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Early Childhood Education in Kenya


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The emergence-off pre-school education in Kenya started in the 1940s. Since then, there has been a steady expansion in the number of children getting early childhood education in Kenya. The National Centre runs early childhood education for Early Childhood Education (NACECE) and District centres for Early Childhood Education (DICECE). 

It is provided in a range of  pre-schools known as nursery schools, day care centres, kindergartens, pre-primary units and early childhood development and education centres.

In 2009, Kenya had 38,247 pre-schools – 23,823 public and 14,424 private. Enrolment in pre-school education stood at 1.9 million children and teachers were 78,000.

Early Childhood Education in Kenya – Overview

Early Childhood Development (ECD) in Kenya concerns the holistic development of children between 0 and 5 years old. ECD is under the responsibility of the Ministry of Education.

The current Education and Training Act does not include ECD; the only policy framework that directs the Ministry of Education’s provision of ECD is the Partnership Policy, first stipulated in the Session Paper No. 6 of 1988 and the National Development Plan of 1989/1993. The Children’s Act of 2001 safeguards the rights and welfare of children from early childhood to adolescence.

Early Childhood Education in Kenya – Ministry of Education

The Ministry of Education is the major sector responsible for the country’s ECD programmes and involves other ministries for planning and implementation. Within the Ministry of Education are three concerned sections at the national level:

  1. The ECD Unit of the Directorate of Basic Education in the MOE Headquarters, responsible for the formulation of policy guidelines, registration of preschools, coordination of data collection, funding, donors and other partners, and provision of trainers;
  2. The ECD Unit of the Division of the Directorate of Quality Assurance and Standards, responsible for the inspection of preschools and training institutions, administration of preschool teacher trainee examinations and preschool teacher certificates; and
  3. The National Centre for Early Childhood Education (NACECE), housed in the Kenyan Institute of Education (KIE), responsible for preschool curriculum and material development, training of and professional support to District, City and Municipal Centre for Early Childhood Education (DICECE, CICECE, MUCECE) trainers, and coordination of research, monitoring and evaluation.
Early Childhood Education in Kenya

Early Childhood Education in Kenya

Early Childhood Education in Kenya: Decentralisation

In 1985, the DICECEs, the district arms of NACECE, were set up with the aim of decentralising the management of ECD programmes to the district level. The cities of Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu have CICECEs or MUCECEs. The DICECEs, CICECEs and MUCECEs are responsible for the provision and monitoring of preschool teacher training, inspection of preschools, implementation of parental community awareness and mobilisation programmes, research
and coordination with other partners.

Early Childhood Education in Kenya:  Inter-sectoral coordination mechanism

The overall management and coordination of ECD programmes at the national level is the responsibility of an intersectoral committee called the Project Management Support Group (PMSG). PMSG is chaired by the Senior Deputy Director of Primary Education of the MOE and consists of high-level representatives from the MOE, Teachers Service Commission (TSC), Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Health and Kenyatta University. Its main functions are to formulate policies and to give the Government guidance on ECD-related matters.

Early Childhood Education in Kenya: Funding

The Government, parents, communities and the private sector (e.g., religious organisations, private companies, NGOs and CBOs, individuals) are the main sources of ECD finance and support. The largest source of external assistance in recent years has been the World Bank’s ECD loan project of 1996/7-2003/4, targeting disadvantaged children aged 0 – 8 and their parents.

Early Childhood Education in Kenya: Objectives for early childhood development

The Education Sector Strategic Plan and Implementation Matrices 2003-07 (hereafter ESSP), Kenya’s key education policy implementation document, states the following objectives for ECD:

  1. Enhance access and participation in ECD, notably raising the GER to 70% by 2007;
  2. Improve the quality of ECD services at all levels by 2007;
  3. Implement ECD alternative complementary approaches (e.g., home-based and employer-provided care, programmes for pastoralist and Islamic communities) by 2005; and
  4. Enhance ECD management and service delivery. These objectives are aligned with those contained in the country’s EFA plan.


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