Kenya: Investing in education for a better future

Student with school materials in Kenya. Crédit : GPE / Kelley Lynch
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Story highlights

  • Kenya is committed to becoming a newly industrialized nation by 2030 and acknowledges that quality education is vital to achieving this vision.
  • Within a short time and with GPE support, Kenya has made impressive progress, including a 70% reduction in the cost of textbooks, the equal enrollment of girls and boys, and the training of 102,000 teachers in innovative teaching methods.
  • A new information management system has transformed the delivery of education in Kenya. Real-time data allows the government to monitor indicators such as attendance, enrollment and staffing in a transparent and reliable way.
map of Kenya

In 2008, Kenya committed to an ambitious vision: to become a newly industrialized nation by 2030. The country has prioritized reforming its education system as key to achieving this goal.

With support from GPE, the government of Kenya is systematically removing the barriers to quality education. From raising teaching standards to providing greater access to textbooks and clean and safe sanitation, emphasis is placed on reaching the most marginalized, including girls and refugee children, to ensure education is accessible to all.

Working together to boost the education system

GPE and the government of Kenya have developed a strong relationship since Kenya joined the partnership in 2005, with GPE supporting the country’s education plans through both expertise and financing. Since 2015, a GPE grant of US$88.4 million has helped the country make impressive progress in several key areas.

Kenya’s National Education Sector Strategic Plan 2018 – 2022 incorporates lessons learned from previous education initiatives and is regarded as a rigorous, government-owned strategy. The plan has been widely praised by development partners and civil society for moving Kenya in a positive direction, proactively addressing challenges such as governance and accountability.

  • Students listening to their teacher during a lesson at Nyamachaki School in Nyeri County in Kenya.
    Credit: GPE / Kelley Lynch

  • Anne Irungu, a first grade teacher at Nyamachaki Primary School, checks her students' work during a math class.
    Credit: GPE / Kelley Lynch

As well as achieving almost universal primary education, Kenya is improving the quality and relevance of education. GPE has supported the country in the introduction of a competency-based curriculum, which places emphasis on what children can do, rather than on what they know, and improves the chances of student success.

Comprehensive and robust data is key to transforming the management and delivery of education in Kenya. With GPE support, Kenya launched the National Education Management Information System.

This online platform generates accurate and reliable data, allowing the government to address efficiency, accountability and transparency issues.

“Through this system, every child will get a unique identifying number... the system can track them even if they transfer to another school. And if they drop out, we can know that and follow up. It will help us come up with good policies to offer quality basic education for all our learners.”
Lynn Nyongesa
Ministry of Education

Transforming teaching in Kenya

A teacher with her students in class.  Kenya, April 2017
Teacher absenteeism has been a challenge in Kenya, negatively affecting learning outcomes.
Credit: GPE/Kelley Lynch
An evaluator taking notes
To reduce teacher absenteeism, the government of Kenya with support from a GPE grant, developed the Teacher Performance Appraisal Development (TPAD) tool.
Credit: GPE/Kelley Lynch
An evaluator taking notes
Managed by the Teacher Service Commission (TSC), the TPAD allows to monitor teachers’ attendance, syllabus coverage, performance, professional knowledge, innovation and engagement with parents.
Credit: GPE/Kelley Lynch
During a debrief session between an evaluator and a teacher
County education supervisors conduct regular classroom observations with every teacher in the country.
Credit: GPE/Kelley Lynch
Teachers rating themselves
Teachers must also rate themselves on professional knowledge and application, time management, innovation and creativity in teaching, among other criteria.
Credit: GPE/Kelley Lynch
The appraisals from supervisors, along with the teachers’ self-appraisals, are uploaded every school term via the TPAD tool on the TSC website
The appraisals from supervisors, along with the teachers’ self-appraisals, are uploaded every school term via the TPAD tool on the TSC website. The result is an online database that the TSC uses for decision-making.
A teacher holding a book during a lesson
“Our decisions are very objective now,” Caroline Mwakisha, TSC County Director for Mombasa County explained. “It is your performance that will determine whether we can deploy you to become a head teacher or a classroom teacher, for example. We are also able to identify performance gaps and areas of weakness in our teachers and address them through training programs, peer teaching, etc.”
An evaluator using the Teacher Performance Appraisal Development (TPAD) tool
“The TPAD has made teaching a new career: it has finally gotten the dignity it deserves. And today’s teacher is a new teacher. They are motivated, they are focused and they are happy. They are proud to be teachers - which is a beautiful thing.” Caroline Mwakisha, TSC County Director for Mombasa County

The database will also carry report cards, allowing researchers to assess the factors that trigger both success and challenges for a student, or group of students, throughout their education. Tracking student enrollment, attendance, textbook distribution and staffing needs will ensure better planning in the coming years.

