Education: All that parents need to know ahead of 2018

Education CS Fred Matiang’i (R) with ICT CS Joe Mucheru and TSC CEO Nancy Macharia arrive at Nairobi School to release the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education Exam results 2017 on December 20. / EZEKIEL AMINGÁ
Education CS Fred Matiang’i (R) with ICT CS Joe Mucheru and TSC CEO Nancy Macharia arrive at Nairobi School to release the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education Exam results 2017 on December 20. / EZEKIEL AMINGÁ

2018 will be a make-or-break year for Kenya's highly rated education system as the government begins to implement a raft of radical changes that include transiting to a new education model.

The government will also be rolling out a key Jubilee Party election pledge — free day secondary education — to achieve 100 per cent transition for all learners from Standard 8 to Form 1 that has many parents excited and anxious at the same time.

Another radical shift is the decision by the ministry to supply textbooks directly to the schools.

The mass transition means that schools will be forced to admit everyone who sat the KCPE, including traditionally rejected “failures” who scored inadmissible marks.

Of the 1 million candidates who sat the 2017 KCPE examination, some 2,360 attained less than 100 marks compared to 6,747 in 2016.


The test will begin on January 9, when Form 1s report to school.

Many public schools lack adequate infrastructure like classrooms and washrooms and the strain of the mass intake is expected to extend to accommodation facilities and teachers.

Unions and educationists have argued that there aren’t enough classrooms and that the number of teachers is way below the required international standard of teacher-to-learner ratio. The current Pupil-Teacher Ratio in public primary schools is 56:1 against the recommended PTR in Kenya of 40:1. In public secondary schools the Student-Teacher Ratio (STR) stands at 41.1.

Public primary schools are reeling from a deficit of 39,913 while secondary ones are short of 47,576 teachers.

The government has promised to hire 50,000 teachers in the next four years to plug the shortage in secondary schools in view of the expected trebling of enrollment.

“We are going to singularly focus on the teacher-student ratio, especially for secondary education,” Education CS Fred Matiang’i said.

“We are also exploring new ways of supporting principals and school boards so that they can acquire more teachers. We will seek your suggestions on whatever proposals we come up with,” he said when he launched the Form 1 selection at the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD).

The Teachers’ Service Commission (TSC) has asked for 12,696 teachers to be recruited annually for the next four years in addition to the 5,000 it hires every year.

It estimates that the recruitment will cost the government Sh8.3 billion annually, with the total cost coming to Sh33.2 billion over the four years.

The Treasury is expected to prepare the Supplementary Budget, which will be tabled in Parliament when it resumes sittings in February, to provide for additional funds to employ teachers. This comes even as the government plans to retrench nearly 40,000 from the public service beginning February.

However, as schools reopen for the first term of the 2018 academic year on Tuesday, the government is keen on kicking off the ambitious 2-6-6-3 system that will replace the current 8-4-4 one.

The plan has received stiff opposition from the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut), which wants the rollout pushed to 2019 to allow proper equipping of teachers.

But in what now signifies the government’s resolve to implement the new system, the KICD has already trained over 160,000 personnel expected to start implementing the new curriculum from Tuesday.

The rollout follows a successful pilot phase that targeted 10 schools per county, which reported positive feedback.

KICD, the state’s curriculum implementation agency, rolled out capacity training for all pre-primary and primary level educators ahead of the implementation.

The training was pushed closer to the opening dates because the very teachers targeted were also involved in teaching learners in schools under the 8-4-4 system.

There was also need to ensure that teachers have fresh knowledge on the new system as schools reopen after experts advised that training them too early would risk some

forgetting the content.



The KICD has already reviewed and approved books for the new curriculum, which has been hailed by educationists as the panacea for the country’s unemployment crisis.

However, parents face a dilemma, as the new books for the new system are yet to hit the shelves just days before schools reopen.

For secondary schools, the ministry of Education has adopted a radical book distribution policy that will see the government issue every student reporting for Form 1 with standardised textbooks.

The student will get six textbooks — one each for Mathematics, Kiswahili, English, Chemistry, Physics and Biology. The books will bear the Coat of Arms on the cover.

Publishers who are supposed to produce books for Classes 1-3 under the new curriculum as well as those for Class 7 and 8 and Form 1-4 under government procurement have raised the red flag.

With three days left before opening, the Kenya Publishers’ Association Chairman, Lawrence Njagi, said they would require two weeks to deliver the books.

“We are already publishing the books. We have six textbooks for each subject,” he said.

“However, we have some subjects that only managed to get two publishers and that means we will have to resubmit their bids, which may take time,” Njagi said.

NEW SYSTEM 2-6-3-3-3

The new 2-6-6-3 system is meant to address evident gaps in the country’s practical-oriented 8-4-4 system that replaced the colonially-inclined theoretical education system of 7-4-2-3.

