The Ministry of Education announced a new grading structure under which only two mandatory subjects will be required for computing the mean grade for KCSE.

“In the new grading system that will be applied to the 2023 KCSE exam, the only two mandatory subjects will be Mathematics and one language, (English, Kiswahili or Kenyan Sign Language),” Education CS Ezekiel Machogu said in a policy announcement.

In an article, Father Benson Salonik of Catholic University of Eastern Africa claimed that the decision aims at purging the teaching of Kiswahili from the country’s school system, (Wrong to purge Kiswahili from compulsory subjects Daily Nation, November, 11, 2023)

Father Salonik grossly misreads the thinking that informed the decision. The decision aimed to achieve two critical objectives.

Firstly, the need for the nurturing of foundational skills, the bedrock of quality education, at the centre of schooling.

Literacy and numeracy are the key to an education system. The two skills are the keystone to mastering or acquiring the knowledge, skills, values, attitudes and habits of thinking and behaviour an education aims at engendering in learners.

The new grading structure has not expunged Kiswahili from schooling. Neither has it put English at an advantageous position to Kiswahili. It is only that the two languages need not necessarily be used to compute the cumulative grade of a student if this excludes another subject the student has performed better than either.

All the subjects in the curriculum have equally compelling educational value. Each subject—taught and examined—embody the skills, ideas and facts that are critical to the goals and objectives of education.

The Ministry is at liberty to use any other subject other than both two languages, to compute the final grade.

This is not purging or degrading the place of Kiswahili in the curriculum. Kiswahili retains its place in the curriculum.

Secondly, the newly introduced system based on two compulsory subjects and any five other best-performed subjects effectively alters the way students’ academic achievements are assessed.

The grading system will make it possible for students’ overall grades to improve as the computation will not leave out a subject, they have done well for one that they have dismally performed in the computation. This means the number of quality grades will improve and poor ones will decrease.

The policy shift means the number of students attaining grade C+, the minimum entry qualifications for University Education will improve—thereby providing opportunities for Higher education for reasonably a better proportion of students than has been hitherto for many years.

The grading structure which required three compulsory subjects, two sciences, a humanities and any other subject had a negative effect on the overall grade of the learner. It used a subject a student had performed dismally in the computation of the aggregate grade. This ignored the use of a comparatively better grade to compute the aggregate grade thereby making the students get lower mean grade than he should have gotten.

It is no wonder that the candidates obtaining C++, the minimum entry qualification for university education, have consistently been below the 35% average internationally. This has blighted the opportunities for higher education of many students.

It doesn’t make sense to bar a student from qualifying for university education on the warped ground that he had not attained a minimum grade in two sciences and languages as had been the case in the past.

Which is better? To let a student whose aggregate points is C+ without using Kiswahili in aggregating the grade to access University education or use Kiswahili to aggregate the grade and he fails to attain the C+ minimum entry qualification?

The student might be strong in Mathematics and Sciences meaning that he fails to get the C+ just because of the dismal performance in Kiswahili.

The exclusion of Kiswahili in computing the aggregate grade will not stop him from using Kiswahili or improving his understanding of the subject in the fullness of time.