Original national schools reign supreme

Teachers, parents and subordinate staff of the Kenya High School celebrate after their school emerged top in the country in the 2019 Kenya Certificate of secondary education on December 18,2019. PHOTO | SILA KIPLAGAT | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • The original 18 national schools trounced other institutions for top slots in this year’s KCSE exam results.

  • In contrast, county schools, previously second-tier provincial schools, and which admit students with fairly good grades in Standard Eight exam, did not have any grade A.

  • Top institutions accounted for 495 grade As out of the 627 across the country.

National schools attained the highest number of A grades in this year’s Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examination results, giving their students an edge in admission to top professional courses in universities.


In contrast, county schools, previously second-tier provincial schools, and which admit students with fairly good grades in the Standard Eight exam, did not have any grade A. Their best performance was A-, which was attained by 135 candidates.

In total, national schools had 495 As out of the total 627, representing 79 per cent, restating their continued dominance of the top ranks in the KCSE examination. The country has 103 national schools and, even among them, the most successful are the original 18 and a few new ones.

Sub-county schools, traditionally district schools and most of them day institutions, attained four As and 232 A-. According to statistics provided by the Kenya National Examinations Council (Knec), the second highest number of grade A was posted by private schools, at 67, while extra-county schools had 61.


In the results released on Wednesday by Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha, there were nine national out of the 10 that had the highest number of A grades. This demonstrates the continuing disparities in the education system where national schools dominate performance and, for that reason, become centres for stiff competition in terms of admissions.

The Kenya High School was the best overall with 76 As followed by Kapsabet Boys (49). Alliance High School was third with 48 As, followed by Moi High School Kabarak, the only private school in the league, which had 30. Coming fifth was Alliance Girls (27), Maryhill Girls (25) Maseno School (23), Nairobi School and Mangu (23 each) and Moi Girls, Eldoret (21).

These 10 schools located in five counties contributed 342 As. In terms of distribution, Kiambu County had the highest number of schools with the best grades – four – Nairobi two, while Nakuru, Nandi, Uasin Gishu and Kisumu had one apiece. This is in stark contrast with counties such as Busia, Isiolo, Wajir, among others, that did not record a single A. An analysis of the statistics indicates that more boys than girls obtained grade A (358 boys compared to 269 girls). Similarly, more boys (71,971) obtained grades C+ and above compared to girls (53,775).


The highest grade among students with special needs was A-, which was obtained by four candidates. In total, there were 127 special needs candidates with grade C+ and above, which is the requirement for admission to university. Put together, there were 1,640 candidates with special needs who sat the exam. Cumulatively, there were 667,222 candidates who wrote the exam and, out of these, 355,782 were boys and 341,440 girls.

An emerging trend in the national examination is the rising number of counties enrolling more girls than boys. At least 17 counties had more girls compared to boys. They were: Meru, Vihiga, Kiambu, Elgeyo Marakwet, Nyandarua, Tharaka Nithi, Kisumu, Uasin Gishu and Murang’a. Also included in the list were Machakos, Kitui, Taita-Taveta, Makueni, Kirinyaga, Kakamega, Kwale and Nandi.

Reviewing the performance of the exam in terms of region, extra-county and county schools within Nairobi did not make a big showing in the overall ranking of top performers. Kenya High and Nairobi School are national institutions that admit students from across the country. Schools such as Dagoretti, Upper Hill, Highway, Aquinas, Jamhuri, St Georges, State House and Precious Blood had few A students.


At the Coast, private schools outshone public institutions. Public schools, however, showed general improvement in their mean scores. Top performing public schools at the Coast were Kenyatta High, Kwale High, Matuga Girls, Bahari, Bura, Mama Ngina and Dr Aggrey.

Private schools that did well were Sheikh, which had the best mean score in the region of 9.11, followed by Memon with 8.27 and Qubaa at 8.1 points.


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