The 7-4-2-3-system was in use between 1964 and 1985. It comprised seven years of primary, four

of lower secondary (Form1-4), two in upper secondary (Form 5-6), and three years at university for non- specialist courses.

The introduction of the much-discredited 8-4-4 system in 1985 was meant to impart practical skills in learners. However, this spirit got lost along the way, leading to the beginning of yet another module.

Now the new system offers a broad range of subjects at upper primary and junior secondary and is aligned to the country’s development blueprint, the Kenya Vision 2030.

Overall, the new system has three tiers: Early years consisting of Pre-primary One to Grade Three; middle-school comprising Grades Four to Nine; and senior school running from Grade 10 to 12.



Early Years Education will take five years. A child will take two years at Pre-primary and three years at Lower primary.

Pre-primary learners will be taught: Language Activities, Mathematical Activities, Environmental Activities, Psychomotor and Creative Activities and Religious Education Activities.

Digital literacy and pertinent and contemporary issues will be integrated across all subjects.


At Lower Primary, the learners from Pre-primary 2 will join in Grade 1 at about 6 years of age and spend 3 years before progressing to middle school at the end of Grade 3.

Subjects at Lower-primary include: Literacy, Kiswahili Language Activities/Kenya Sign Language (for learners who are deaf), English Language Activities, Indigenous Language Activities, Mathematical Activities and Environmental Activities. Others are Hygiene and Nutrition Activities, Religious Education Activities, and Movement and Creative Activities.

ICT will be a learning tool in all areas with Pertinent and Contemporary Issues mainstreamed in all subjects.


Comprises three years of upper primary and three years of lower secondary education.


Upper primary is part of middle school and comprises three years where learners are exposed to a broad curriculum and given an opportunity for exploration and experimentation.

Subjects for Upper Primary include: English, Kiswahili or Kenya Sign Language (for learners who are deaf), Home Science, Agriculture, Science and Technology, Mathematics and Religious Education (CRE/IRE/HRE). Others are Creative Arts, Physical and Health Education and Social Studies with Foreign Languages (Arabic, French, German, Mandarin) as optional subjects.

CT will be cross cutting in all subjects. Pertinent and Contemporary Issues and Life Skills will be mainstreamed in all subjects. A pastoral programme of instruction will be conducted once a week.



Secondary education is organized into two levels, namely lower secondary (Grades 7, 8 and 9) and senior school (Grades 10, 11 and 12).

Graduates of primary school Grade 6 shall join lower secondary at Grade 7.

Lower secondary will expose the learner to a broad-based curriculum to enable them to explore their own abilities, personality and potential as a basis for choosing subjects according to career paths of interest at the senior school.

At Grade 4 learners will be introduced to the optional subjects offered at upper primary so as to make informed choices at Grade 7. Learners in lower secondary will undergo a rigorous career guidance programmes and be exposed to the related subjects to enable them to make informed choices as they transit to senior school.


The subjects are in two categories; core and optional. At this level, a broad-based curriculum is offered to enable the learner to explore their own interests and potential as a basis for choosing subjects according to career paths of interest at senior level.


Learners will be required to take the 12 core subjects provided: They include English, Kiswahili or Kenyan Sign Language (for learners who are deaf), Mathematics, Integrated Science, Health Education, Pre-Technical and Pre-Career Education, and Social Studies.

Others are: Religious Education – where learners choose one subject from Christian Religious Education, Islamic Religious Education, Hindu Religious Education, Business Studies, Agriculture, Life Skills Education, and Sports and Physical Education.


Learners are provided with an opportunity to choose a minimum of one and a maximum of two subjects according to personality, abilities, interests and career choices from the list provided. The optional subjects include: Visual Arts, Performing Arts, Home Science, Computer Science, Kenyan Sign Language, Indigenous Languages and Foreign Languages, among them German, French, Mandarin and Arabic.


Three years for learners aged15 to 17 years. Lays the foundation for further education and training at the tertiary level and the work world. It marks the end of Basic Education as defined in the Education Act, 2013.

Learners exiting at this level are expected to be “empowered, engaged and ethical citizens”, ready to participate in the socio-economic development of the nation.

The learner entering this level shall have had opportunities at lower secondary to explore their own potential, interests and personality and is therefore ready to begin specialisation in a career path of choice. They could pursue studies in one of the three pathways available in senior school: Arts and Sports Science, Social Sciences or Science, Technical Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

Within the three pathways there are various tracks. Schools can also decide to offer one or more tracks in the pathway, depending on the ability to acquire the infrastructure necessary for acquisition of the identified competencies.

Under the Arts and Sports Science there are three tracks: Sports, Performing Arts and Visual Arts

Social Sciences have Languages and Literature, and Humanities and Business Studies.

Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics have four tracks, namely:

Pure Sciences, Applied Sciences, Technical and Engineering and Careers and Technology Studies.


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