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EPDC Spotlight on Kenya

EPDC Spotlight on Kenya

Each week, the EPDC Data Points blog will highlight a different country and the resources we offer, such as data, country profiles, research or other tools that users have available to them through the website. This week we are continuing with Kenya, and Kemi Oyewole, an intern in EPDC, provides an overview of education in the country and the data resources we have that are publicly available.

                Kenya is a low income nation in East Africa with a population of 45 million people. In 2008, former Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki led the nation in making a commitment to “transform Kenya into a newly industrializing, middle income country providing a high quality of life to all its citizens by 2030 in a clean and secure environment.” Attaining this growth is tied to the development of human capital, centrally through education. In principle, the Kenyan formal education system is free and compulsory. Children begin eight years of primary school at age six. Following primary school, secondary education continues for four years and can lead to additional university and technical training.

Learning Outcomes

            At the conclusion of primary school, students sit for the competitive national Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examination. Similarly, following completion of secondary school, students sit for an examination which leads to the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE). The Education Policy and Data Center (EPDC) National Learning Assessments Mapping surveyed standardized examinations and assessments based on the seven learning domains highlighted by the Learning Metrics Task Force. The mapping found that the KCPE and KCSE examinations each assess five of the learning domains, meaning that Kenyan national assessments appear to cover more of the LMTF domains than most low and middle income countries that were included in the mapping.

Figure 1: Percentage of Pupils at or above the Lowest Performance Benchmark in English

Additionally, the EPDC database has 2009 and 2011 learning outcomes data from Uwezo in Kenya. Uwezo, which means “capability” in Kiswahili, is an initiative to assess competency in literacy and numeracy in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda using citizen volunteers. More than 98 percent of Kenyan fifth grade students reached the lowest performance benchmark in English in the 2011 Uwezo assessment (Figure 1). The EPDC YouTube Channel has a video tutorial on how users can Access Kenyan Learning Outcomes Data. You can also find out more information about how the learning outcomes benchmark indicators are determined through our learning outcomes data landing pages, and you can download spreadsheets which contain more nuanced, content-specific indicators on UWEZO and other learning assessments.

Education Data: A Snapshot

The EPDC Out of School Profile for Kenya shows that the nation has the lowest rate of out of school children among its East African neighbors. However, there are still hundreds of thousands of primary aged children who are no longer in school. Statistical inconsistencies make it difficult to determine the actual number out of school in Kenya. This issue is discussed at greater length in the EPDC Data Points Blog Entry: How many out of school children are there in Kenya? After considering the issue of school attendance, school completion is an important educational outcome to examine.

Figure 2: Primary completion rates, male and female, Kenya, 2008

In 2014, EPDC estimates that 92 percent of female students and 90 percent of male students complete primary school.[i] Yet EPDC Projections show that primary school completion rates for females and males are expected to approach 98 percent by 2025. This convergence of these completion rates at a high level points to an increase in gender equity in basic education as well as an expansion of the number of Kenyans earning basic education credentials. The EPDC website is home to additional data on education in Kenya including, but not limited to: demographics, gender parity, educational expenditures, and literacy. Furthermore, a more rich description of education in Kenya can be found in its Education Profiles.

Recent Developments in Kenyan Education

A 2013 report on the Service Delivery Indicators for Kenya demonstrated an urgent need to improve education by investments in human capital. There is better availability of inputs of “hardware” such as textbooks and electricity in facilities than there is evidence of “software” such as knowledge and levels of effort demonstrated by teachers. Illustratively, only 35 percent of public school teachers demonstrated mastery of the subjects they taught. Similarly, public school teachers were found to be 50 percent less likely to be in class teaching while at work than their private school counterparts. These findings partially explain why enrollment in Kenya’s private schools has risen so rapidly (Figure 3). Also, for two thirds of children in Kenyan private schools, fees are cheaper than they would be in the public school system. The preponderance of public school fees led the Kenyan National Association of Parents to bring a 2014 lawsuit against the education minister for allowing public schools to charge fees that the Kenyan legislation deems illegal. These issues surrounding school quality and cost present an opportunity for Kenya to move towards broader access to a meaningful education.

Figure 3: Percentage of Private Primary School Enrollment as a Percentage of All

Despite the many critiques levied against Kenyan education, there are areas in which Kenya is helping to secure the right of vulnerable children to receive an education. Since 1979 Kenya has implemented school feeding programs for students coming from food insecure households to prevent dropout from school. These programs have historically been supported by the United Nations’ World Food Program. More recently, the Kenyan Ministry of Education is attempting to transition the more sustainable and nationally integrated Home Grown School Meals Program (HGSMP).[i] In the first two months of 2014, the HGSMP reached 16 counties and 2,118 schools. This program seeks to address the first two of the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals: to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger and to achieve universal primary education.

Additionally, in 2013 the government of Kenya established a budget for the distribution of sanitary towels. This program seeks to address the important issue of girls who are forced to be absent from school because of an inability to comfortably and hygienically manage menstruation. This menstrual hygiene effort has the potential to increase the completion of secondary school for adolescent girls impacted by the program.

Most recently, in June 2014 Kenyan First Lady Margaret Kenyatta met with a delegation from the office of Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, wife of the former Emir of Qatar, to discuss implementation of a $15 million education project for children in the Kakuma refugee camp. The project is expected to launch in November 2014 with education, sports, and art programs. These programs serving food insecure children, adolescent girls, and refugee youth show a growing commitment by the Kenyan government to investing and partnering in order to expand educational access for children commonly relegated to the sidelines.

EPDC Resources

Among other sources, EPDC hosts a number of unique data collections for Kenya. These collections include data from the Bureau of Statistics (2006-2011), Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Development (2006-2008), USAID Demographic and Health Surveys (2002, 2003, 2007, 2008, 2009), UNICEF Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (2000), Southern and Eastern African Consortium for Monitoring Educational Quality (2003, 2007), Early Grade Reading Assessment (2009), Uwezo (2009, 2011), and other indicators derived from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics. All of the figures presented in this post were created on the EPDC website which offers users the opportunity to create graphs, charts, and other visualizations of data with an easy-to-use tool.


[i] Completion rates are calculated as: the total number of student completing (or graduating from) the final year of primary or secondary education, regardless of age, expressed as a percentage of the population of the official primary or secondary graduation age.

[ii] Langinger, Nica. “School Feeding Programs in Kenya: Transitioning to a Homegrown Approach,” Stanford Journal of International Relations 13, no. 1 (Fall 2011): 30-37.


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