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Education in Kenya

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Education in Kenya

Education in Kenya refers to the education system in Kenya.


  • History 1
    • The earliest schools in Kenya 1.1
    • Pre and post colonial education Systems 1.2
      • East African Community (7–4–2–3 System) 1.2.1
      • Kenya 7–4–2–3 System 1.2.2
      • 8–4–4 Curriculum 1.2.3
      • British Curriculum 1.2.4
    • Transition rates and Overall Performance 1.3
  • Education quality 2
  • Primary education 3
  • Secondary education 4
  • KCSE grading system 5
  • Vocational schools and colleges 6
  • University education 7
    • Public universities and their constituent colleges 7.1
    • Private universities 7.2
      • Chartered universities 7.2.1
      • Universities with Letters of Interim Authority (LIA) 7.2.2
      • Universities operating with Certificates of Registration 7.2.3
  • Factors affecting education in Kenya 8
  • See also 9
  • References 10
  • External links 11


Historical records not only from the travels of Johann Ludwig Krapf and Johannes Rebmann reveal that Kenyans had access to education as far back as 1728 with a Swahili manuscript Utendi wa Tambuka (Book of Heraclius) attesting to the fact. The CMS missionaries interacted with locals in the coastal town of Mombasa and set up one of the earliest mission schools in the country at Rabai in 1846.

With the expansion of the railway from Mombasa to Uganda, the missionaries expanded their work into Kenya's interior. An attempt to set up a school and mission at Yatta in 1894 was resisted by the Kamba tribe. The missionaries then penetrated into western Kenya and set up schools and missions. The first school in western Kenya was established at Kaimosi in 1902.During the colonial era, the number of Kenyans with exposure to education steadily increased and a good number of them were privileged to proceed abroad for further education.

Among those who furthered their education abroad in the colonial era were Jomo Kenyatta, who attended Woodbrooke College and London School of Economics, Charles Njonjo, who attended Grays Inn Law School, Peter Mbiyu Koinange, who attended Columbia University, Mwai Kibaki who attended London School of Economics, R. Mugo Gatheru who attended Roosevelt University, Tom Mboya, who attended Ruskin College, Oxford, Masinde Muliro, who attended University of Cape Town, Julius Gikonyo Kiano who attended Stanford University, Paul Ngei and Barack Obama Sr., who attended the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Julius Gikonyo Kiano was the first Kenyan to obtain a PhD He returned to Kenya and was instrumental in establishing a school in Githunguri. The trend steadily rose over the years and by the time of independence in 1963, 840,000 African children were attending elementary school.

The earliest schools in Kenya

  1. School at Rabai near Mombasa – established 1846
  2. Nairobi School established 1902.
  3. Friends School Kaimosi, now Kaimosi Friends Primary School, established in 1903
  4. Maseno School, established in 1906
  5. Government Indian School or The Duke of Gloucester School, now Jamhuri High School, established 1906
  6. Tumutumu Mission School, now Tumutumu Girls’ High School established in 1908.
  7. European Girls' School, now Kenya High School established 1908.
  8. Thogoto School, now Thogoto Teachers’ Training College established 1910.
  9. Kaimosi Girls High School, established 1920
  10. Allidina Visram High School, Mombasa established 1921
  11. Kaimosi Boys High School, established 1921
  12. Waa High School, Kwale County established 1923
  13. Kenton College, established 1924 Kijabi 1935 Kileleshwa
  14. Mang'u High School, established 1925.
  15. Alliance School, now Alliance High School (Kenya) established in 1926.
  16. St. Mary's School Yala, established in 1927.
  17. Highlands High School, now Moi Girls' High School – Eldoret established in 1928.
  18. Kisii School, established in 1932

Pre and post colonial education Systems

A classroom in Athi River, Kenya.

Kenya began a campaign for free primary education after independence in 1963. Since then, the system of education has undergone transformation twice. Before independence elementary education was based on the colonial system of education.

East African Community (7–4–2–3 System)

In 1967, Kenya, with Uganda and Tanzania, formed the East African Community. The three countries adopted a single system of education, the 7–4–2–3, which consisted of 7 years of primary education, 4 years of secondary education, 2 years of high school and 3–5 years of university education. Under the system, which was similar to the British system of education, children began their elementary (primary) education at the age of 7 and completed at the age of 13 after sitting for a regional examination known as the East African Certificate of Primary Education (EACPE).

