Facts about education in Kenya, based on the results of the Uwezo 2009 assessment:
- 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.
- Literacy levels are lower in public schools than private schools.
- Most children can solve real world, “ethno-mathematics” problems, while fewer can solve similar math problems in an abstract, pencil and paper format.
- 5% of children are not enrolled in school, but the problem is far worse in particular regions.
- About half of children are enrolled in pre-school.
- Many children are older than expected for their class level, including 40% of children in class 2, and 60% of children in class 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.
- Many families pay for extra tuition, which focuses heavily on drilling and exam preparation.
- Schools struggle to plan their budgets because they receive funds at unpredictable times.
- Children whose mothers are educated, particularly beyond primary school, tend to have much higher rates of literacy and numeracy.
- About 15% of students are absent on a given day, with much higher absenteeism in certain districts.
- There is a severe shortage of teachers, estimated at 4 teachers per school.
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 universal (but not compulsory). On learning that primary education had once again become free in Kenya, Kimani Maruge, a Kenyan illiterate 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.
Secondary schools in Kenya fall into three categories – government-funded, harambee 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 organizations 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 training opportunities. 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.
Private secondary schools in Kenya are generally high cost schools offering students an alternative system of education with better or more luxurious facilities compared to public schools. They are often favored 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
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:
|History & Government||3||B||9|
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-subsidized 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 in various disciplines 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.
There are 30 universities in Kenya, 7 of which are public and 23 private. The 7 public universities have a total of 12 constituent colleges, The University of Nairobi is the oldest university in Kenya.
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