01.03.08. Education system overview | Kenya

01.03.08. Education system overview | Kenya

02 Mar 2022

In the recent past, Kenya’s enrollment numbers for primary education was 100% due to free primary education (Hall, 2017). In 2012, the gross enrolment ratio (total enrolment in secondary education, regardless of age, expressed as a percentage of the population of official secondary education age) in secondary schools was 67.6% which increased at an average annual rate of 4.67% since 1981 (29.3%) (Knoema, 2019b). However, only 3.3% of women and 4.7% of men enrolled in tertiary education but sometimes the education obtained does not provide the necessary skillsets for the job market  (Samuel Hall, 2017), contributing to an average of 10.48% unemployment rate (CEIC, 2019). It is worthy to note that the literacy rate in Kenya increased by 5.57% between 2007 and 2014. By 2014, the adult literacy rate was 78.73% (83.78% for females and 74.01% for males). The literacy rate for those aged 15 to 24 was 86.53% (86.14 for females and 86.94% for males) (Country Economy, 2019). In 2018, the adult literacy rate increased to 81.5% (Knoema, 2019a).

A major barrier to achieving higher levels of education are the high levels of poverty. Despite the fact that the government provides free secondary school education, most are boarding schools and parents still bear the cost of paying for meals in schools, boarding fees, buying uniform and examination fees. This results in children dropping out of school in cases where parents cannot afford these costs (James, Simiyu, & Riechi, 2016; Khamati & Nyongesa, 2013). Another contributing factor is the delay in disbursement of funds or treasury underfunding for secondary school fees and inconsistency in increasing the government’s contribution despite inflation, which makes the actual cost of secondary school education higher (Republic of Kenya, 2016a; Shiundu, 2017).

Other factors contributing to reduced school retention include peer pressure related to minimal interest in schooling, early marriages, pregnancies, domestic duties and negligence by parents (James et al., 2016). The few students who are able to withstand such pressures and stay in school are affected by (Khamati & Nyongesa, 2013):

  1. Delay in successful implementation of free secondary schools due to factors such as poor management (accountability, preparing budgets and general management of resources).
  2. Initial increase in enrollment in secondary schools leading to overstretching of the available resources including laboratories hence compromising the quality of education. This affects enrollment in tertiary education and results in more than 60% of the youth (aged 18 to 35) working in the informal sector, contributing to a high degree of income inequality.

CEIC. (2019). Kenya Unemployment Rate. https://www.ceicdata.com/en/indicator/kenya/unemployment-rate

Country Economy. (2019). Kenya – Literacy rate. https://countryeconomy.com/demography/literacy-rate/kenya

Hall, S. (2017). Youth Employment in Kenya Literature Review. Nairobi. https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5cfe2c8927234e0001688343/t/5d42d9d220ada4000196692f/1564662260539/Samuel-Hall-Youth-Employment-in-Kenya-2017-for-the-British-Council.pdf

James, A. M., Simiyu, A. M., & Riechi, A. (2016). Factors Affecting Subsidized Free Day Secondary Education in Enhancing Learners Retention in Secondary Schools in Kenya. Journal of Education and Practice, 7(20), 49–55. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1109168.pdf

Khamati, M. J., & Nyongesa, W. J. (2013). Factors Influencing the Implementation of Free Secondary Education in Mumias District, Kenya. Journal of Social Science for Policy Implications, 1(1), 32–47. http://jsspi.com/journals/jsspi/Vol_1_No_1_June_2013/4.pdf

Knoema. (2019a). Kenya – Adult (15+) literacy rate. https://knoema.com/atlas/Kenya/topics/Education/Literacy/Adult-literacy-rate

Knoema. (2019b). Kenya – Gross enrolment ratio in secondary education. https://knoema.com/atlas/Kenya/topics/Education/Secondary-Education/Gross-enrolment-ratio-in-secondary-education

Republic of Kenya. (2016a). Education Sector Report, 2017/18 – 2019/20. https://planipolis.iiep.unesco.org/sites/default/files/ressources/kenya_education_sector_report.pdf

Shiundu, A. (2017). FACTSHEET: Cost of providing ‘truly’ free secondary education in Kenya. https://africacheck.org/fact-checks/factsheets/factsheet-cost-providing-truly-free-secondary-education-kenya