8-4-4 System

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 the 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 not meet its very vision. This article presents a critical review of the system.

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.

Currently learners take two major exams in their eighth class in Primary School  section and  again on their fourth class in Secondary School Section that’s Kenya Certificate of Primary Education(KCPE) and Kenya Certificate Of Secondary Education(KCSE) respectively.

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Currently the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) is a certificate awarded to students after completing the approved eight-year course in the primary education. The examination is supervised by the  Kenya National Examination Council  (KNEC), an examining body in Kenya under the Ministry of Education. The same body also conducts and regulates the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE), a certificate awarded to students after completing secondary education. KCPE and KCSE were both started in 1985 when the 8-4-4 system of education was introduced in Kenya.


  • Mathematics
  • English (Grammar, Comprehension and Composition)
  • Kiswahili (Lugha,Ufahamu and Insha)
  • Science
  • Social Studies and Religious Studies(Christian/Islmic/Hindu)

Social Studies includes a bit of Kenyan History, Civil education, current County system of government as well as all the  Religious Studies.

Each subject is worth a maximum of 100 marks. Each candidate is therefore able to earn a maximum of 500 marks.

The exam time runs from the last week of October and takes three days.

Kenyan government has a policy of 100% transition to Secondary School section for the pupils sitting in the KCPE examinations.

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KCSE stands for the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education, which is taken at the completion of Secondary Education.
The first KCSE exam was held in 1989 at the same time as the last Kenya Advanced Certificate of Education (KACE), which it replaced as the entrance requirement for Kenyan universities.
Initially, KCSE was a minimum of ten subjects. KCSE has since been reviewed twice, and the minimum number of subjects is now seven.


 Compulsory subjects

English, Swahili, Mathematics

Group two

Biology, Physics, Chemistry and Biological Science (taken by blind candidates)

Group three

History and Government, Geography, Christian Religious Education, Islamic Religious Education and Hindu Religious Education

Group four

Home Science, Art and Design, Agriculture, Computer Studies, Aviation

Group five

French, German, Arabic, Music, Business Studies

For grading, candidates must take all the three compulsory subjects, at least two sciences, one of the humanities and at least one practical or technical subject.

The KCSE examinations are taken under very strict supervision from invigilators to avoid cheating and run for a period of about one month. Cheating in these examinations attracts severe penalties from the Kenya National Examination Council, and students caught cheating get their grades cancelled.

The exams usually start on last week of October or first week of November and end in late November. From December, the exam is graded and the results are released in late December the same year.

Examination results are announced to the public by the Minister for Education, and the top hundred students and schools are released to the media the day of the results announcement.

The grading of the examination is as thus:

Grade             Percentage mark

A                     80-100

A-                    75-79

B+                    0-74

B                      65-69

B-                    60-64

C+                    55-59

C                      50-54

C-                    45-49

D+                   40-44

D                     35-39

D-                    30-34

E                      0-29

In Kenya, this examination is the entrance to public and private universities and the pass mark is grade C+. Students who attain a lower mark than C+ join other tertiary institutions for non-degree courses. Over time, stringent measures have been taken by the government to ensure and sustain the credibility of the KCSE examination

Each year, hundreds of thousands of students take the examination after four years of the Secondary School Course and this examination is a major determinant of the individual’s future career. A good grade guarantees one a place in one of the public or private universities in the cou

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