Education in Kenya is designed to provide eight years of primary education, four years of secondary education and four years of University.

Four Levels of Education in Kenya

Pre-Primary Education

Before joining primary school, children aged between three and six are required to attend pre-primary for one or two years. The main objective is to cater to the total development of a child, including the physical, spiritual, social and mental growth, brought about through formal and informal interaction with the parents and the community. Areas of concentration have been health, nutrition, care and basic education.

Primary Education

Primary school is the first phase of the 8-4-4 education system and serves students between the ages of six and fourteen. The main purpose of primary education is to prepare students to participate in the social, political and economic well being of the country and prepare them to be global citizens. Primary education is universal and free but not compulsory. A major goal of primary school education is to develop self-expression, self-discipline and self-reliance, while at the same time providing a rounded education experience.
The primary school years are split into what they call Standard One through to Standard Eight. At the end of Standard Eight the students sit the Kenyan Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE), the results of which are used to determine placement at secondary school. Candidates are examined in five subjects: Kiswahili, English, Science and Agriculture, Mathematics and Social Studies.

Secondary Education

Secondary education begins around the age of fourteen and lasts for four years. However due to delayed primary school entry and limited educational schools and facilities, many students (especially those from rural areas) experience late admission into the secondary education system. Secondary schools in Kenya are aimed at meeting the needs of students who end their education after secondary school and also those who proceed onto tertiary education.
Due to the large increase in primary school enrolment (since it became free) the number of students seeking secondary education has grown significantly. In 1963 (the start of independence) there were 151 secondary schools and the total number of students enrolled was 30,120. Today there are about 3000 secondary schools and the enrolment is about 620,000 students.

Tertiary Education

There are seven public Universities and seventeen private Universities with an enrolment of about 50,000 students. In addition to adding technical courses at primary and secondary school level, vocational education has been a focus of the education system. The Ministry of Higher Education has developed a national strategy for technical and vocational education and training aimed at the rehabilitation of physical facilities and equipment and ensuring that vocational and technicals institutions are appropriately equipped.

Guide to Education in Kenya

Education in Kenya – Useful Links

  1. Education in Kenya
  2. Levels of Education in Kenya
  3. Challenges Facing Education in Kenya
  4. National Goals of Education in Kenya
  5. 8-4-4 System of Education in Kenya
  6. Factors affecting education in Kenya
  7. Higher Education in Kenya
  8. University education in Kenya
  9. Teachers Service Commission Kenya
  10. Primary Education in Kenya
  11. Teacher in Kenya
  12. History of Education in Kenya
  13. Goals of education in Kenya.
  14. Libraries in Kenya
  15. Drug Abuse in Kenya – Causes and Effects of Drug Abuse
  16. Financing Education in Kenya
  17. Education Policy in Kenya
  18. Adult Education in Kenya
  19. Special Needs Education in Kenya
  20. Free Primary Education in Kenya
  21. Early Childhood Education in Kenya
  22. Education System in Kenya

Education in Kenya – Institutions

  1. Primary Schools in Kenya
  2. Secondary Schools in Kenya
  3. Colleges in Kenya
  4. Universities in Kenya
  5. Private Universities in Kenya

Education in Kenya – University and College Admissions

  1. Courses in Kenya
  2. Schools in Kenya
  4. KUCCPS Application
  5. KUCCPS Admission
  6. KUCCPS Revision of Courses
  7. HELB Loan Status

Education in Kenya – Teachers Guide

  1. TSC Website
  2. TSC Payslips

Education in Kenya – Exams

  1. KCPE Exam
  2. KCPE Results
  3. KCPE Registration
  4. KCSE Exam
  5. KCSE Results
  6. KCSE Registration
  7. KNEC Website
  8. KASNEB Exam
  9. KASNEB Results

Education in Kenya – Education Commissions

  1. Education Commissions in Kenya
  2. Ndegwa Commission Report and Recommendations – Ndegwa Report
  3. Kamunge Commission Report and Recommendations
  4. Ominde Commission Report and Recommendations – Ominde Report of 1964
  5. Koech Commission Report and Recommendations – Koech Report
  6. Mackay Commission Report and Recommendations – Mackay Report
  7. Gachathi Commission Report and Recommendations – Gachathi Report

Education in Kenya – History

Like other African societies, Kenya has a long and rich history of education and training. Traditional education was integrated with the social, cultural, artistic, religious and recreational life.

