ready for the changeover to the following level of education.

The task force learned that on the teaching staff, 17% of teachers have post-P1 training credentials and can teach.

A government statement said an extra classroom will be built in each primary school, with construction of laboratories given priority.

Misori said KPSEA had been declared redundant, adding that “learners will continue in primary schools hence delaying their academic, social and emotional development.”

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