In Kenya, Primary education is in essence the first phase of formal education system. It usually starts at six years of age and runs for eight years. The main purpose of primary education is to prepare children to participate fully in the social, political and economic well being of the pupils. The new primary school curriculum has therefore been designed to provide a more functional and practical education to cater for the needs of children who finish their education at the primary school level and also for those who wish to continue with secondary education.
Prior to independence, primary education was almost exclusively the responsibility of the communities concerned or non governmental agencies such as local church groups. Since independence the government has gradually taken over the administration of primary education from local authorities and assumed a greater share of the financial cost in line with the political commitment to provide equal educational opportunities to all through the provision of free primary education.
Almost all primary schools in the country are now in the public sector and depend on the Government for their operational expenses. The Government provides teachers and meets their salaries. Government expenditure on school supplies and equipment are minimal as these are financed by fees levied on parents by Parent Teacher Associations. In addition responsibility for the construction and maintenance of schools and staff housing is shouldered by the parents. Indeed almost all primary schools built and equipped after independence have initially been the result of harambee or self-help efforts.
There has been a remarkable expansion in primary education, both in terms of the number of schools established and in the number of children enrolled, over the past three decades. At independence, there were 6,056 primary schools with a total enrolment t of 891,600 children. At the same time, trained teachers numbered 92,000. In 1990 there were over 14,690 primary schools, with an enrolment of slightly over five million children and with nearly 200,000 trained teachers respectively.
In addition to the expansion in the number of primary students enrolled, there has been a significant improvement in the participation of girls in education. At independence, only about a third of the enrolment in primary schools were girls. By 1990 the proportion of girls had risen to nearly 50 per cent. Educating women contributes significantly to many other desirable objectives, such as reducing the rate of population growth.
The government of Kenya recognizes that provision of universal primary education as an important milestone to economic and social development. In particular it has been established that by providing primary education to women, a society is able to hasten its development. The government, since January 2003 has managed to implement free primary school education program that has seen a tremendous increase in the number of children attending school.
The Government has also increased its budgetary allocation to education as well as introducing a Constituency Bursary Fund for efficient facilitation of education at the grassroots level. The implementation of the Universal Free Primary Education, as part of the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs), has earned Kenya the prestigious Education Award
Secondary school education usually starts at fourteen years of age and, after the introduction of the 8 4-4 system of education which replaced the 7-4-2-3 system, runs for four years. The current secondary education programme is geared towards meeting the needs of both the students that terminate their education after secondary school and those that proceed for higher education. In this context, the new secondary school curriculum lays greater emphasis on job-oriented courses, such as business and technical education. There are two categories of secondary schools in Kenya, namely public and private schools.
The public secondary schools are funded by the Government or communities and are managed through a Board of Governors and Parent Teacher Associations. The private schools, on the other hand, are established and managed by private individuals or organizations.
There has been a tremendous increase in both the number of secondary schools and in student enrolment in response to the rapidly increasing number of primary school leavers seeking entry to the secondary level. In 1963 there were only 151 secondary schools, with a total enrolment of 30,120 students. Today there are nearly 3,000 secondary schools with a total enrolment of 620,000 students. O this total, slightly over 40 per cent are girls. The rapid expansion at the secondary level has been the result of the vigorous harambee movement that has led to the establishment of numerous community secondary schools.
These are institutions that are involved in training high school leavers in various vocational subjects e.g. carpentry, accounts, welding, mechanics, catering and teaching, leading to certificates or diploma awards.
The first step towards the introduction and development of university education in Kenya was taken in 1961 when the then Royal College, Nairobi was elevated to university college status. The College entered into a special arrangement with the University of London, which enabled it to prepare students for the degrees of the University of London. With the establishment of the University of East Africa in 1963, the Royal College became the University College, Nairobi. The other constituent colleges of the University of East Africa were Makerere in Uganda and Dar-es-Salaam in Tanzania. The University of East Africa continued operating until 1970 when the University College of Nairobi attained university status.
Apart from the establishment of Kenyatta College as a constituent college of the University of Nairobi in 1970, the latter remained the only university in the country until the mid-eighties. Since then there has been a tremendous expansion in universities, in response to the high demand for university education in Kenya. The country currently as five public universities, with the most recently established universities giving greater emphasis to technology and science-oriented degree programmes. In addition to the four public universities there are ten private universities in the country offering a range of degree programmes They are supervised and controlled by the Commission for Higher education.
1. University of Nairobi
2. Moi University
3. Kenyatta University
4. Egerton University
5. Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology
6. Maseno University
7. Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology
8. Dedan Kimathi University of Technology
9. Chuka University
10. Technical University of Kenya
11. Technical University of Mombasa
12. Pwani University
13. Kisii University
14. University of Eldoret
15. Maasai Mara University
16. Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology
17. Laikipia University
18. South Eastern Kenya University
19. Meru University of Science and Technology
20. Multimedia University of Kenya
21. University of Kabianga
22. Karatina University
23. University of Eastern Africa, Baraton
24. Catholic University of Eastern Africa
25. Scott Theological College
26. Daystar University
27. United States International University
28. Africa Nazarene University
29. Kenya Methodist University
30. St. Paul’s University
31. Pan Africa Christian University
32. Strathmore University
33. Kabarak University
34. Mount Kenya University
35. Africa International University
36. Kenya Highlands Evangelical University
37. Great Lakes University of Kisumu
38. KCA University
39. Adventist University of Africa