It was an important transmitter of cultural identity from one generation to the next. Even today, African indigenous education in Kenya continues to play a significant role, especially in rural areas where cultural heritage is taught and reflects features of different ethnic communities.

Missionaries introduced Western education in Kenya. The first missionaries to settle on the East African coast were Portuguese Roman Catholics. By 1557, they had established monasteries at Mombasa and Lamu. The second wave of Christian missionaries included the Lutherans, who were sent to Kenya through the Church Missionary Society (CMS). Among them were Johann Ludwig Krapf, Johann Rebmann, and Jacob Erhadt.

The partition of Africa in 1884 established British rule in Kenya and led to an increase of Christian missionaries. As the missionaries established themselves on the mainland, they started schools as a means of converting Africans to Christianity. Their acceptance was somewhat due to the fact that they used schools to rehabilitate slaves. The Arabs had established themselves earlier on the coast and had introduced some schools where they taught the Koran. Thus the Christian missionaries had to move further inland, away from the Muslims.

Later, the colonial government urged the missionaries to expand the education system to include technical focus in the curriculum in addition to religion. Although some were reluctant, for fear of losing the monopoly of schools to the government, some went along and even received funding.

In 1908, missionaries formed a joint committee on education that later became the missionary Board of Education, representing the protestant missions in the British protectorate. In 1909, the British government established an education board with Henry Scott of the Church of Scotland as the chair.

The board was established at the same time that the Fraser and Giroud Commissions were set up. The commissions called for racial consideration in developing the protectorate. The recommendations included a push for industrial development, technical education and the teaching of religion as a moral Foundation. The import of expensive labour from India was discouraged. Fraser also recommended a Department of Education.

After the First World War, a more concerted effort by the British to develop African colonies was established. In 1923, the British secretary of State established a committee chaired by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State to advise on the educational affairs of Africans in Kenya. This marked the beginning of the first educational policy by the colonial government.

The period marked the beginning of the three-tier education system in Kenya. There were racially segregated schools for Europeans, Asians and Africans. It was also the starting point of a joint venture between the colonial government and missionaries — the latter paved the way for colonialism. After independence in 1963, the three-tier system developed into three types of schools: Government, private or missionary and harambee (a grassroots movement of self-help schools).

Government schools, formerly reserved for Europeans, and the private ones were the best equipped. Missionary schools continued to exist although some were converted into Government schools. The quality of harambee schools, which were geared towards increasing education for Africans, depended on the economy of the location

Education in Kenya – Opportunities

The expansion of educational opportunities in Kenya has been the primary objective of the Government since the attainment of independence in an effort to boost economic development and, in the early years of independence, promote Kenyanisation by ensuring the nation created a strong supply of middle and higher level manpower.

Kanu, in its 1965 manifesto, listed as its key educational objectives as:

      1. More educational opportunities for Africans
      2. Cheaper or free education
      3. Universal Primary Education (UPE)
      4. Africanisation of the curriculum and the teaching staff
      5. Change in attitude to allow African culture and personality flourish.

In the 1980s and 1990s, President Daniel arap Moi oversaw the change of the education system from 7-6-3 to 8-4-4 and phenomenal expansion of university education.

His successor President Mwai Kibaki’s mantle was free primary education and partially free secondary schooling.

The Jubilee government of President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto is keen on enhanced use of information and communication technologies by introducing laptops for all pupils joining class one in public schools in 2014.

The national government’s expenditure on education has continued to grow from Ksh 8.4 million in the 1961/ 62 financial year, which was 14 per cent of the total expenditure, to Ksh 28.4 million in 1971/ 72, Ksh 194 million in 1982/83, Ksh 743.44 million in 1992/93, Ksh 1,062.7 m in 1993, Ksh 66,417.93 m in 2002/3 to now stand at Kshs 247.7 billion in the 2012/ 13 financial year.

The number of educational institutions has risen to nearly 80,000 this year from just above 7,000 at independence, with the enrolment in primary schools having grown to nearly 10 million (9,970,900 in 2012) from just 891,553 in 1963. Secondary schools had 1,914,823 pupils in 2012 from 28,764 at independence. While the estimated number of university students scattered all over the World in 1963 was estimated at 7,000, enrolment at local public and private universities is estimated at more than 240,000.

Pupils proceeding to sit the Kenya Primary Education (KPE) examination more than doubled from 62,000 in 1963 to 133,000 in 1966. More than 800,000 pupils sat the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education examinations in 2012, with close to 900,000 sitting the exam in 2013.

