Structure Of The Kenyan Education System

Primary school education in Kenya

In Kenya primary school education is free and compulsory in Kenya for pupils aged roughly 6 to 14. It lasts 8 years and runs from standard 1 to standard 8. Primary education in Kenya was made free and compulsory in 2000.

The primary school curriculum is made up of:

  • Languages
  • Mathematics
  • History
  • Geography
  • Science
  • Crafts
  • Religious studies.

At the end of standard 8, pupils sit for the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examinations in the following subjects:

  • Kiswahili
  • English
  • Mathematics
  • Science and agriculture
  • Social studies.

General secondary school education in Kenya

Just like primary school education, secondary school education in Kenya is also free. However it is not compulsory.

Secondary education in Kenya takes 4 years. It caters for the needs of pupils who plan to enter the labour market soon afterwards and also for those who desire to continue on to higher education institutions. The curriculum is structured in such a way that it emphasizes job-oriented courses.


Choice of subjects in secondary school

The secondary school subjects divided into 5 groups:

  • Group 1 (Core): English, Mathematics and Kiswahili
  • Group 2 (Sciences): Biology, Physics, Chemistry, Physical Education and Biological Sciences
  • Group 3 (Humanities): History and Government, Geography, Christianity, Islam, Social Studies and Ethics, and Hindu Islamic Education
  • Group 4 (Technicals): Home Science, Art and Design, Agriculture, Woodwork, Metalwork, Construction, Power Mechanics, Electronics, Drawing and Design, and Aviation Technology
  • Group 5 (Languages): French, German, Arabic, Music, Commerce, Economics, Typing and Office practice.

For the first two years of secondary school education, students take up to 13 subjects which are then narrowed down to eight subjects in the final two years. The final eight subjects include:

  • All group 1 subjects, which are the three core and compulsory subjects taken by all students.
  • At least two science subjects, from group 2
  • One humanities subject from group 3
  • Either one applied science or one technical subject.

However, not all subjects are offered at every school depending on what the individual school can offer in terms of learning resources and teachers.

At the end of the fourth year students sit for the national examination, the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE), administered by the National Examinations Council.

Vocational secondary school education in Kenya

Besides going to general secondary school, pupils who complete the primary school education have the option of going to a vocational secondary school. Vocational secondary schools offer artisan and trade programmes at youth polytechnics. Students there are awarded a variety of diplomas and certificates there.

The level of each diploma is assessed individually and depends on the duration and specialisation of the programme.


Sydney Chako

Mathematics, Chemistry and Physics teacher at Sytech Learning Academy. From Junior Secondary School to Tertiary Level Engineering Mathematics and Engineering Science.

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