After primary education those who passed very well proceeded to secondary school which ended four years later with the writing of the East African Certificate of Education examination (EACE). The highest level of education that qualified one to attend university was attained after two years of high school at that time distinct from secondary school with students sitting for the East African Advanced Certificate of Education (EAACE).

Kenya 7–4–2–3 System

With the collapse of the East African community in 1977, Kenya continued with the same system of education but changed the examination names from their regional identity to a national identity. The East African Certificate of Primary Education became the Certificate of Primary Education (CPE), the East African Certificate of Education became the Kenya Certificate of Education (KCE) and the East African Advanced Certificate of Education became the Kenya Advanced Certificate of Education (KACE).

8–4–4 Curriculum

In 1985 President Daniel arap Moi, introduced the 8–4–4 system of education, which adopted 8 years of primary education, 4 years of secondary education and 4 years of university education. With the introduction of the 8–4–4 system CPE became KCPE (Kenya Certificate of Primary Education) while KCE became the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE).

Since 1985, public education in Kenya has been based on an 8–4–4 system,[1][2] with eight years of primary education followed by four years of secondary school and four years of college or university.

British Curriculum

Some private schools, however, offer a system of education similar to the British system of education with ordinary level exams, "O-levels" taken at the end of 4 years of secondary school and advanced levels "A-levels", taken after two years of high school.

Transition rates and Overall Performance

Out of all children in Kenya about 85 percent attend primary school. 75 percent of those who complete primary education proceed to secondary schools and 60 percent of those who complete secondary school proceed to higher institutions of education which include business and vocational institutions, national polytechnics, public and private universities within the country. Over 950,000 Kenyans have furthered their education abroad with a majority of graduates from India, UK, Canada, the United States, Russia and Uganda.

Education quality

Education quality has recently received a lot of attention in Kenya. The government's main document in this effort, the Kenya Education Sector Support Programme for 2005–2010, established the National Assessment Centre (NAC) to monitor learning achievement. In 2010, the NAC released the results of its first assessment.

In 2009, in collaboration with the NAC, Uwezo Kenya conducted an assessment of the basic literacy and numeracy skills of children ages 6–16. The Annual Learning Assessment (ALA) reached villages in 70 out of 158 districts in Kenya and assessed nearly 70,000 children in their homes. The ALA was set at a Standard 2 level, which is the level where students are supposed to achieve basic competency in reading English and Kiswahili and complete simple arithmetic problems. The chart below shows the percent of children who could not read a Standard 2 level paragraph or solve Standard 2 level subtraction problems:[3]

Level of Children Assessed Cannot Read English Paragraph Cannot Read Swahili Paragraph Cannot Do Subtraction
Standard 2 85% 81% 79%
Standard 5 27% 23% 30%
Standard 8 4% 4% 10%

Key findings about education in Kenya, based on the results of the Uwezo 2009 assessment:[4]

  1. Literacy levels are low, and are substantially lower in certain regions. Girls tend to perform better in reading English and Kiswahili, while boys tend to perform better in math.
  2. Literacy levels are lower in public schools than private schools.
  3. Most children can solve real world, “ethno-mathematics” problems, while fewer can solve similar math problems in an abstract, pencil and paper format.
  4. 5% of children are not enrolled in school, but the problem is far worse in particular regions.
  5. About half of children are enrolled in pre-school.
  6. Many children are older than expected for their class level, including 40% of children in class 2, and 60% of children in class 7.
  7. North Eastern Province and arid districts in Rift Valley and Eastern Provinces have particularly low performance; and many older children, especially girls, are not attending school.
  8. Many families pay for extra tuition, which focuses heavily on drilling and exam preparation.
  9. Schools struggle to plan their budgets because they receive funds at unpredictable times.
  10. Children whose mothers are educated, particularly beyond primary school, tend to have much higher rates of literacy and numeracy.
  11. About 15% of students are absent on a given day, with much higher absenteeism in certain districts as a result of increased poverty level.
  12. There is a severe shortage of teachers, estimated at 4 teachers per school.
  13. the reluctance of the government to invest in educational institutions in marginalised areas thereby developing schools in cities only which result in inefficient education process in arid and semi-arid areas
  14. embezzlement of public funds by school administrators and lack of accountability of the use of government grants and high levels of corruption in educational institutions

Primary education

Primary education in Kenya begins at the age of 6 or 7 after completion of a year of kindergarten commonly known as Nursery School or pre-unit. The first class or year of primary school is known as Standard 1, the final year as Standard 8 and primary school children are known as pupils. The school year at both primary and secondary levels, begins in January and ends in November. Students get 3 school vacations in April, August and December.