Massive growth has also been recorded in the number of educational institutions, with pre – primary schools currently standing at nearly 40,000, primary schools at about 30,000, 370 teacher training colleges, 705 Technical, Industrial, Vocational and Entrepreneurship Training (TIVET) institutions and about 60 universities.

At Independence, the ruling party, the Kenya African National Union (Kanu), in its election manifesto of 1963 had identified education as one of its high priorities and had committed itself to bring social change through education. Kanu pursued the goal in its 400-year rule, with its successor, National Rainbow Coalition (Narc), opening up more learning opportunities by offering free primary education immediately it ascended to power in 2003.

On January 6, 2003, the Government embarked on the Third Free Primary Education (FPE) Programme, which was an election promise by Narc, which in December 2002 General Election defeated Kanu, the political party that had been in power since the country became independent in 1963.

As a result of the FPE initiative, enrolments in primary education increased stupendously from 5.9 million in 2002 to 7.2 million in 2003. The gross enrolment rate increased from 92 per cent in 2002 to 104 per cent in 2003 of the school age children population. It is estimated that about 1.5 million children entered primary schools in 2005.

To ensure proper implementation of the programme, the Government brought on board various development partners that included the World Bank, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the British government as some of the key supporters.

But significant increase in primary school enrolments put pressure on existing school infrastructure and led to overcrowding. Still, there is a shortage of primary schools in rural areas, especially in pastoral districts and urban slums in Nairobi and other big towns in the country.

Being aware of the problem, the Government developed Sessional Paper No. l of 2005 On a Policy Framework for Education, Training and Research, a blueprint of meeting the challenges of education, training and research in Kenya in the 21st century. Jointly with key donors in education, the Government adopted the Kenya Education Sector Support Programme (KESSP) 2005e2010, a comprehensive sector programme that identified 23 areas of collaboration but mainly focused on attainment of Education for All (EPA).

However, the Constitution of Kenya 2010 specifically gives every person a right to education.

During the fifth decade of independence, there has been robust political commitment not only to provide free primary education but to expand secondary and university education.

And as the country marches to its next half century of self-determination, there is a great desire to ensure education moves in tandem with changes in information and communication technologies. This is to be done by the introduction of laptops in public primary schools from 2014. Transition rates from primary to secondary schools rose from 46 per cent in 2003 to 72 per cent in 2010. Whereas there were 862,907 students in secondary schools in 2003, this figure climbed to 1.65 million in 2010 and almost two million in 2013.

University education also expanded rapidly as a result of increased demand for higher education from students graduating from secondary schools. The number of universities rose from six public universities in 2003 to 22 and nine constituent colleges in 2013. The private universities” also increased from 13 in 2003 to 31 and five university colleges in 2013.

In the 2003/2004 academic year, the total number of those enrolled in public and public universities rose from 67,558 to more than 200,000 in 2013. However, despite the rise in enrolment, the transition rate from secondary level to university remained low, at l2 per cent in 2003 and still under 15 per cent in 2013.

But the major challenge towards expansion of education and training occurred in TIVETs as a result of inadequate facilities and capacities to cater for those who complete primary and secondary education and wish to undertake technical courses. Subsequently, some of the polytechnics and technology institutes were taken over by universities.

Efforts were made to improve early childhood education and by 2013 plans were underway to incorporate early childhood education with the overall basic education. General legal frameworks on education 2003-2013

In November 2003, the Government organized the National Conference on Education and Training that was attended by key players in the education sector. The forum mandated the Ministry of Education to develop a new policy framework for the education sector. The outcome was the Sessional Paper No. 1 of 2005 on a Policy Framework for Education, Training and Research, policy framework that embraced the Education for All initiatives and the United Nations Millennium Development Goals on education.

However, the Constitution 2010 set off a flurry of legal activities with the objective of aligning the existing laws with the supreme law.

In education, a taskforce was established to review various statutes related to education. The key concerns were related to access, retention, gender equity, quality and relevance, and internal and external efficiencies within the education system.

Some of the statues that were realigned included the Education Act, Universities Act, Teachers Service Commission Act and the Kenya National Examinations Council Act.

Education in Kenya
Education in Kenya

Sessional Paper No. 1 of 2005

The rationale of the Sessional Paper N0. 1 of 2005 on a Policy Framework for Education, Training and Research was to enable the country to achieve education for all objectives as stated by the Dakar Framework for Action achieving universal education by 2015. In essence it was expected to chart the way forward for giving every Kenyan the right to education and training no matter his or her socioeconomic status.

