(Supported by a Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities)
Kenya Tanzania  Uganda Burundi  Rwanda

Kenya -- Education

The foundation for modern education in Kenya was laid by missionaries who introduced reading to spread Christianity and who taught practical subjects such as carpentry and gardening, which at least at first were mainly useful around the missions. These early educational activities began around the mid 1800s along the coast. Expansion inland did not occur until the country's interior was opened up by the construction of the Uganda railroad at the end of the century. By 1910, thirty-five mission schools had been founded. In 1902, a school for European children was opened. A similar school for children of Asian workers opened in 1910. A British government-sponsored study of education in East Africa, known as the "Frazer Report of 1909" proposed that separate educational systems should be maintained for Europeans, Asians, and Africans. A system for native Swahili speakers and Arabs was later added, and education followed a four-system pattern until independence.

At independence, the new national government faced a dilemma in education. The pressing need to train Africans for middle-level and upper-level government service and for the commercial and industrial sectors of the economy called for a restructuring of secondary and higher education. Many Kenyans believe that the goal of formal education is to prepare the student for work in the modern sectors of the economy. Thus, government plans to redirect education toward the needs of a still predominantly rural economy and of an African society have not always been well received. Despite these goals, the educational system remains generally urban oriented, and largely European in its assumptions and methods.[1]

Schooling in today's Kenya consists of eight years of primary school, four years of secondary school, and four years of college. Primary grades, commonly called "standards", give instruction in language, mathematics, history, geography, science, arts and crafts and religions. Secondary grades, called "forms", emphasize academic subjects, especially science and vocational subjects at the upper secondary level. The academic year runs from January through December. The language of instruction is English throughout the school system, though in some areas instruction is provided in indigenous languages in the first three grades. In addition to government schools, there are a number of private schools, many of which serve Asian and European communities.

Primary-school teachers are trained in primary-teacher colleges which now number about seventeen. Secondary-school teachers are trained at Kenyatta College Technical Teachers College. Technical and vocational education is provided by eight secondary schools and four technical high schools. The technical high schools and five secondary vocational schools offer four-year programs. More advanced training is available at Kenya Polytechnic Institute at Nairobi and Mombasa Polytechnic Institute. The Village Polytechnic Program, launched by the National Christian Council of Kenya, offers technical training to students forced to interrupt their rural primary school studies.

Adult education and literacy programs are coordinated by Kenya's Board of Adult Education. The Institute of Adult Studies at the University of Nairobi offers courses and there are adult education centers in all major towns. All public schools except municipal primary schools come under the direct control of the Ministry of Education. Private schools are supervised by district education boards. Curriculum development is the responsibility of the Kenya Institute of Education. [2]

The education system has undergone a remarkable expansion since independence. Government expenditure on education stabilized at over 15% in the early 1990s. By African standards this is high, although the government is responding to pressure from international donors to require students to share in the costs of education. In 1996 the number of primary school teachers increased by 1% to 184,393, while that of secondary school teachers fell by 0.5% to 41,280. Student enrollment rose 1.1% and 4.1% respectively in 1996. World Bank data for 1993 show that 92% of males and 91% of females in the primary age group were enrolled in schools, which compared favorably with averages for all nations struggling with low-income economies except India and China.

Higher education in Kenya can be pursued in 29 training colleges, one institute of special education, three polytechnics, five public and 12 private universities. The Ministry of Education has proposed raising fees to KSh50,000 ($875) per student per year (of which a maximum of Ksh42,000 can be supplied by a new loans board), arguing that such expenditures are not unreasonable since some parents pay up to KSh30,00 per year towards a child's secondary education. Implementing such fees is a condition of the World Bank's education sector adjustment program.[3]

[1] Kaplan, Irving. 1976. Area Handbook for Kenya, Second Ed., U.S.

Government Printing Office: Washington, D.C. pp. 147-48.

[2] Kurian, George Thomas 1992. Encyclopedia of the Third World, fourth edition,

volume III, Facts on File: New York, N.Y. pp. 984-985.

[3] The Economist Intelligence Unit. 1998. Country Profile. Kenya, The Unit: London, pp. 19

Previous Menu Home Page What's New Search Disclaimer