Why Kenya Changed Its Education System

Kenya is in the process of changing its education system from the 8-4-4 curriculum to the competence based learning in order to address a number of challenges.

The changes are expected to help improve the quality of education in Kenya. These changes have been a long time coming for many reasons. In this blog post, we’ll take a look at some of those reasons why Kenya is changing their education system!

The 8-4-4 was too academic

A qualitative study found that children couldn’t articulate what they learned because so much content was being pushed on them. The learners had to cram so many subjects into their heads that the quality of education suffered.

This curriculum also concentrated on passing exams at the expense of teaching children life skills. It only favored people who were good at memorization and not those with analytical skills or those with curiosity for knowledge. Most importantly, it didn’t encourage students to find out more about themselves through research projects in class-room settings.

The new curriculum which is based on competencies will focus on teaching children a set of skills and it will enable them think critically and creatively so as to be able to empower themselves economically. It’s not all about passing exams, but how they will apply the knowledge they have acquired.

Lack of entrepreneurial skills

The old education system put so much emphasis on being employed instead of entrepreneurship. This led to a situation where there were more graduates seeking jobs rather than them starting their own businesses that they can use to employ themselves and others. As a result the unemployment rate in Kenya soared to a record 10.4% as at December 2020 according to the Kenya Bureau of Statistics.

To solve this problem, Kenya had to develop a curriculum that will change the paradigm shift from an employment-based economy to one of entrepreneurship. This requires people who can think critically and creatively to come up with new ideas, products and services that will foster economic growth. The old system failed kids in this regard as it was all about getting a job!

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As an entrepreneur, I can attest to the fact that creativity and critical thinking are a must if you want your business venture to succeed. The new educational system is designed from scratch with entrepreneurship as its focus point, so that young people can learn how to create ideas into viable products/services and develop solutions they need for themselves and their communities.

Emergence of social vices

Due to the high unemployment rate ,drug and substance abuse and also crime was on the rise. This was because there were few opportunities for young people to take part in meaningful activities that will prepare them for a successful career.

The old system of education had failed Kenyans and it needed to be reformed or completely rewritten if we wanted our country to succeed, prosper economically and reduce these social vices.

The competence based curriculum is designed to give more attention to vocational training so that students may be able to undertake various income generating activities upon graduation and not stay idle.

Nurturing of gifts and talents

Kenyans are gifted in various areas and we need to encourage them to explore their talents. The old system of education did not do this as it had a general syllabus that was designed for everyone.

The new curriculum is more personalized so that children can discover the talents they have been endowed with early on in life and perfect these gifts to create jobs, wealth creation and economic growth for themselves and the country in future.

With the new curriculum the country will have more athletes like David Rudisha’s and Pamela Jelimo or more musicians such as Bahati.

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Lack of quality education

The 8-4-4 mode of assessment was majorly summative. There was no way to gauge if a learner understand a concept fully or not.

The new curriculum is more holistic and it also focuses on formative assessment as this will help to make sure that children are understanding concepts before they proceed to the next level, which in turn creates a better learning environment for learners as well as teachers. The process will be less frustrating because students can catch up any gaps or challenges easily .

Global perspective

For Kenyans to be able to compete with the rest of the world, it is essential that we have an education system with excellent standards. The old system did not meet global standards, which made Kenyan students less competitive in an increasingly knowledge-based world. It was designed to train students for the industrial era whereas we now live in the knowledge-based era. This change requires us to equip our children with skills that will enable them to compete effectively in this globalized world.

The new curricula has been designed with an international perspective which will help promote Kenya’s developments across the globe. Foreign languages such as French, German and Mandarin are taught in the new curriculum.

Focus on Special needs

Students with special needs had to compete academically with able-bodied students. This placed them at a disadvantaged position as they had to work harder than their peers. Their needs were not being met, which is why the new curriculum has been designed with special education in mind.

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The new curriculum and educational system will be responsive to different learners with special needs by providing a separate curriculum. More teacher training for children with specific learning difficulties will be provided and a range of teaching methods that suit different abilities are now available for teachers to use.

Digitally based

The world is moving at a very fast rate in regards to technology. Kenya needed a curriculum that was responsive to this change and the needs of students in this era.

Technology has been incorporated in the new curriculum as it will be conducted in a digital environment that has the ability to customize content according to a learners’ needs.

The old system relied on textbooks and paper-based exams where the new system is reliant on digital techniques.

Flexible pathways

The old education system had very little flexibility in terms of selection of subjects in line with one’s choice of career. This had to be changed as it did not mesh with the present day work environment.

In the new system, upon reaching senior secondary school, students will choose which path they want to undertake either Arts and Sports, Social Sciences or STEM(Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics).This will enable students to pursue their interests and be able to compete in the job market effectively.


The Kenyan government has made a commitment to change the country’s education system. My hope is that the new competence based curriculum will be able to provide Kenyans with an education system that prepares them for success in life, not just school.

I look forward to hearing about any progress updates on this important issue!

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