The education system has in the past 50 years registered monumental strides. Successive governments have listed education high in their agenda and committed resources to achieve their set goals
The national government’s expenditure on education has continued to grow from K£8.4 million in the 1962/62 financial year, which was 14 per cent of the total expenditure, to K£28.4 million in 1971/72, K£194 million in 1982/83, K£743.44 million in1992/93, K£1,062.7m in 1993, K£66,417.93m in 2002/3 to now stand at Kshs247.7 billion in the 2012/13 financial year.
The number of educational institutions has risen to nearly 80,000 this year from just above 7,000 at independence, with the enrolment in primary schools having grown to nearly 10 million (9,970,900 in 2012) from just 891,553 in 1963. Secondary schools had 1,914,823 pupils in 2012 from 28,764 at independence. While the estimated number of university students scattered all over the world in 1963 was estimated at 7,000, enrolment at local public and private universities is estimated at more than 240,000.
Pupils proceeding to sit the Kenya Primary Education (KPE) examination more than doubled from 62,000 in 1963 to 133,000 in 1966. More than 800,000 pupils sat the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education examinations in 2012, with close to 900,000 sitting the exam in 2013.
Massive growth has also been recorded in the number of educational institutions, with pre-primary schools currently standing at nearly 40,000, primary schools at about 30,000, 370 teacher training colleges, 705 Technical, Industrial, Vocational and Entrepreneurship Training (TIVET) institutions and about 60 universities.
At Independence, the ruling party, the Kenya African National Union (Kanu), in its election manifesto of 1963 had identified education as one of its high priorities and had committed itself to bring social change through education. Kanu pursued the goal in its 40-year rule, with it successor, National Rainbow Coalition (Narc), opening up more learning opportunities by offering free primary education immediately it ascended to power in 2003.
On January 6, 2003, the Government embarked on the Third Free Primary Education (FPE) Programme, which was an election promise by Narc, which in December 2002 General Election defeated Kanu, the political party that had been in power since the country became independent in 1963.
As a result of the FPE initiative, enrolments in primary education increased stupendously from 5.9 million in 2002 to 7.2 million in 2003. The gross enrolment rate increased from 92 per cent in 2002 to 104 per cent in 2003 of the school age children population. It is estimated that about 1.5 million children entered primary schools in 2005.
To ensure proper implementation of the programme, the Government brought on board various development partners that included the World Bank, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the British government as some of the key supporters.
But significant increase in primary school enrolments put pressure on existing school infrastructure and led to overcrowding. Still, there is a shortage of primary schools in rural areas, especially in pastoral districts and urban slums in Nairobi and other big towns in the country.
Being aware of the problem, the Government developed Sessional Paper No. 1 of 2005 On a Policy Framework for Education, Training and Research, a blueprint of meeting the challenges of education, training and research in Kenya in the 21st century. Jointly with key donors in education, the Government adopted the Kenya Education Sector Support Programme (KESSP) 2005-2010, a comprehensive sector programme that identified 23 areas of collaboration but mainly focused on attainment of Education for All (EFA).
However, the Constitution of Kenya 2010 specifically gives every person a right to education.
During the fifth decade of independence, there has been robust political commitment not only to provide free primary education but to expand secondary and university education.
And as the country marches to its next half century of self determination, there is a great desire to ensure education moves in tandem with changes in information and communication technologies. This is to be done by the introduction of laptops in public primary schools from 2014. Transition rates from primary to secondary schools rose from 46 per cent in 2003 to 72 per cent in 2010. Whereas there were 862,907 students in secondary schools in 2003, this figure climbed to 1.65 million in 2010 and almost two million in 2013.
University education also expanded rapidly as a result of increased demand for higher education from students graduating from secondary schools. The number of universities rose from six public universities in 2003 to 22 and nine constituent colleges in 2013. The private universities also increased from 13 in 2003 to 31 and five university colleges in 2013.
In the 2003/2004 academic year, the total number of those enrolled in public and public universities rose from 67,558 to more than 200,000 in 2013. However, despite the rise in enrolment, the transition rate from secondary level to university remained low, at 12 per cent in 2003 and still under 15 per cent in 2013.
But the major challenge towards expansion of education and training occurred in TIVETs as a result of inadequate facilities and capacities to cater for those who complete primary and secondary education and wish to undertake technical courses. Subsequently, some of the polytechnics and technology institutes were taken over by universities.
Efforts were made to improve early childhood education and by 2013 plans were underway to incorporate early childhood education with the overall basic education.