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14,000 KCSE stars forgo varsity degree courses

More than 14,000 students who qualified for university admission this year have opted to forgo the once-coveted opportunity.

Some have instead chosen to join technical and vocational education training (TVET) institutions while others did not apply for placement in any institution of higher learning at all.

Worryingly, a majority of those who sat the 2020 Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examinations might not join post-secondary training under government sponsorship after failing to apply for placement.

This will also likely see TVET institutions admit fewer students than they can accommodate.

In a major shift in student preferences for post-secondary education, 6,617 students who scored a mean grade of C+ and above in the 2020 KCSE examinations opted for TVET courses.

One of them scored an A (plain), 19 had scored A- (minus), 98 B+ (plus), 363 B (plain), 1,113 B- (minus) while a total of 5,023 had a mean grade of C+ (plus).

In the placement results announced yesterday by Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha, 7,850 students did not apply for either degree or diploma courses through the Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service (KUCCPs).

For those who applied, the focus will now shift to preparations to join universities and other institutions next month, when most of them will begin their academic year.

TVET institutions

Prof Magoha lauded students who opted for TVET institutions, saying that it was a reflection that they had embraced training in the segment, which has become a major point of government focus in recent years.

The number has more than doubled from the 2,632 who opted for TVET institutions in 2019.

“The increase is a welcome development that signals the changing attitude towards TVET. This is encouraging because the government has built and equipped TVET institutions in every county,” Prof Magoha said yesterday at the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) when he released the results.

The CS said some of the students chose to purse diploma courses in their preferred fields of study after failure to meet the cluster-subject requirements for degree programmes.

He also criticised schools for failing to assist students when choosing university and college courses.

Only 2,506 schools out of the 10,437 that are registered as examination centres submitted their candidates’ applications to KUCCPS.

The CS explained that students who did not apply for placement through the KUCCPS could have chosen to pursue their studies as self-sponsored students.

“This is not to say that these students have missed placement to universities, some of them could have opted to pursue degree courses as self-sponsored students, while others might have received scholarships and therefore we cannot say they have missed university placement,” said Prof Magoha.

However, the vice-chancellor of Daystar University, Prof Laban Oyiro, saw it differently.

“The stark reality is that an education system that fails to equip the learner with the essentials of survival – communication skills, applicable skills and even values and spirituality – definitely falls short of expectations. Basic chemistry teaches us if you disturb a system that is in equilibrium, the system will act to annul that effect. It will be worse if the Competency-Based Curriculum is not delivered as expected,” he told the Nation.

Prof Egara Kabaji of Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology said students’ choices are influenced by the job market, which prefers skills to theory.

“We have no jobs for those with bachelor’s degrees in engineering. There are jobs for those with a diploma. The training for diploma in TVET is hands-on and practical. Bachelor’s degree training is theoretical,” he told the Nation.

In the 2020 KCSE examinations, a total of 142,540 candidates qualified for degree programmes, but only 128,073 were placed to join public and private universities.

A total of 594,987 candidates were eligible for placement into diploma, certificate, craft and artisan courses but only 137,072 applied and were placed.

Tvet institutions had declared a total of 308,339 slots. It is noteworthy that the number includes candidates from previous examination years.

“I direct KUCCPS to continue with mobilisation and recruitment of students for placement to TVET institutions for the coming intakes in January and May 2022. I also encourage school leavers who are yet to enrol in a college to take advantage of the slots in TVET institutions,” Prof Magoha said.

He added that the Education ministry had noted reluctance in some regions, where most KCSE candidates failed to apply to join Tvet institutions and universities. The most affected regions were Mandera, Garissa and Wajir counties.

Proper guidance

Prof Magoha said lack of proper guidance had seen some candidates select highly competitive courses in the four allowed options.

“What this means is that should the candidate fail to meet the minimum cluster points for the course, then he/she would have minimised chances of joining other competitive courses, which would also have been filled during the first selection. This ends up frustrating many candidates,” said the CS.

Students who wish to apply for inter-institution transfer have to do so between September 1 and September 30.

KUCCPS CEO Mercy Wahome said there was a 15 to 12 per cent increase in the approved capacity placement for 2021/2022 compared to the 2020/2021 cycle of student placement.

“Though the performance was better compared to previous cycles, there were sufficient slots to accommodate students,” said Dr Wahome.

She said to shore up enrolment in TVET institutions, KUCCPS would continue to place students as they apply.

A total of 2,225 applicants benefited from affirmative action this year and were placed to pursue various degree programmes.

The affirmative action policy gives youths from special categories a chance to go for programmes they would ordinarily not be qualified to pursue due to stiff competition. – nation.africa.com