Changing the ecology of the education system

Kenya’s Primary Education Development program addresses multiple barriers to learning, including measures such as improved sanitation, enhanced teaching standards and access to textbooks. Significant strides have been made in gender equality in particular, with the gross enrollment for girls and boys almost equal.

The GPE grant is used to improve performance while increasing girls’ enrollment and retention.

Nicholas Gathemia
"Most of the children in our school come from the slums. A program like this gives those children the chance to learn and to become what they are supposed to become. We expect we shall have engineers coming from the slums, as well as doctors, social workers… This program will take this country to very great heights.”
Nicholas Gathemia
Head teacher, Nyamachaki Primary School, Nyeri County

GPE funding also supports the allocation of school grants to implement activities outlined in schools’ improvement plans. So far 4,000 schools have participated, including 1,400 schools located in the more marginalized arid and semi-arid counties.

Each school received a US$5,000 grant towards initiatives including the construction of toilets, activities to raise community awareness about the importance of girls’ education and training of volunteers to keep girls safe on their way to school.

Other activities include providing girls with scholarships, free menstrual pads and collecting household information on girls at risk of dropping out, in order to find ways to support girls to continue with their studies.

“There is a positive correlation between performance and having (sanitation) facilities that are clean and habitable for our children.”
Dr Belio Kipsang
Principal Secretary, Ministry of Education

Under the program, more than 102,000 teachers have been trained in innovative ways of teaching mathematics. The impact of new training is monitored and teachers receive feedback on their performance. So far over 17,000 lessons have been observed by trained curriculum support officers.

Data collected from classroom observations is also analyzed to improve teacher training and textbooks.

Mentoring for teachers has been recognized as a positive tool to strengthen individual teacher capacity. Mentors assist teachers to polish skills learned in past formal trainings, respond to current learning needs, and develop a support network of peers and supervisors who will help tackle any future challenges.

Huge strides in the provision of textbooks

A few years ago, at least 3 school children in Kenya had to share one mathematics textbook, which had a negative impact on learning and exam grades.

GPE has been instrumental in securing a 70% saving on textbook procurement costs, resulting in more than 7.6 million early grade mathematics textbooks being distributed to children in grades 1, 2 and 3, in line with the government's goal of improving numeracy skills in early grades.

This enabled the country to meet its long-term goal of “one textbook for every child” in just two years. In total, 60 million textbooks were distributed across the country to primary and secondary schools, marking a historic milestone for the country’s education sector.

  • Students receiving their maths books.
    Credit: GPE / Kelley Lynch

Anne Irungu
“The students like the new textbooks. They are attractive with different colors and pictures that arouse their interest and help them concentrate. And because each child has their own book... everybody does their work faster and we don't have a group that is lagging behind."
Anne Irungu
1st grade teacher, Nyamachaki Primary School, Nyeri County

Reaching out to refugees

GPE ensured these benefits extended beyond Kenyan children, with interventions to integrate South Sudanese refugees into the education system, including adapting the Education Management Information System to include them.

In late 2017, GPE worked with the education ministry and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to distribute textbooks to refugees and internally displaced persons in the Kakuma refugee camp in northwest Kenya. The textbooks had been warehoused near the camp, but administrative hurdles had prevented their distribution.

  • A crowded classroom in Kakuma refugee camp. With GPE funding and support from UNHCR, students were able to receive textbooks.
    Credit: UNHCR / Samuel Otieno

  • Two students from a school in Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya showing the books they just received.
    Credit: UNHCR / Samuel Otieno

Looking to a brighter future

GPE and the government of Kenya continue to work together to ensure that the country’s vision of becoming a newly industrialized nation can be achieved in the next decade.

Recently, GPE provided a new grant of US$9.7 million to strengthen Kenya’s achievements in education quality and equity. Among other things, the grant will ensure that an assessment framework is established for students with special needs and disabilities and for the youngest students in preschool programs.

In the face of COVID-19, GPE has also granted US$11 million towards training 150,000 teachers in distance learning and expanding online educational content, so that even in times of uncertainty, children can access the quality education they deserve.

GPE produces results in Kenya