Country Profile


Overview of the educational system

The national educational system consists of three levels: eight years of compulsory primary education (beginning at age six), four years at the secondary level, and four years of higher education. The government provides free primary and secondary education. Entrance into secondary school is contingent upon obtaining the Kenyan Certificate of Primary Education by passing a national exam. 

There are 3 categories of secondary schools, namely state-funded ones, private ones, and Harambee ones that receive a measure of state support. Students who obtained the best primary school results attend the better national schools, while others must accept the second-best. After 4 years of study, they write their Kenya certificate of secondary education examination. 

Post-secondary school certificates and diplomas are offered by vocational schools and colleges. These cater for a wide array of professional subjects. In order of rank, they include polytechnics, training institutes, teacher training colleges and private institutions. 
Post-secondary school certificates and diplomas are offered by vocational schools and colleges. These cater for a wide array of professional subjects. In order of rank, they include polytechnics, training institutes, teacher training colleges and private institutions. 
There are 30 universities in Kenya of which 23 are private and 7 state funded.  

Despite the Kenya's government efforts towards the realization of Education For All (EFA), it continues to experience a number of challenges. These include gender disparities, high poverty levels, Teacher supply and quality, HIV/AIDS Pandemic and Inadequate financial resources.

Strategic direction of education 

In 2003, the government of Kenya instituted a free primary education for all program, and then did the same for secondary education in 2008. As a result, nearly three million more students were enrolled in primary school in 2012 than in 2003 and the number of schools has grown by 7,000. Between 2003 and 2012, the secondary gross enrollment ratio increased from 43 percent to 67 percent, as graduates from the new free primary program moved their way through the system. More recently, the impact of the 2003 education for all program has been seen at the university level, where enrollment numbers have skyrocketed, more than doubling between 2012 and 2014 as the initial cohort of free primary school children have begun enrolling in university studies. 

Nonetheless, much progress in educational quality and access remains to be made in Kenya. In 2010, one million children were still out of school, and while this was almost half the number in 1999, it is still the ninth highest of any country in the world. Issues related to educational quality persist, especially at the primary level, with illiteracy rates increasing among students with six years of primary schooling. Over a quarter of young people have less than a lower secondary education and one in ten did not complete primary school.

At the university level, student numbers grew by a massive 28 percent between 2013 and 2014, and similar growth is expected this year, yet funding was cut by 6 percent in the 2015 national budget. The mismatch between funding and enrollment growth will mean a heavier tuition burden for students, increasing the significant access issues that already exist for the marginalized, and adding to quality issues related to overcrowding, overburdened infrastructure, and faculty shortages. 

By Nick Clark, Editor, World Education News & Reviews 

The government nevertheless insists the time has come to aggressively pursue its policy goal of 100% transition from primary to secondary school. The percentage of students who progress from primary to secondary has increased from 83% in 2018 to 95% in 2020. 

Current education sector plan 

Kenya’s education sector plan for 2018-2022 is a sector-wide plan that outlines the policy priorities along with programs and strategies for the education sector over the next five years. The plan builds on the successes and challenges of the 2013-2018 plan. 

Primary school access and completion has greatly improved in both rural and urban areas, with gaps in counties in the north and north east. Overall, girls are more likely to stay in primary, transition to secondary and complete secondary compared to boys, but girls are severely disadvantaged in the arid and semi-arid regions in the north. 

The Teacher Service Commission (TSC), an independent constitutional body reporting directly to the President of the Republic, is responsible for recruitment, deployment, training and performance appraisal of teachers. 

Kenya’s local education group is called Education Development Partners Coordination Group, a highly representative stakeholder forum set up to support the ministry of Education in the successful implementation of the 2013–2018 education plan. In Kenya, development partners have been highly engaged in coordinating programs while overseeing the development of the new education sector plan.


Key educational institutions

  • Ministry of Education

    State Department of Early Learning and Basic Education
    Jogoo House B, Harambee Avenue, P.O Box 30040-00100, Nairobi, Kenya
    Tel: +254-020-3318581
    Fax: +254-020-20214287

    State Department of Vocational and Technical Training 
    Jogoo House B, Harambee Avenue, P.O BOX 9583-00200, Nairobi,Kenya
    Tel: +254-020-3318581 
    Fax: +254-020-251991 

Country Resources

This document reports the findings of a study on 88 Kenyan non-formal schools and centers in Kisumu, Mombasa and Nairobi.