According to the policy document, this move would be achieved through the provision of all-inclusive quality education that is accessible and relevant to all Kenyans.

Basically the vision guided by the understanding that quality education and training contributes significantly to economic growth and the expansion of employment opportunities. The paper reaffirmed the Government’s commitment towards improving the overall education level of Kenyans within the context of poverty reduction and economic growth.

But whereas in the past the Government was first and foremost interested in expanding access to education, the Sessional Paper No.

5 identified quality education and training as a basic human right for all Kenyans and identified free primary education as a critical milestone to the attainment of universal primary education by 2015.

Subsequently Sessional Paper No.5 spelt out a raft of policy options aimed at harmonizing various educational policies, guidelines and legislations as Well as addressing shortcomings and emerging educational issues. The document effectively revised Sessional Paper No 1 of 1988, which Was the outcome of Kamunge Report that had ostensibly recommended cost sharing in education at all levels.

Kenya Constitution and Education

The Kenya Constitution 2010 laid ground rules that every person has the right to education.

Articles 53, 54, 55, 56, 57 and 59 of the Constitution have provisions on children‘s right to free and compulsory basic education, including quality services, and to access educational institutions.

People with disabilities are also accorded similar rights in addition to being properly integrated into society. This includes the use of sign language, braille or other appropriate means of communication, and access to materials and devices to overcome constraints arising from the per son‘s disability. There are also provisions on access for youth to relevant education and training; and access to employment.

Other key concerns in the Constitution that impacted on education and needed to be addressed urgently are in:

The Kenya Bill of Rights

Chapter Four of the Constitution embodies a comprehensive Bill of Rights and affirms the right of all Kenyans to education. The right to education includes both duties and obligations which are to be realized immediately and those which are subject to progressive realization. The obligation to ensure free and compulsory primary education and the prohibition of discrimination in education is supposedly immediate.

Devolution to the counties

The Constitution placed major emphasis on devolution of previously concentrated powers at the national level to 47 counties, each with a defined structure of government, elected governors, and county assembly and Wards. Subsequently, structures of education were affected and have had to be aligned with the supreme law.

Government reorganization Under the Constitution, the Cabinet is also limited to between 14 and 22 members, resulting in the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology.

Task Force on Realignment of the Education Sector to the New Constitution

In anticipation to the new political dispensation, the Ministry of Education appointed a taskforce on realigning education to the Constitution 2010 and Vision 2030 under the Gazette Notice No. 1063 of January 28, 2011.

Some key recommendations by the task force were that the curriculum be structured within a skills and competences framework that identifies the knowledge, skills that all learners will acquire at every level of education.

It proposed development of a progressive assessment framework that identifies the knowledge, skills and competences that will be assessed for each level, mainly, senior secondary, junior secondary, upper primary and lower primary.

On assessment and evaluation goals, the team called for the strengthening of regular school-based assessments in the form of Competence Assessment Tests (CATs).

The team proposed the introduction of competency-based assessment in line with a competency-based curriculum for self-reliance and reintroduction of the Kenya Junior Secondary Education Certificate examinations, hitherto taken at the end of form two.

The team recommended that ranking of schools be based on holistic assessment on performance indicators built around academic performance, co-curricular activities, quality management, maintenance of physical facilities, environmental care, learners ‘services and community outreach.

It also called for the renaming of the Kenya National Examinations Council to Kenya Educational Assessment Council.

On access, relevance, equity and quality education, the team proposed the expansion of education at all levels, a major curriculum review, abolishing of all school levies which discriminate against poor households, review of capitation grants to be in line with inflationary trends and establishment of a Council for Nomadic Education in Kenya.

To address standards and quality assurance, the team proposed a semi-autonomous Education Standards and Quality Assurance Commission as the national custodian of standards and quality in education and hold to account all service providers across the education sector.

It mandated the Commission for University Education to assume responsibility for Standards and Quality Assurance across all universities and other institutions of higher learning. Universities should focus on degree and postgraduate courses and avoid certificate courses.

The taskforce proposed creation of a National Qualification Framework for determining and assessing the level of achievement and competences of learners who have gone through different learning systems or different education structures.

The taskforce observed that it was vital for the Government to continue reducing the cost of education to households through the provision of teachers, learning materials and grants to schools.

