Higher Learning in Kenya

How to pursue higher learning in Kenya

An individual’s  enrollment in higher learning programs in Kenya is dependent on his/her academic performance.

The education system in Kenya consists of nursery education, primary, secondary and tertiary. Education in nursery schools takes at least three years, primary eight years, secondary four and university four – six years depending on the course.

Planning to pursue higher  learning in Kenya?

Enrollment is primary school is done for persons aged between 6-7 years. Upon completion of 8 years primary education, students sit for national exam (referred to as Kenya Certificate of Primary Education-KCPE). It is on the basis of the score attained that one is able to gain entry into a secondary school. The government of Kenya introduced free primary education in 2002 to help increase enrollment into primary schools. The first batch of these students sat for their KCSE in 2010.

Most students enroll into secondary schools at between the ages of 13-14 for a period of 4 years. In their fourth form, students are required to sit for a national exam (Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education-KCSE). Ones’ future career path is determines by his/her KCSE results.

Higher Learning:Entry Requirements

Entry into a higher learning institution in Kenya is dependent on the KCSE grade. The cut off mark for entry into public universities is not standard. It varies annually dependent on the number of candidate and pass mark. Majority of students get a C+ grade are automatically locked out of the public universities. They can only join these same universities through “parallel program”, whereby they attend evening classes. Or there are those who can enroll into private universities.

For one to pursue higher learning  in  Kenya, selection of candidates to join public universities is done by the Joint Admission Board (JAB). Placement of the qualified candidates’ into universities for specific fields of study is informed by the   pre-selection of universities done by the KCSE students before sitting for the Fourth Form exams. However, JAB has the final say in the placement process. Candidates who are not satisfied with the allocation done by JAB have an option of enrolling into ANY of the several private institutions  of higher learning in Kenya.

Higher Learning in Kenya: Quality of Education?

Annual national performance of students at both primary and secondary level, clearly indicate that students enrolled in private schools perform better than those in public institutions.

This trend is and continues to be worrying especially to parents who have to spend a lot in terms of time and money. Those most affected are families with breadwinners who earn less than $1 a day.

The well-to-do families do not experience the brunt of the flaws in the Kenyan education system as they have the several options. For example:

  • Enrolling their children  into private schools which under International curricular
  • Sending their children abroad for studies
  • Home schooling their children

Higher learning in Kenya:Effects experienced in the  job market

Upon completion of their studies, all Kenyans have to fight for space in the already constrained job market.

The resulting effect is manifested in several ways:

  • Those who performed well but don’t have connections within the job market have to endure several months or years of “tarmacking”(A Kenyan slug for “looking for a job”)
  • Those who didn’t perform well but have connections get jobs  for which they lack skills to execute assigned tasks
  • Those who performed well, decide to look for jobs in international markets.
  • Demoralization among the general population who have no clue on “what next?”

With the increase in the institutions providing higher learning  in Kenya, the quality of education being offered in some colleges is questionable. The number of qualified lecturers in the country does not match the number of students admitted in these institutions. The rise in inflation and constrained job market only makes this scenario worse. This is because, the few lecturers look for creative ways of increasing their incomes by taking up several units in different universities which are not in close proximity.

The result is: no quality mentorship is given to students

Higher  Learning In Kenya:What next?

In order to circumvent some of the hurdles above, it is necessary for both the parents and the students to take time in:

  • choosing the right course
  • choosing the right institution of higher learning in Kenya
  • looking for scholarship opportunities to facilitate entry of their children into good colleges

The following tips can help you as the reader, your friends and/or family avoid facing some of the challenges mentioned above:

  • Take time to find a good university or college for yourself. This will be informed by the course you intend to study
  • Make it a point to find out about the various higher learning institutions that offer the degree course you are looking for.
  • Establish what the admission requirements are in terms of fees, entry grade, fields of study. This will help you choose the correct cluster of subjects  whilst in secondary  school, and also study hard to score above the required marks.
  • Do a comparison of all the institutions that meet your expectations. You could look at factors like: overall expenditure for the entire program; modes of payment-whether they allow for one to pay fees in installments at the beginning of the year; whether they have scholarship packages; whether they have internship programs with selected companies for you to try out your skills whilst in college; whether they provide on and off-site accommodation; and finally facilities do they have for sports & research.
  • Talk to some of the people within that institution to get their honest opinion about the college/university.
  • Establish what the admission requirements are in terms of fees, entry grade, fields of study. This will help you choose the correct cluster of subjects  whilst in secondary  school, and also study hard to score above the required marks.Some universities or colleges require specific grades so as to be eligible to apply, while others look for students who have fared well in all categories of academic life, including education, sports as well as extracurricular activities.
      Some offering higher learning in Kenya  require specific grades so as to be eligible to apply, while others look for students who have fared well in all categories of academic life, including education, sports as well as extracurricular activities

    • Start saving early enough –this is for parents. As your child studies hard to pursue their career growth, it’s your responsibility as a parent to help in raising the finances required for enrollment into higher learning institutions.

Hope you found this useful.Please send me a mail in case you need further guidance on what to consider when choosing to pursue Higher learning  in Kenya.

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Higher Learning In Kenya:Disturbing Trend


  • I agree with you on this fully. Its just amazing how the privileged in the society continue getting more poorer.

    Today with the introduction of private universities and parallel degree programs there is a clear difference between the two groups of people. Those who have performed poorly get to the universities before the A people.  

  • I have a problem with our Kenya students today; most of them are going for stuff that is not of any interest to them. This is the reason as to why you find architects ending up as musicians. 
    My opinion is that proper guidance should be given.
    By the way keep up with the good work!

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  • Anonymous

    this is very interesting. How will the Government cope with all the graduates who cannot get jobs in the country? is education enough?

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