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Formal Education in Kenya

Written by Anvita Tripathi

Illustrated by Anoushka Damani

The Kenyan Education System, which currently ranks at 48 in the WEFFI Worldwide Education Systems Leaderboard, is an active order which is still learning, developing and growing as it makes incredible headway. Four years ago, in 2017, the Kenyan administration had made the stern decision of executing a complete overhaul in the system that was beginning to look like an unfruitful burden to the limited financial resources of the country. And now, as Kenya vows to become a fully-industrialised nation by 2030, the country’s education system has stepped into full gear and through its partnership and vigorous financing by quite a few worldwide institutions like Global Partnership for Education, or GPE, and the order has made significant success as it has come to the stage where it can compete with the forerunners. But how much of the work that was put into building this system has actually paid off? Is the system keeping both teachers and students satisfied? Who is it built to benefit? Clearly, running out of questions is a difficult task. And to answer them, an even more strenuous one! Nevertheless, here to answer the most important questions is Anvita Tripathi who is proud to present yet another edition of ‘Formal Education: The World Tour’!

1. What are the core values of the ‘new’ Kenyan Education System?

Elimu Bora kwa Maendeleo.

Those simple words are enough to describe the core values of Kenyan education. Those words when translated from Swahili mean: “Quality Education and Training for Development”. Needless to say, education, both formal and informal, is of critical importance to every Kenyan. This makes the purpose of education and training focus on the development of an individual’s personality to enable her, him or them to fit into society as a productive and civil individual.

Education in Kenya is expected to serve the national development through production of skilled manpower, dissemination of knowledge and the incubation of the right attitudes and relating attributes of learning to the real problems of society. The education system of Kenya is designed to prepare and equip the youth with the knowledge, skills and expertise necessary to enable them collectively and individually to play an effective role in the life of the country and to enable them to engage in activities that enhance the quality of life, while ensuring that opportunities are provided for the full development of their individual talents and personality.

2. What is the current status of the accessibility of the system?

In the Kenyan education system, all children are able to attend school for free for eight years in Kenya. Afterwards, some scholarships are available to the best students. Children and young people combined make up around half of Kenya's population, making for a young populace in which women have an average of four children. Many children drop out of the free, public elementary schools before reaching eighth grade because of unmet needs for school uniforms and shoes, books, pencils and notebooks. Many families cannot afford to provide their children with the necessities for school.

Public secondary schools cost around one euro ($1.31) daily for each student - a sum that is much too high for many Kenyans. A fifth of the populace must get by with less than one euro per day. Only a wealthy minority can afford the expensive private secondary schools, but graduating from a secondary school is a requirement for enrolling in college. Before a child enters ninth grade, it is decided whether he or she will be able to undertake university studies. If not, a child's education is considered complete after the eighth grade.

Young women face additional challenges when making their way through the school system. Families invest less money in girls' education, and although the grades required for university enrolment were lowered for female students, fewer young women than men go on to study after completing high school. Women currently make up just 40 percent of the students receiving state scholarships.

But there are also students whose stories give courage to others. A young man from an underprivileged background in Nyeri had the best grades in his entire town after eighth grade. A very good secondary school in Nairobi offered him a scholarship covering tuition as well as room and board. Now he is studying economics and German with the state's support.

3. How satisfactory is this education system?

It can be concluded that the administrative service quality, quality of instructional practices, perceived learning gains, quality of students’ welfare services, quality of teaching facilities, quality of library service environment, lecturer quality, provision of internet services, reliability of university examinations and, availability of textbooks in libraries in the universities were reliable dimensions of educational service quality in public universities in Kenya. Overall, students’ satisfaction in the universities was moderate. The study concluded that the educational service quality dimensions had a significant combined effect on students’ satisfaction. Independently, quality of teaching facilities, availability of textbooks in the libraries, administrative service quality, reliability of university examinations, perceived learning gains, and quality of students’ welfare services were important determinants of students’ satisfaction.

Improvements in these dimensions were likely to result in a proportionate increase in students’ satisfaction. Availability of internet services was negatively and significantly related to students’ satisfaction. It was concluded that there was need to improve on the quality of internet services on offer and provide adequate information literacy among the students in order to possibly revert the significant negative impact of internet services on students’ satisfaction in the universities. To add on, it’ll be fair to say that the quality of the library service environment and quality of instructional practices were not important in predicting students’ satisfaction in the universities.

4. Teacher’s Cut: What complaints do the Kenyan teachers have?

Based on the findings of a study by Leah Muthoni Njiru, it can be concluded that teachers are dissatisfied with their jobs, especially with the interpersonal relation factors. The study established that teachers are also dissatisfied with their jobs because they do not have enough teaching equipment and resources. The study found out that teachers are motivated by head-teachers to think and work independently and also to seek further studies, which leads to job satisfaction. The teachers however can not obtain enough scholarships to aid them in pursuing further studies. The findings of the study revealed that gender, age and academic qualification had an effect on job satisfaction.

As per the same study, Kenyan teachers have quite a few simple solutions that could easily solve the nationwide issue of job dissatisfaction. For instance they highly suggest something as simple as involving teachers in policy formulation and decision making. They wish for principals to carry out appropriate appraisal, reward quality grades attained in national examinations and give allowances. The teachers feel that the employment of BOG teachers can potentially minimize workload and therefore, increase the motivation of teachers. The principals raised their voices and reported that the government should increase their salaries, employ more teachers to ease the workload and improve the working conditions. The principals also reported that the community should support the schools and instill discipline in students.

Evidently, the new education system hasn’t brought about everything that it had promised. There are a few loose ends here and there, and the complaints coming from both sides of the classroom aren’t dismissable too. But if there is one thing that we have to note, it’s that Kenya is one of the very few African countries that is actively looking into its nationwide education. And it is for certain that the Kenyan authorities will continue to make the efforts that the Kenyan student and teacher need. Of course, a lot of changes came with the new education policies, but perhaps the schools and colleges of the country are in the need of a few more. When or how they will arrive, are questions only time can answer.

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