At the end of the school year students advance to the next grade. Students who completely fail their end of year exams usually repeat the class the following year instead of advancing to a higher grade. Most primary schools are day schools with pupils living at home. Fewer schools at primary level are boarding schools compared to secondary schools. All public primary school pupils sit for the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education examination at the end of the school year in Standard eight.

In January 2003 President Mwai Kibaki re-introduced free primary education which previously existed before the mid 80s when the government adopted cost sharing measures that led to a minor level of school fees charged by primary schools for text books, PTA, and extra curricular activities. Since 2003, education in public schools became free and compulsory ( Kenya Constitution,Article 53, 2010). On learning that primary education had once again become free in Kenya, Kimani Maruge, an uneducated farmer and the world's oldest person to enroll in primary school joined Kapkenduiywo primary school in Eldoret at the age of 84. He was elected head boy at the age of 86 in 2005.[5]

Secondary education

Secondary schools in Kenya fall into three categories – government funded, harambe and private. Government funded schools are divided into national, provincial and district levels. Harambee schools do not receive full funding from the government and private schools are run by private organisations or individuals. After taking the primary school leaving exam and successfully passing, government funded schools select students in order of scores.

Students with the highest scores gain admission into national schools while those with average scores are selected into provincial and district schools. Harambee schools accept students with low scores. Students who fail examinations either repeat the final school year or pursue technical and vocational education. The latter is divided into technical secondary school (lasting 4 years) and apprenticeships solutions. Since 2010, technical secondary schools student can have access to university programs.[6] A number of students also drop out of school by choice due to poor scores.

Under the current system, students attend secondary school for four years before sitting for the school leaving exam at the end of the fourth year. The first class or year of secondary school is known as form 1 and the final year is form 4. At the end of the fourth year, from October to November students sit for the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education examination. In 2008, the government introduced plans to offer free Secondary education to all Kenyans.

Historic prestigious national high schools include Mang'u High School, Alliance High School (Kenya) and Starehe Boys' Centre and School. Private secondary schools in Kenya are generally high cost, offering students an alternative system of education with better or more luxurious facilities compared to public schools. They are often favoured for prestige. Most private schools in Kenya offer the British system of education which includes “O-levels“ and “A-levels”. Very few offer the American system of education and good number of them offer the Kenya system. Some of the oldest private schools in Kenya include Loreto Convent Msongari, Nairobi (1921), St. Mary's School, Nairobi, Braeburn School, Consolata School, Strathmore School, Oshwal Academy, Rift Valley Academy, Aga Khan Academy, Kenton College and Brookhouse School,

KCSE grading system

Grade A A- B+ B B- C+ C C- D+ D D- E
Points 12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

The average grade is based on performance in the eight subjects. Where a candidate sits for more than eight subjects, the average grade is based on the best eight subjects. University matriculation is based on the best eight and performance in particular subjects relevant to degree courses. Example below:

Subject Group Grade Points
English 1 B+ 10
Kiswahili 1 A- 11
Mathematics 1 A 12
History & Government 3 B 9
Geography 3 A- 11
Physics 2 B+ 10
Chemistry 2 B- 8
Biology 2 A- 11

The total number of points is 81.

The average grade is 81 divided by 8, which equals 10.1 (approximately 10.0 points) which is Grade B+ according to the grading system. This student qualifies to join one of the Public Universities for his good score. Training institutions and faculties and departments determine their own minimum entry requirements.

Students who manage a grade of C+ qualify to do a degree course at the university. Owing to competition, and fewer places at the University, those with B and in a few cases B-, and above are taken for degree courses at the public universities and benefit by paying government-subsidised fees. The rest join private universities or middle-level colleges.

Interestingly, the number of students admitted to public universities through J.A.B. depends on the total number of beds available in all the public universities. Nonetheless, those who miss out but attained the minimum university entry mark of C+ or C with a relevant diploma certificate are admitted through the parallel degree programmes (module II) if they can afford the full fees for the course.

This has been the subject of much discussion with people questioning the rationale and morality of locking out qualified students from public institutions yet still admitting those who come from financially able families.

