Critical Review of 8-4-4 Education System in Kenya

By Anthony M. Wanjohi:

The 8-4-4 system of education was launched in January 1985. It was designed to provide eight years of primary education, four years of secondary, and four years of university education. Emphasis was placed on Mathematics, English, and vocational subjects. The proponents of 8-4-4 education system had a vision. The vocational component of the system for instance was aimed at preparing students who would not continue on with secondary education, those who would be self-employed, and those who would be seeking employment in the non-formal sector. However, the implementation of the system did nit meet its very vision. This article presents a critical review of the system.

Critical Review of 8-4-4 System of Education
The emphasis of education in Kenya lies in the very national goals of education. These include the following:

  1. Fostering nationalism, patriotism and promoting national unity
  2. Promoting social, economic, technological and industrial needs for national development
  3. Promoting individual development and self-fulfillment
  4. Promote sound moral and religious values
  5. Promote social equality and Responsibility
  6. Promote respect for and development of Kenya’s rich and varied cultures
  7. Promote international consciousness and foster positive attitude towards other nations
  8. Promote positive attitudes towards good health and environmental protection.

Although there is a general agreement that education has a corrective role to play, the results are not promising in Kenya. The extent to which 8-4-4 system of education has been able to meet its very objectives continues to raise eyebrows. For instance, in Kenya today, there are a number of issues that continue to face the society including but not limited moral decadence, substance abuse, disintegration of family unit, unemployment, tribalism, political and religious intolerance among others. These are some of the issues that could be related to a failed system of education.

Education in essence should concern itself with the development of persons who possess moral and intellectual attributes which make one responsible member of society. Sad enough, Kenya’s education system has laid much emphasis on intellectual development, failing to concentrate on integral education; the system has not been able to form a complete person.

The education assessment in Kenya mainly focuses on students’ intelligence as opposed to skills and attitude development. Non-academic skills and associated intelligence are ignored. Learners are product of their environment. Thus, there are many lessons of life that go outside class situation. Confronted with a diversity of value choices and a barred process towards reaching this choice, the modern learner is no longer sure of what is valuable and what is not. As a result, the normative dimension of education encounters challenges. In Kenya’s case, the education system has failed to provide effective norms that could be tapped by the society at large. Ironically, the very society does not equally provide a model upon which the young can emulate.

Kenya’s education system has thus failed in its emphasis of development not only because of the highlighted issues but also due to the entire structure of the very education system which fails to adequately prepare the learner for life in the society. Thus, the introduction of the new Education System in Kenya, namely 2-6-3-3-3, a competency based system could be a break through if it is well implemented. Equally, the society as a whole has a moral duty to play in the education process of a nation.

Sources for Further Reading
Digolo, O.O. (2006). The Challenges of Education in Kenya in the 21st
Century. Journal of the school of Education, 1 (1).

Kenya Institute of Education (KIE) (2002). Secondary Education
Syllabus. Nairobi: Kenya Literature Bureau.

Marcella, M., Musamas J. Nabwire, V.K. (2011). Crisis in Value
Education in Kenya: What It Portends For Educational Leadership and Management. International Journal of Curriculum and Instruction 1(1), pp. 1 – 14.