The Kenyan school system

In general

In Kenya there are several levels of education: kindergarten/nursery, primary school, secondary/high school and higher education (college/university).

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According to financing methods there are public schools and private schools. The former ones are free of charge (there is no tuition fee), however you have to buy your own uniform, books, stationery, etc. which is a problem for many parents.
Besides, private schools charge tuition fee and offer better circumstances (more comfortable schoolrooms, sanitary facilities, etc.).

The school year is from January until December in trimesters as follows:

  • term 1: January – March
  • term 2: May – July
  • term 3: September – November
  • In April, August and December the school is closed.

Exams: in Kenya the trimester marks (entered in the end-term report) are defined by the term exams. In primary school exams are taken only at the end of the trimesters (and at the end of class 8) whereas in secondary school there are exams during the term as well (see below).

Nursery school (pre-school)

Children at the age of 3-6 go to nursery school or pre-school. Although there might be differences between various places in Kenya, the nursery school is rather school-focused, children sit at tables and learn basic writing and math skills here, so it is often called pre-school.

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Primary school

Basic education for children at the age of 6-14 that lasts for 8 years. (As starting school partly depends on the family’s financial background some children start school later – at the age of 7-8 or even 9 – and thus leave school at later age as well.)

In primary schools there are 5 subjects: English language, Swahili (local) language, mathematics, science and social studies.

End-term exams:

  • children take exams on all five subjects;
  • in each exam they can score max. 100 points (in one semester they can collect 500 points altogether);
  • in each subject they must collect min. 50 points (altogether 250) to enter the next grade;
  • if someone fails to achieve 50 points in mathematics but has at least 40 points s/he may take extra lessons and if his/her results improve, s/he may continue his/her studies even with a total score under 250.

KCPE exam
a successful KCPE (Kenya Certificate For Primary Education) exam is the precondition to go to secondary school; which is

  • similar to a primary school “final exam”;
  • necessary to pass by both public and private school pupils;
  • nationwide exam: central (government/ministry) test held at the same time in the whole country.
Secondary (or high) school

Basic education of 4 years for students at the age of 14-18 (or older if someone started primary school later).

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In form 1 and 2 of secondary school there are 10 subjects: English language, Swahili language, religious studies (C.R.E.), history, geography, mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, business studies.

In form 3 and 4 there are 8 subjects that may vary as follows:

  • mandatory subjects: English language, Swahili language, mathematics;
  • sciences: physics, chemistry, biology (one has to choose two out of three, in Boston school chemistry is compulsory and one is optional out of the remaining two);
  •  social sciences: religious studies, history, geography (one has to choose two out of the three);
  • business studies: business, agriculture (one has to choose one out of the two).

In every trimester there are several “CAT”( „continuous assessment test”) exams and a final exam (the results are entered in the terminal report):

  • CAT1: the exam is taken at the first week after the holidays to assess how much the pupils forgot during the holiday;
  • CAT2: the exam is taken around the 5th week of the term to test if/which pupils need extra lessons on specific subjects;
  • Exam: this is the final exam at the end of the term and the results define whether one can go to the next grade.

In each exam (in each subject) max. 100 points can be achieved and one needs minimum 50% to go to the next grade. I.e. in grade 1 and 2 there are 10 subjects so one can achieve a total of 1000 points and needs min. 500 (in all subjects min. 50), while in grade 3 and 4 there are 8 subjects so one can achieve a total of 800 points and needs min. 400 (in all subjects min. 50) points to enter the next form.

KCSE exam
The “high school graduation” (KCSE, Kenya certificate of secondary school) is similar to KCPE for secondary school students and it is taken at the end of form 4. The results determine which student goes to which higher education institute (university, college, vocational school etc.).

Note: Boston Schools Matopeni is a community-based institution (i.e. we operate as private school) and we provide different levels of education from nursery to high school.