Vocational schools and colleges

These are two- or three-year post secondary school institutions also termed colleges. They award certificates, diplomas and higher national diplomas after successful completion of relevant courses. Courses offered by these institutions include Business Education, Accounting, Secretarial Studies, Nursing, Teacher Training, Computer Studies, Journalism, Media, Design, Culinary Studies, Foreign Languages, Tourism and Technical Skills. In order of credibility or accreditation, national polytechnics rank first, followed by government training institutes, teacher training colleges and private institutions. Although generally termed colleges, these institution do not award degrees. Degrees are only awarded by universities.

University education

There are 48 universities in Kenya, 22 of which are public and 26 private. The University of Nairobi is the oldest university in Kenya.

Public universities and their constituent colleges

Sno University name Area University status Original name Year established Campus Website

1. University of Nairobi Nairobi 1970 Royal Technical College, Royal College Nairobi 1956 Main campus, Kikuyu campus, Chiromo campus, Lower Kabete campus, Upper Kabete Campus, Parklands law school, Kenya science campus, Embu Univ. college Embu, South Eastern Univ. College Kitui, Kisumu campus

2. Moi University Eldoret 1984 Moi University 1984 CONSTITUENT COLLEGES: Garissa University College, Rongo University College, CAMPUSES: Odera Akang'o yala campus, Mombasa Campus, Kericho Campus, Kitale Campus, Alupe Campus, Nairobi Campus,

3. Kenyatta University Nairobi 1985 Kenyatta University College 1965 Main campus, Parklands campus, Ruiru campus, City campus, Kitui campus, Mombasa campus, Nakuru campus,Pwani University College, Machakos University College

4. Egerton University Njoro 1988 Egerton Farm School, Egerton Agricultural College 1939 Kisii university college and Laikipia university college

5. Maseno University Maseno 1991 Maseno Govt. Training Institute, Siriba Teachers College 1955 Oginga Odinga University

6. Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology Nairobi 1994 Jomo Kenyatta College of Agriculture 1981 Multimedia University College of Kenya, Meru University College of Science and Technology,

7. Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology Kakamega 2009 Western College of Arts and Applied Sciences 1972

8. Dedan Kimathi University of Technology Nyeri 2012 Kimathi Institute of Technology, Kimathi University College of Technology(2007)as a Constituent College of Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology 1972 Main Campus, Nyeri

9. Chuka University Chuka 2012 Egerton University Eastern Campus College,Chuka University College(2007)as a Constituent College of Egerton University 2004 Main Campus, Chuka

10. Technical University of Kenya Nairobi 2013 Kenya Technical Institute, Kenya Polytechnic, Kenya Polytechnic University College(2007)as a Constituent College of the University of Nairobi 1961 Main Campus, Nairobi

11. Technical University of Mombasa Mombasa 2013 (MIOME), Mombasa Technical Institute[1966],Mombasa Polytechnic[1976],The Mombasa Polytechnic University College[2007]as a Constituent College of Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology 1940 Main Campus,Tudor. Satellite Campuses in Kwale and Lamu County

12. Pwani University Kilifi 2013 Kilifi Institute of Agriculture, Pwani University College as a Constituent College of Kenyatta University 2007 Main Campus, Kilifi

13. Kisii University Kisii 2013 Primary Teachers’ Training College (1965), Secondary Teachers' College (1983), Egerton Campus(1994), Kisii University College(2007)as a Constituent College of Egerton University 1965 Main Campus, Kisii Town Campus

14. University of Eldoret Eldoret 2013 Chepkoilel University College as a Constituent College of Moi University Main Campus Eldoret

15. Maasai Mara University Narok 2013 Narok University College as a Constituent College of Moi University 2008 Main Campus, Narok

16. Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology Kisumu 2013 Bondo Teachers Training College, Bondo University College, as a Constituent College of Maseno University (2009) Main Campus, Lake Victoria

17. Laikipia University Laikipia 2013 LSFTC(1965),AHITI(1979),Egerton University Campus(1990), Laikipia University College, as a Constituent College of Egerton University Main Campus, Nyahururu town Campus, Naivasha Campus, Maralal Campus

18. South Eastern Kenya University Kitui 2013 Ukamba Agricultural Institute (Ukai), South Eastern University College (Seuco) 2008 SEKU Main Campus, Machakos Town Campus,Kitui Town Campus,Wote Town Campus,Mtito-Andei Campus, Mwingi Campus, Tala Campus, Nairobi City Campus.