Other recommendations were that capitation grants be allocated o learners in pre-primary, primary, secondary, special needs education, adult education and not-for-profit non-formal schools; diversify and institutionalize university education funding sources to include government grants, education bonds and loans, private sector, development partners, scholarships, bursaries, financial institutions, income generating activities and philanthropy.

It also called for the encouragement of local, regional and international public private partnerships in financing education, and investment in teacher professional development.

Other recommendations touched on institutional management and governance of education at both national and county levels, mentorship and national values, research, education and training; science, technology and innovation; information and communication technology in education; open and distance learning in education; teacher education management; public private partnerships in education; and the regulatory frame Work, which called for a single Ministry of Education, eight directorates of education, and student councils and Parents and Teachers Associations (PTAs) anchored in law.


Amid efforts to realign the education sector with the Constitution, the government enacted the Basic Education Act 2013. The new legislation restructured management of education in the country and more importantly anchored free arid compulsory primary education into law. It also laid heavy penalties and punishment for parents and other defaulters who would negate rights of children to access education.

The new law crafted the following measures:

      1. Created the National Education Board
      2. Established County Education Boards
      3. Empowered the Cabinet Secretary to implement the constitutional right of every child to free and compulsory basic education.

The Act states that no public school shall charge or cause any parent or, guardian to pay tuition fees for or on behalf of any pupil in the school.

However, tuition fees may be payable by persons who are not Kenyan citizens.

Every parent whose child is a Kenyan or resides in Kenya is required by law to ensure that the child attends school regularly. A parent who fails to take his or her child to school as required under the law commits an offence and shall be liable to a fine not exceeding one hundred thousand shillings or imprisonment not exceeding one year, or both.

      1. No child shall be denied admission in a school or basic education institution for lack of proof of age.
      2. A school or person responsible for admission shall not discriminate against any child seeking admission on any ground, including ethnicity, gender, sex, religion, race, colour or social origin, age, disability, language or culture.
      3. No public school shall administer any test related to admission of a child to a public school or cause a person to administer such test unless such a test is for purposes of placing the child at an appropriate level of education.
      4. A parent of a child who has been denied admission to a public school may notify the County Education Board of the decision and only the Cabinet Secretary has the authority to prescribe criteria for the admission to a public school.
      5. No pupil admitted in a school shall be held back in any class or expelled from school. Only the Cabinet Secretary has power to prescribe expulsion or the discipline of a delinquent pupil for whom all other corrective measures have been exhausted and only after such child and parent or guardian have been afforded an opportunity of being heard.
      6. No pupil shall be subjected to torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, in any manner, whether physical or psychological and any person convicted of having contravened that section shall be liable to a fine not exceeding Kshs 100, 000 or to imprisonment not exceeding six months or both.

The law also outlaws holiday tuition and any person who contravenes the section will be liable to a fine not exceeding Kshs100,000 or to imprisonment not exceeding one year or to both. It also outlaws employment of a child of compulsory school age in any labour or occupation that prevents the child from attending school. Other important changes include:

Structure of education in Kenya

The system and structure of basic education in Kenya has been established to include pre-primary education, primary education, secondary education and middle level institutions of basic education.

Special needs education

The new legislation calls for establishment and development of special needs education and defines children with special needs. Private educational institutions No person shall establish or maintain a private school unless it is registered under the law or employ a teacher not registered by the Teachers Service Commission.

Board of Management (BOM)

All public institutions that include, pre – primary institution, primary school, secondary school, adult and continuing education centre, multi-purpose development training institute, or middle level institutions of basic education are mandated to have Boards of Management, effectively replacing the former schools’ Boards of Governors (BOGs).

Parents associations in Kenya

Every educational institution is required by law to have a parents association, replacing the former Parents and Teachers Association (PTA).

The new agency is entrenched in law and every parent with a pupil in the school and a representative of the teachers in the school are members.

Adult and continuing education in Kenya

A Special Board of Adult and Continuing Education has been established to advise the Cabinet Secretary on matters relating to adult and education, including the formulation of courses and syllabuses, the establishment of residential and non-residential institutions.

Nomadic education in Kenya

The mandate of the National Council for Nomadic Education in Kenya is to initiate the development of policies on all matters relating to nomadic education in Kenya and to mobilize funds from various sources for the development of nomadic education.

Standards and quality assurance

The Basic Education Act prescribes establishment of Education Standards and Quality Assurance Council, a body that shall ensure that quality standards of education are maintained institutions of basic education and also administer policies and guidelines.

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