The tale of the Kenyan education system cannot be told without mentioning the historic year of 1985 that saw the introduction of the 8-4-4 system by the late president Daniel Arap Moi.
The new system of eight years of primary school, four years in high school and another four in university were highly embraced as it was not only seen as a replacement of the infamous 7-4-2-3 that consisted of seven years of primary education, four years in secondary, two in high school and three in university but also believed to be a bestowal with the ability to satisfy the aspiration of technology-loving Kenyans.
Though the 8-4-4 system was celebrated at its conception in 1985, it has in the 21 st century quelled down to a debate with the antagonists of the system mainly arguing that the system still holds its roots to the colonial mindset that the colony only need to be taught compliance and control.
Mwalimu Wandia a renown academician, suggests that the Cambridge exams that were introduced by the colonial government to control what was taught and learned in school which consequently worked to curb and limit room for African revolutionary ideas and to put some constraint to their economic prowess, is still cherished by the current national examination that is administered once every year.
Though it is debatable if indeed the 8-4-4 system holds onto the same DNA, it goes without questions that exams mainly national exams give room to indoctrination by governments. An example of this was seen in an uproar some weeks earlier on social media, with Kenyans who felt frustrated by how the government chooses to tell the story of the struggle of independence and who ought to be celebrated.
The 8-4-4 system has been also criticized as being too much market-driven forgetting that the students will also be citizens, parents, et cetera. The emphasis on national exams has been seen as a catalyst to the menace of enormous levels of examination cheating a scenario that the new education framework curriculum of the competency-based system (CBS) seeks to curb. It is composed of a 2-6-3-3-3 model and seeks to do away with the national exams.
The system which was tested starting may 2017, will offer 2 years of pre-primary, 6 of primary, 3 years of junior secondary 3 of senior secondary and 3 years of higher education. As a participant of the 8-4-4, I can accuse it of being too academic. Meditating through some of the rhetoric that I got from my radical advisor.
The 8-4-4 system created a life-changing KCSE. It becomes the major determinant of not only whether one will continue with higher education or not, but also what career one is going to pursue. Either a doctor or a nurse, a lawyer or a teacher, a chef or architect et cetera. To bring this into perspective, one can only pursue a career in medicine if they scored a B+(plus) in the overall grades while for one who is only hoping for a government sponsorship for them only a grade of A would qualify.
I dreamt of being a lawyer for the longest period of my life, but my English grades were not at per, with the government requirements for a scholarship. In other words, KCSE said that since I am good at mathematics and not very good in English, I ought to be an Actuarial Scientist and not a lawyer. It no doubts that thousands can relate.
Since the cost of higher education is quite high in public universities and even higher in private campus, the best one can hope for is qualify for a government scholarship. In the year 2003, the government introduced free primary education and later did the same for secondary schools in 2008, consequently leading to a dramatic increase of up to 92% in the number of students who transition from primary school to secondary schools as per the 2019 statistics.
The Government went further to offer a 75% scholarship for students who qualify to join the university for an undergraduate degree (having a grade of C+ and above in the KCSE) and 50% for students who qualify for a diploma (with a grade C).