Beyond basics : the growth of post-primary education in Kenya

Other title(s): Beyond basics : the growth of post-primary education in Kenya

Author(s): Prizzon, Annalisa; Hine, Sébastien; Nicolai, Susan

Organisation(s): Overseas Development Institute (UK)

Date: 2014

Pages: 47 p.

This study describes the remarkable progress in education access at the post-primary level in Kenya in the last decade and the driving factors behind it. School life expectancy in Kenya increased by a third in the last decade, from 8.4 years in 2000 to 11 years in 2009 - outpacing most other African countries. This figure captures improvements in the transition rate from primary to secondary level, a jump in completion rates at secondary level and quadrupled enrolment to tertiary education (from a very low base). Gender equity is another area of long-term progress in post-primary education in Kenya.
Four key factors drove the expansion of both secondary and tertiary education in Kenya. Firstly, there was an increasing call for higher levels of education by communities, boosted by a growing demand by private employers for post-primary educational qualifications. Secondly, a strong political commitment to education emerged (including a commitment to education beyond basic levels), which involved several bold policy moves that were essentially game changers for the system. Thirdly, significant domestic and international resources were targeted at education, with largely domestic funds supporting post-primary levels. Fourthly, communities and the private sector have played a long-standing role in establishing provision of secondary education and more recently tertiary level education.
As primary school enrolment continues to grow worldwide, Kenya’s story of expansion of secondary and tertiary education is at the forefront of a trajectory many other developing countries will be experiencing in coming years. While the Kenyan education system faces several fundamental challenges, including broad inequalities, poor quality, fragile school-to-work transitions and financial sustainability, its progress in post-primary education may offer lessons for other countries needing to improve secondary and tertiary opportunities.

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