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.
  • With GPE support, Kenya has made impressive progress, including a 70% reduction in the cost of textbooks, and the equal enrollment of girls and boys at primary level. Additionally, the training of 102,000 teachers in improved teaching of math supported improved student competency in math.
  • 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.

Working together to boost the education system

GPE and the government of Kenya have developed a strong relationship since joining the partnership in 2005, with GPE supporting the country’s education plans through both expertise and financing.

A GPE grant of US$88.4 million for 2015-2020 and additional financing of $9.7 million for 2020-2022 have helped the country make impressive progress towards achieving the goals of its Primary Education Development program.

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 was praised by development partners and civil society for moving Kenya in a positive direction, and making effort to address 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, as well as a competency-based assessment, which place emphasis on what children can do, rather than on what they know, and improve the chances of student success.

Generating reliable education data

Comprehensive and robust data is key to transforming the management and delivery of education in Kenya. Tracking student enrollment, attendance, textbook distribution and staffing needs strengthens planning.

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.

Since switching from paper-based to web-based data collection, the percentage of primary schools submitting data has increased from 60% in 2015 to 90% in 2021, and data for primary education has been published annually from 2016.

“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

Teacher absenteeism has been a challenge in Kenya, negatively affecting learning outcomes.
Credit: GPE/Kelley Lynch
A teacher with her students in class.  Kenya, April 2017
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 the government to monitor teachers’ attendance, syllabus coverage, performance, professional knowledge, innovation and engagement with parents.
Credit: GPE/Kelley Lynch
An evaluator taking notes
County education supervisors conduct regular classroom observations with teachers.
Credit: GPE/Kelley Lynch
During a debrief session between an evaluator and a teacher
Teachers must also rate themselves on professional knowledge and application, time management, innovation and creativity in teaching, among other criteria.
Credit: GPE/Kelley Lynch
Teachers rating themselves
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.
The appraisals from supervisors, along with the teachers’ self-appraisals, are uploaded every school term via the TPAD tool on the TSC website
“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.”
A teacher holding a book during a lesson
“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
An evaluator using the Teacher Performance Appraisal Development (TPAD) tool

Teacher appraisals using the Teacher Performance Appraisal Development (TPAD) tool were rolled out in 4,000 pilot schools, and the program proved to be such a success that it was extended to all primary schools nationwide. As a result, GPE funding supported around 258,000 teacher appraisals – 32,700 teachers in the original 4,000 schools and 225,300 additional teachers nationwide.

GPE funding also helped train more than 102,000 teachers in teaching mathematics. The impact of new training was monitored and teachers received feedback on their performance. Over 218,500 lessons were observed by trained curriculum support officers.

Most teachers have rated the support as very useful, and the observation activities have been institutionalized within the Teacher Service Commission (TSC) through the TPAD system.

More primary students excel in math

Improving teacher competencies in mathematics instruction and the provision of textbooks helped Kenya achieve one of the main objectives of the Primary Education Development program: improve early grade mathematics competency.

The proportion of grade 2 students meeting the minimum proficiency in mathematics increased from 79.1 percent to 81.5 percent between 2016-2021 (a notable achievement taking into account the COVID-19 disruptions).

Changing the ecology of the education system

Kenya’s Primary Education Development program addressed 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 was 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 supported the allocation of school grants to implement activities outlined in schools’ improvement plans. 4,000 schools participated, including 1,400 schools located in the more marginalized arid and semi-arid counties.

Each school received a US$5,500 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 included 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

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 10.5 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.

Moreover, the textbooks and teachers’ guides were adapted for learners with hearing impairment, low vision, total blindness and physical impairment. The adaptation of the textbooks for learners with special needs is helping bridge inequality gaps.

This initiative has contributed to the country meeting its long-term goal of “one textbook for every child” in just two years. In total, 60 million textbooks have been 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 support 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 by 2030.

To achieve results at scale, GPE has supported Kenya to develop a partnership compact. Kenya has prioritized improving learning, maintaining focus on the development of human capital for productivity and growth.

The Kenya GPE Partnership Compact was developed through a consultative and participatory process under the leadership of the government of Kenya, during which the partners committed to work and support efforts by Kenya in the realization of the reform agenda.

Building on the substantial results achieved thus far, the country aims to address persistent challenges, in particular regional disparities, to meet their goal of improving learning for all.

The compact also serves as the basis for determining GPE grant resources and mobilizing additional resources, and Kenya has received a US$53.3 million system transformation grant and a US$2.8 million system capacity grant.

With co-financing support from the World Bank and the LEGO foundation, Kenya unlocked the full US$50 million multiplier grant. This funding will support the Kenya Primary Education Equity in Learning Program, reaffirming GPE's commitment to working with the government of Kenya and partners to improve learning and ensure quality education is accessible to all children in Kenya.

GPE produces results in Kenya

March 2023