Kenya has received rare praise from the World Bank for reforms to its education system, which has had its share of criticism for what some say is its demanding but confusing scope.
The World Bank, in an observational report published last week, pointed to a marked improvement in literacy or languages, and arithmetic – two basic subjects with which learners interact at the start of their schooling – from challenges such as overcrowding and broken schedules due to Covid-19 notwithstanding.
Among recent reforms to its education system, Kenya has divided the years spent in school through the Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC), which seeks to focus on practical teaching rather than studies for exams.
Whereas previously the pupils spent eight years in primary school and four in secondary school, they will now spend six years in primary school, then three years in what is called middle school and three more in high school.
Kenya has also embraced a teacher professional development system, changing teacher training and certification programs while pushing for a textbooks-per-pupil policy and better school management practices to improve learner safety.
These changes, according to the World Bank report, “Kenya Economic Update: Edition 25: Aiming High, Securing Education to sustain recovery,” are the driving force behind improved learning outcomes, making students in the country perform better than their peers in the region. .
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Between 2016 and 2018, Class III tests on learning Math, English and Kiswahili revealed improvement in all three subjects. The proportion of students meeting the minimum requirements increased by six percentage points in numeracy, 16 points in English and one point in Kiswahili.
Performance in other primary and secondary subjects also improved significantly.
“More recently, early grade math assessments conducted between 2015 and 2021 show that the proportion of children with a minimum proficiency level in math is improving rapidly, from 71% in 2016 to 80% in 2021,” indicates the report.
Problems into opportunities
But there are issues, which the World Bank hopes Kenya’s peers in the region can turn into lessons.
There are over 16 million students in Kenya’s education system. These learners are supported by approximately 500,000 teachers in 90,000 pre-school, primary and secondary schools.
The report shows that while learners in most counties exceed the expected 12 years of basic schooling, those in the northern and northeastern counties of the country and in arid/semi-arid areas recorded only 6.5 years of schooling.
A child in Kenya completes, on average, 11.6 years of education, which, when adjusted for the level of learning compared to other countries, translates into 8.4 effective years of schooling.
Despite these good performances, the education system still faces several challenges, including huge regional inequalities. Only Nairobi County is close to completing 12 years of school-adjusted learning. This means that the number of learners who drop out of school is still high in the country.
Educational outcomes are much lower in rural areas and for low-income populations than in urban areas.
Pedro Cerdan Infantes, Senior Economist at the World Bank, says while learning remains one of the most critical assets for any country to promote equitable growth and poverty reduction, it needs a solid foundation . Kenya, he says, has started to tackle this problem.
“As the education sector faces treacherous sources of inequality, including uneven quality and outcomes, Kenya has embarked on ambitious reforms to address quality issues rather than looking at work done under near universal access and coverage,” he said on Tuesday.
Enrollment in pre-primary schools increased by 11% and secondary schools by 17%, while the number of primary schools increased only marginally.
“Kenya made impressive efforts in education, increasing spending, increasing enrollment at all levels of education and steadily improving learning outcomes before the pandemic, making it one of the top performers in education in the region,” reads the report.
At the secondary education level, the report shows that Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education performance is gradually improving by 11% to 18% since 2017.
This is despite the decline in student performance from the previous year.
Tertiary, technical and vocational education and training (TVET) institutions also doubled.
Net enrollment ratios are significantly higher in pre-primary, primary and secondary education, for children from households in the top 20% of the income distribution, compared to the bottom 20%.
However, education, like other social services, has suffered greatly during the Covid-19 pandemic period. Kenya has closed schools for nearly a year. The result was to rush the program by forcing two academic years into a calendar year and a half. As many families lost income or even breadwinners during Covid-19, many learners also dropped out of school.
“Efforts to provide distance education have revealed a significant digital divide, with over 50% of students left behind, primarily due to lack of appropriate electronic devices, access to electricity and internet connectivity. “, reveals the report.
About 17 million students and more than 320,000 teachers have been affected by the closure of 30,000 primary and secondary schools in 2020.
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Gender disparities in enrollment are concentrated in the most educationally disadvantaged counties, primarily in the northeast and coastal regions. More girls than boys drop out of school each year.
The causes of girls dropping out of school include poverty and school fees, poor infrastructure and long distances to schools, precarious learning environments and increased exposure to violence and harassment or harassment. sexual abuse.
Girls are also affected by early pregnancy, which contributes to higher dropout rates in secondary school, with an average of 80.5 births per 1,000 girls under 18.