The number of candidates who qualified for university admission rose to 125,746 this year from 90,377 last year, representing a 13.7 per cent jump.
According to the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Examinations results released yesterday, 627 candidates scored A plain, compared to 315 last year, while 5,796 got A-, up from 3,417 last year.
This will be welcome news for the country's 70 universities, which have been struggling to fill admission places due to the declining number of qualifiers since 2017.
Most of the 541,476 candidates who did not qualify for university will be enrolled in the country's more than 150 technical and vocational education and training (TVETs) institutions, while some will join diploma courses in colleges and universities.
For the last few years, fewer than 100,000 have been making the cut for university, with most having been enrolled in public institutions. Before 2016, when then Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i overhauled the Kenya National Examinations Council (Knec) to eradicate rampant cheating that saw an average of 150,000 students join universities.
In 2015, 165,766 candidates scored C+ and above, while 149,717 made the cut, when cheating was at its peak. Immediately after the crackdown on the vice, the number fell to 88,929. The current CS, Prof George Magoha, was then Knec chairman.
"This analysis explains why I started my speech by asking Kenyans to believe in the reforms that we have been conducting. That the overall performance of candidates has been increasing since we reformed the system of administering the examinations means that candidates have settled down to working hard on their own -- under the leadership of their teachers -- to prepare for examinations," the CS said when he released the results at Mitihani House, Nairobi, yesterday.
Exam leakage before administration had been eliminated, although there were a few attempts at cheating through collusion and impersonation.
Prof Magoha said 1,309 candidates were involved in various forms of cheating, compared with 4,519 the previous year--a number he called "statistically insignificant."
The results indicated that performance in English, Kiswahili, chemistry, biology and physics improved significantly compared to last year. Girls performed better than boys in English, Kiswahili, CRE, home science, art and design, German and Kenya Sign Language.
Although the government has been spending billions revamping TVETs, the colleges are experiencing a severe staff shortage and under-enrolment due to the perception that they are second-rate.
This year, only 98,393 Form Four leavers were placed in TVETs because the rest did not apply. The close to 1,000 TVET institutions have an enrolment of only 275,000.