19. Multimedia University of Kenya Nairobi 2013 Central Training School. (CTS) to serve East African Posts Training School(1948),(KCCT)Kenya College of Communications Technology (1992), Multimedia University college of Kenya 2008 (MMU) Main Campus

20. University of Kabianga Kericho 2013 The Government School, Kabianga(1925),Kabianga Teachers’ Training College(1929),Kabianga Framers Training Cente(1959), Kabianga Campus of Moi University(2007), Kabianga University College 2009 (UoK)Main Campus, Kapkatet Campus, Kericho Satellite Campus,Satellite Campus

21. Karatina University Karatina 2013 Moi University Central Kenya Campus, Karatina University College 2008 Main Campus,Karatina Town Campus,Itiati Campus, Nanyuki Campus, Riverbank Campus

22. Meru University of Science and Technology Meru 2013 (MECOTECH)Meru College of Technology(1979),(MUCST)Meru University College of Science and Technology 2008 MUST Main Campus, Meru Town Campus

Private universities

There are 3 categories of private universities: chartered universities – fully accredited universities, by the Commission for Higher Education; universities, which had been offering degrees long before the establishment of the Commission for Higher Education; and universities authorised to operate with Letters of Interim Authority (LIA).

Chartered universities

  1. University of Eastern Africa, Baraton.
  2. Alliant International University or United States International University – USIU.
  3. Catholic University of Eastern Africa – CUEA.
  4. Daystar University.
  5. Kabarak University.
  6. Strathmore University.
  7. Africa Nazarene University.
  8. St. Paul's University.
  9. Kenya Methodist University.
  10. Pan Africa Christian University.
  11. Scott Theological University.
  12. Mount Kenya University.
  13. Kenya Highlands Evangelical University. Formerly Kenya Highlands Bible College – KHBC
  14. Great Lakes University of Kisumu
  15. Africa International University (formerly NEGST)
  16. KCA University
  17. Adventist University of Africa (Rongai).

Universities with Letters of Interim Authority (LIA)

  1. Aga Khan University.
  2. Kiriri Women's University of Science and Technology.
  3. Presbyterian University of East Africa.
  4. Gretsa University.
  5. Inoorero University
  6. The East African University
  7. UMMA University
  8. Management University of Africa
  9. Riara University
  10. Pioneer International University

Universities operating with Certificates of Registration

  1. The Nairobi International School of Theology.
  2. The East Africa School of Theology.

Factors affecting education in Kenya

In 2003 the Kenyan government promised free primary education to its citizens. In the early 70s primary school fees were abolished but in the mid 80s cost-sharing measures between the government and its citizens led to the re-introduction of minor fee charges by primary schools. As the trend continued with schools requiring parents to pay fees such as PTA, harambee, textbooks, uniforms, caution fees, exam fees and extracurricular activity fees, most parents became overburdened and unable to raise such fees. Those who could not afford the money to pay for their children's school fees often had their children drop out of the school. Many children were also forced to drop out of school when teachers would not allow them to take exams. To pressurise parents to pay fees, schools often sent children home during the final exams.

The growth of Kenya's education sector has exceeded expectations. After the first university was established in 1970, six other public universities and 23 private universities have been established. Although Kenya has its own universities, some parents prefer to send their children to universities outside the country. This is largely because Kenyan public universities are not as flexible with admission requirements as some foreign universities.

See also


  1. ^ Ferre, Celine (February 2009). "Age at First Child: Does Education Delay Fertility Timing? The Case of Kenya". Policy Research Working Paper (4833). World Bank. 
  2. ^ Eshiwani, G.S. (1990). "Implementing Educational Policies in Kenya". Africa Technical Department Series Discussion Paper (85). World Bank. 
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ Kiplang’at Jeremiah (15 August 2009). "World’s oldest pupil, Stephen Maruge, dies". Retrieved 26 December 2013. 
  6. ^ "Vocational Education in Kenya". UNESCO-UNEVOC. November 2012. Retrieved 12 June 2014. 

External links

Kenyan State-institutions

  • Ministry of Education website
  • Commission of Higher Education – Kenya

Data & reports from external institution

  • Education Statistics and Quality of Education in Kenya, Southern and Eastern Africa Consortium for Monitoring Educational Quality (SACMEQ)
  • CIA factbook, Kenya
  • World Data on Education-Kenya, IBE(2010) - Overview and statistics of the Kenyan Education system
  • Vocational Education in Kenya, UNESCO-UNEVOC(2012)- Overview of the vocational education and training system in Kenya

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