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Higher Education

After completion of 12 years of primary and secondary school, graduates have a variety of choices. If they performed well, they can go to a public college based on their financial standing and scholarship availability. Only the top performers have this option. The second choice is to attend a private college, which costs more and has fewer scholarships. The third choice is to go to a vocational school or a teacher training institution, or to join the job market.

Teacher training colleges offer a three-year program for science teachers and a two-year program for liberal arts. The primary colleges are Kenya Science Teachers College (for science teachers only) and Kenyatta and Nairobi Universities (mostly for liberal arts teacher training). All programs at these institutions offer a secondary school teacher's diploma. Training for primary teachers is handled by other agencies under the Kenya Institute of Education. Though the need for science teachers is very high, the requirements to enter such a training institution make them very selective and competitive, which makes this choice a difficult one. The other teaching choice is to join a two-year liberal arts teacher training college that offers a teaching diploma in liberal arts. A secondary school graduate can also get a teaching job as an untrained teacher (UQT) that offers an opportunity to teach while pursuing training for certification. This option has been made available through continued education programs at the universities in order to meet the high demand for teachers.

There are several middle-level colleges, both public and private that offer national and international diploma awards in a wide field of professions. These are mainly located in the larger towns. There are five public universities, which mainly admit KCSE (Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education) students. In addition, there are eight private universities that mainly offer business, humanities, and other arts courses.

University Education in Kenya: In 1961 the Royal College in Nairobi was elevated to university college status. As the first step towards the introduction and development of university education in Kenya, the college entered into a special arrangement with the University of London, which enabled it to prepare students for the degrees of the University of London under the establishment of the University of East Africa. In 1963, the Royal College became the University College of Nairobi. Makerere University in Uganda and the University of Dar-es-Salaam in Tanzania were the other constituent colleges of the University of East Africa. The University of East Africa continued operating until 1970 when the University College of Nairobi attained university status, becoming simply the University of Nairobi (kenyaweb.com 2001).

In 1970 Kenyatta College was made a constituent college of the University of Nairobi; however, the University of Nairobi remained the only university in Kenya until the mid-1980s. Since then, there has been a tremendous expansion in universities in response to the high demand for university education in Kenya. The country now has five public universities, with the most recently established universities emphasizing technology and science-oriented degree programs. In addition to the five public universities, there are 10 private universities in the country offering a wide range of degree programs. They are supervised and controlled by the Commission for Higher Education, under the Ministry of Education.

The public universities are funded partly by the government and partly by the students. The students are required to pay a certain number of fees per semester, which include tuition fees, registration fees and accommodation fees. The students pay for their own meals and supplies and so require substantial amounts of pocket money. The government has a financial program that provides assistance to students, which is carried out by the Higher Education Loans Board. Students can apply for loans, which they can pay back after graduating and attaining employment.

The following are the public universities in Kenya: Egerton University, Kenyatta University, the University of Nairobi, Moi University, Maseno University College, and Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology. Public universities have limited admission so competition for admission is fierce.

Students who do not qualify for the public universities can enroll in the private universities, which require students to finance their studies without any financial assistance. The Higher Education Loans Board offers limited assistance for students attending private universities. The following are some of the private universities in Kenya: Africa Nazarene University, University of Eastern Africa-Baraton, Catholic University of Eastern Africa, Daystar University, United States International University-Africa, and Kenya Methodist University.

Vocational Education: Postsecondary education centers in Kenya known as polytechnics started as shadow system forms of education. According to Court and Ghai (1974) "The shadow systems have meaning firstly in the extent to which they may complement the formal system by meeting needs which it is not covering, and in the extent to which they display principles which may have a wider application in the national system." Court and Ghai further explain that these shadow systems were created as alternative forms of education with the claim that, due to their flexibility, they were able to be more responsive to the needs of individuals than the existing educational institutions. Given the period the shadow systems were introduced, they were also seen as having potential to challenge the formal system, which was not accommodating the masses. Thus, they were seen as having the potential to act as a catalyst in reforming the formal system.

In Kenya the shadow system of education came to be known as village polytechnics, which later became a postsecondary semiformal schooling system. Between 1966 and 1972 there were more than 53 village polytechnics involved in training high school graduates in various vocational subjects (e.g., carpentry, accounts, welding, mechanics, catering, and teaching), leading to certificates or diploma awards (kenyaweb.com 2001). Village polytechnics started as low-cost, postprimary training centers in rural areas. At the time they were created, Kenya was producing about 100,000 primary school graduates each year that could not be employed in the modern sector of the economy. With the spirit of self-help it was believed that village polytechnics could be part of a solution to the problem presented by formal schooling, and as a means to alleviate unemployment. Court and Ghai (1974) contend that, since the village polytechnics included a diversity of activities, techniques, and organizations, it was more appropriate to treat them as an ideological movement than as an institutional prescription. In essence, they were introducing a new ideology that was an antithesis of the formal system.

Court and Ghai (1974) describe the elements and the differences between the village polytechnic and the formal secondary school system in terms of: dimensions, catchments and service, recruitment criteria, capital facilities, curriculum, medium of instruction, standards, form of instruction, leadership, organization, time period, national administration, and responsibility for graduates. Some of the key differences include: the formal system was national while village polytechnics were local; the formal system was expensive while village polytechnics were low-cost; the curriculum in the formal system was standardized and group-oriented while the village polytechnics were unbounded and individualized; the medium of instruction was English in the formal system while in the polytechnics it was vernacular and Swahili; and the formal system involved classroom teaching while the village polytechnics had an on-the-job learning focus.

In the late 1990s, the village polytechnic centers seemed to lose drive and significance, mainly due to a poor economy. While no longer viewed as village polytechnics, as most are located in cities, the main polytechnic institutions that are still in operation in Kenya include: Kaloleni Youth Polytechnic, Lamu Youth Polytechnic, Mazeras Village Polytechnic, the Mombasa Polytechnic, Mwanjila Youth Polytechnic, Mathare Youth Polytechnic, and the Kenya Polytechnic.

There are also colleges that started as polytechnics and then converted to colleges, including Strathmore College of Accounts and IT, Utalii College, Kenya College of Communication Technology, and Bungoma Bible School. These colleges are examples of what was feared by formal education advocates, that polytechnics would replace the formal educational system institutions. To some extent this actually happened, which helped triggered the formal education reform movement. However, most of the changes in the formal educational system were instituted due to economic and management concerns.

Additional topics

Education Encyclopedia - StateUniversity.comGlobal Education ReferenceKenya - History Background, Constitutional Legal Foundations, Educational System—overview, Preprimary Primary Education, Secondary Education