Sub-national conversation and views on education in Kenya

Uwezo, an independent monitoring mechanism, has over the last five years demonstrated that while millions of children attend primary school in Kenya, the learning outcomes continue to be very low. Uwezo data between 2009 and 2015 shows no evidence of progress over time in the proportions of children who complete the Standard 2 level numeracy and literacy tests. rIn the 2014 Uwezo assessment, 39% of children aged 7-13 years passed the tests. Similar pass rates were recorded in the three previous rounds: 40% in 2011, 37% in 2012 and 41% in 2013. The sixth and latest round of Uwezo assessment results confirmed there is still no significant improvement in learning outcomes as the findings revealed that only 30% of children in Class 3 (end of lower primary) can do Class 2 work and that on average, only 10% of children in Kenyan primary schools are completing Class 8 without having acquired the basic competencies expected of a child completing Class 2.

In an effort to better understand the “production of education” in districts and schools, Twaweza commissioned a qualitative study to explore the state of debate and communication about education in general, and learning outcomes in particular, among district-level decision makers in ten selected districts in Kenya. The overall purpose of the study was to generate formative insights to enlighten Twaweza’s future communication and engagement initiatives, and inform the design of initiatives geared at improving learning outcomes for primary-school children.

The districts were purposively selected, and within each district, a number of key actors were interviewed from the County, District, community and school levels. The insights gathered are illustrative, and not intended to be representative of Kenya overall. The discussions with key actors centered on different themes, such as general perceptions on the quality of education, financial inputs and resource mobilization, options to provide support to teachers as well as support to pupils, the link between school inputs and learning outcomes, and engagement with Uwezo materials and results.

Highlights of the findings of this qualitative exercise include:

  • The quality of education is mainly measured through the children’s performance in the national examinations, namely the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE). 
  • Kenya’s education system is focused on systematically covering the curriculum and preparing the learners for national examinations (in grade 8). 
  • Research has shown that heavy investment in inputs per se doesn’t guarantee better learning outcomes, and yet stakeholders cite the lack of or inadequacy of the resources pumped into the education system by the government as the main reason for low learning outcomes. 
  • There is lack of ownership on the role of improving children’s learning outcomes by key players in the education sector.
  • Much of the discussion around teachers revolved around the staffing levels (despite improving teacher/pupil ratio), motivation and support

Take-away messages from the study:

  • Education in the sampled regions is faced with a lot of challenges. 
  • Education is considered important and there is a lot of discussion around education matters. 
  • When thinking about why education was not improving, three main factors were given as rationale: (1) high poverty levels (2) the “local culture” and (3) lack of resources. 
  • There are roles within the system that appear to be nearly incapacitated due to lack of resources, such as the school inspection units which is functionally non-existent in most of the Districts. 
  • Despite there being very comprehensive structures of education management there is very little synergy such that, the closer an officer is to the ‘ground’, the less involved they are in the planning and policymaking. 

Read the full study here


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Authors: Emanuel Manyasa



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