Preprimary & Primary Education
Before 1980 preprimary education, which caters to children between one and six years of age, was exclusively the responsibility of local communities and nongovernmental organizations such as churches, voluntary organizations, local authorities, and individual investors. At that time there were only six preschool training centers. The government assumed responsibility for pre-school education in 1980 and has since streamlined the program. The government now has undertaken the training of preschool teachers, the preparation and development of the curriculum, and the preparation of teaching materials. The development of preschool units and the cost of teachers' services has, on the other hand, continued to be met by the communities and other nongovernmental agencies.
Early childhood education in Kenya did not get much attention until the late 1980s. The government did not focus on early childhood education prior to this time because, after independence in 1963, the main priorities were to create a uniquely Kenyan ideology, politics, and constitution. Since the economy was still rural-based, childhood education did not become an immediate necessity until the industrialization of the country increased. As industries developed in the urban areas and more Kenyans started to work away from home, the demand for early childhood education increased.
To enhance the development of preschool education, the government, in collaboration with the Van Leer Foundation, established the National Center for Early Childhood Education, based at the Kenya Institute of Education (KIE). The Center's main responsibility is to train the instructors of preschool teachers, who are then posted to District Centers for Early Childhood Education (DICECE). There are 18 such centers and the ultimate objective is to have a center in every district.
The preprimary education program has grown tremendously over the past 20 or so years. The number of children attending preprimary units in 1990 was in the order of 800,000, while the number of preschool teachers was about 20,000 (kenyaweb.com 2001).
Primary Education: Primary education in Kenya begins the first phase of the formal educational system. It starts at six years of age and runs for eight years. Before the expansion of schools in the early 1970s, the beginning age did not matter. However, as school enrollment increased in the late 1980s, a starting age for attending school became necessary.
The main purpose of primary education is to prepare children to participate fully in the social, political, and economic well being of the country. The primary school curriculum has therefore been designed to provide a functional and practical education that caters both to the needs of children who finish their education at the primary school level, and to those who wish to continue with secondary education.
Before independence, primary education was almost exclusively the responsibility of the communities or nongovernmental 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 (kenyaweb.com 2001).
There are both public and private primary schools; however, almost all primary schools in the country are in the public sector and depend on the government for their operational expenses. The government provides teachers and meets their salaries. Pupils in the public schools do not pay school fees, but rather pay contributions through a parent-teacher association cost sharing system. Because of this cost sharing system, government expenditure on school supplies and equipment is minimal. The responsibilities for the construction and maintenance of schools and staff housing are left to the parents. After independence, most primary schools and equipment were built through community fundraising (or harambee, a self-help effort).
Between 1970 and 1990, there was a remarkable expansion in primary education, both in terms of the number of schools established and in the number of children enrolled. In 1970, there were 6,056 primary schools with a total enrollment of 891,600 children. At the same time, trained teachers numbered 92,000. This number increased by 1990 to over 14,690 primary schools, with an enrollment of slightly over 5 million children and nearly 200,000 trained teachers. Also as enrollment expanded, there was a significant improvement in the number of girls in education. At the beginning of independence, only about a third of the enrollment in primary schools were female. By 1990 the number of girls attending school rose to nearly 50 percent.
At the conclusion of primary school, pupils take a national examination and receive a Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE). Graduates either proceed to a secondary school for four years or join tertiary institutions such as Youth Polytechnics, a technical training institute, or the job market.
Feneral curriculum subjects for the first eight years include: English, Kiswahili, mathematics, science, music, history, civics, geography, and religious education. The vocational subjects include arts, crafts, agriculture, and home science. Specific activities in the vocational subjects in the arts and crafts involve drawing, painting, graphic design, collage/mosaic, weaving, ornament-making clay-pottery, leather work, modeling and carving, fabric designs, puppetry, woodwork, and metal work. These subjects are well defined in the program of study that should make a Kenyan education among the region's best. However, the problem is in the application of the curriculum and the management of the schools. Thus, if the curriculum were implemented as it is designed on paper, it would make an ideal educational system. The imbalance in implementation process and poor economy contributes to the failure, but not the planning and design expertise.
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