Education and Schools in Kenya

Kenya’s education system has undergone significant changes over time and was previously influenced heavily by the British during the colonial era.

Education is highly valued in Kenya, with many families making huge sacrifices to send their children to school. However, the public school system in Kenya suffers from a lack of funding and a shortage of highly qualified teaching staff, particularly in rural or impoverished areas.

While there are some very good government schools in Kenya, especially in major cities, most expats don’t consider sending their children to these. Generally, expat children attend private or international schools, which tend to be less disruptive to a child’s education, especially if they're only in Kenya for a short time.

Public schools in Kenya

The standard Kenyan education system consists of eight years of primary school, four years of secondary school and four years of university education. With the introduction of this system, public school students who successfully complete their primary education receive the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) and those that complete their secondary schooling receive the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE).

Kenyan education is split into:

  • Kindergarten: ages 4 to 5

  • Primary school: ages 6 to 14

  • Secondary school: ages 14 to 18

  • University: ages 18 and above

There are no fees for primary and secondary education but additional expenses such as uniforms, lunches and stationery are usually required. The language of instruction is English, though Swahili is taken as a compulsory subject throughout primary and secondary schools.

Private schools in Kenya

Private schools in Kenya are a good option, especially for expats from the UK, as their systems are similar. 

The standard of education at Kenya's private schools is superior to its public schools, mainly because of additional funding from school fees. Costs vary from one school to another, but a private education is still cheaper than sending a child to an international school.

International schools in Kenya

There is a good range of international schools in Kenya, especially in the capital, Nairobi. Expats living in Kenya will find that because of the country's historical links with the UK, there's a large number of schools that follow the British curriculum. However, to accommodate the growing expat community, there are also schools offering the globally recognised International Baccalaureate or the curricula of countries such as France, Germany, Sweden, America and the Netherlands.

The standard of education of international schools in Kenya is generally high and students have the opportunity to participate in a wide range of extra-curricular activities, including sports, drama and music. On the downside, fees tend to be expensive. On top of basic school fees, expat parents will need to budget for extra expenses such as textbooks, stationery, school uniforms and field trips. Some schools also provide a boarding option, which again comes at an additional cost.

Expats who want to send their child to an international school should budget accordingly and try to negotiate an allowance for school fees into their employment package.

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