ACCESS AND EQUITY IN HIGHER EDUCATION IN KENYA A paper presented for The KIM SOM CONFERENCE 2009 Theme: Transforming Higher Education: Opportunities and Challenges Sub Theme: Access and Equity in Higher Education By NAME : OWINO ROSE ATIENO DESIGNATION: TEACHER IN SECONDARY SCHOOL & EMBA STUDENT – KIM NAKURU HD334-033-0234/ 2008 Email address: atienowino @ yahoo. com Postal address: P. o. box 13091, Nakuru. Mobile no. : 0720203200 ABSTRACT In the last decade, a great transformation has been witnessed in terms of access to opportunities for higher education.
This is evidenced by the rapidly growing number of colleges and universities offering degrees, diplomas and certificate courses. Enrollment levels in institutions of higher learning have increased. There’s competition between colleges in setting up campuses away from the capital city to far flung districts. All parts of the country have been catered for. Accessibility has cut across all ages. Fifty year olds graduating are no longer a strange phenomenon. Gender parity has also been catered for.
More women can now get access to higher education than any other time in our history. Access is likely to increase even further with the shifting trend towards distant learning through the internet and virtual learning centers. In spite of the increase in accessibility, equity is still a challenge. While each of the above issues serves to address equity, pertinent issues still need to be addressed. They include the high costs of tuition and other fees. This continues to lock out a large number of potential students who are still grappling with “unga” ssues. The opportunities also lock out a large proportion of Kenyans who dropped out of school at primary level since the KCSE certificate is an entry requirement. Most colleges have located their campuses in urban areas locking out the rural folk. The number of Kenyans pursuing higher education in neighboring Uganda is also of great concern. It is a case of missed opportunity, loss in revenue as well as possibility of brain drain. The government needs to address these issues urgently in a bid to achieve Vision 2030.
Access and equity are major concerns in the provision of higher education in Kenya. This is in light of the fact that in achieving Vision 2030, the country needs highly qualified manpower. This is the kind of manpower that will spur innovation and creativity resulting in industrial development. Only then can Kenya compete with emerging technological giants such as China. Indeed Kenya has made commendable strides in provision of higher education in the recent past. Initially degree programmes were restricted to the four main University colleges.
Recent statistics reveal an upsurge in the number of colleges offering such courses. Access has improved with the emergence of extra mural centers in most Kenyan towns. This has ensured that most Kenyans now have a college in their vicinity offering either degree, diploma or certificate courses. Equity in provision of higher education has greatly improved. Traditional African non equity areas such as gender have improved and more ladies can now access tertiary institutions. Courses that were initially male domains are now being accessed by more females.
However in spite of all the aforementioned achievements, access and equity are still far from being achieved. The country needs to urgently deal with challenges of the poor transition rate from primary to secondary school, the high costs associated with the parallel programmes, as well as the influx of large numbers of Kenyan students in Uganda institutions of higher learning. (Mbalu, 2007) Provision of quality education and training has been a central policy issue in Kenya since independence in 1963.
This has been mainly due to an increasing demand for more education and training opportunities for a fast growing population. Besides, the demand for qualified human resource to meet the development needs of the country has also been given attention. However, since the introduction of the 8-4-4 system of education in 1985, the Government of Kenya has faced the twin challenge of reducing its expenditure on education as part of the Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs) and expanding educational opportunities for Kenyan children.
Despite its continued expenditure on education, Kenya is far from achieving full primary and secondary school enrolment for both girls and boys. (Mwiria, 2007) Equity and access issues still stick out like a sore thumb. There arises a need to determine the fate of the thousands of Kenyan students who are locked out of Secondary level education each year. Consequently, a need arises to determine the fate of the approximately 80% of KCSE graduates who miss out of University every year.
A need also arises to determine the pull factors that are causing secondary school graduates in Kenya to troop to Universities and colleges in neighboring countries especially Uganda. (Business Daily, Africa, 2007). The study is of benefit to Educational planners and policy makers. Educational policy makers must take into account the effect of factors such as tuition, culture, geographical set up, social – economic and environmental factors and how they are likely to affect access and equity in education for Kenyan households.
Scholars will also benefit from the study for it will contribute to the existing body of knowledge on Access and Equity in Higher education in Kenya. Given these factors the Government needs to address the plight of the high numbers of children in public primary schools who miss out in secondary school and thus in institutions of higher learning. This is in light of the fact that they will eventually form a work force that is highly deficient in skills. As such Vision 2030 will not be achieved. Over the past century, formal schooling spread remarkably.
Within the past few years, the estimated global primary net enrollment ratio (NER) reached 86 percent (Bloom, 2006) Universal education is the stated goal of several international initiatives. In 1990, the global community pledged at the World Conference on Education for All in Jomtien, Thailand, to achieve universal primary education (UPE) and greatly reduce illiteracy by 2015 along with the elimination of gender disparities in primary and secondary education (World declaration on Education For All, 1990).
Educational access has increased enormously in the past century, Illiteracy fell dramatically and a higher proportion of people are completing primary, secondary, or tertiary education than ever before. Despite this progress, huge problems remain for providing universal access and high-quality schooling through the secondary level of education. (Bloom, 2006) The UPE goal looks unlikely to be achieved by 2015 at the current rate of progress. An estimated 299 million school-age children will be missing primary or secondary school in 2015. Bloom & Cohen 2005). The UBASE project reviewed research related to the achievement of universal primary and secondary education globally: This research implies that achieving universal primary and secondary education is both urgent and feasible. Achieving it will require overcoming significant obstacles, developing innovations in educational practices, and spending more money on education. (Bloom & Cohen 2005) Current educational data indicate that the world has made significant progress in education, though shortfalls and disparities remain.
The number of students enrolled in secondary school increased eight-fold in the past 50 years, roughly from 50 million to 414 million (calculations by Bloom, based on UNESCO online data). According to Glewwe and Zhao (2006), developing countries spent approximately $82 billion on primary schooling in 2000; Binder (2006) estimates that spending for secondary education in developing countries in 2000 was $9 billion per year.
Recent studies, including the Cost and Financing of Education in Kenya project supported by the Government of Japan and the World Bank (1995), Education Sector Analysis (UNICEF, 1994), Strengthening Primary Education – SPRED – (ODA, 1995), and Child Health, Nutrition and Educational Participation (UNESCO, 1994), among others, have come up with revealing findings which have, as echoed by the Government (GoK, 1995b; 1997; MoE, 1996), a direct bearing on access to, quality of and efficiency of education in Kenya.
According to the studies carried by White (2004) through the funding of the World Bank and another one by Glewwe (1999) in Ghana ,what matters most for access by the poor performance in public primary education is government policy and commitment. This is bolstered by other studies in Indonesia and India. These case studies, together with the results of production function studies, indicate that government policy in developing countries can have a larger impact upon education access and outcomes than would be the case in developed countries. (Filmer, 1999). Primary ducation completion rates have improved over the years, from 45. 8 percent in 1999 to 57. 2 percent in 2003. However, the completion rates have been low indicating a high wastage in primary education. Of the 949,787 pupils admitted in Standard 1 in 1996, only slightly more than half (543,559 pupils) completed their primary education in 2003. This translates to a completion rate of 57. 2 percent, girls constituting 58. 4 percent and boys, 56. 7 percent. (Ministry of Education Data, 2006) According to the Ministry of Education Data, the transition rate from primary to secondary was 46. percent in 2003. This transitional rate is the highest since 1992 when the rate was 38. 4 percent. The Ministry will adopt policies that seek to expand secondary education to avail more places. The issue of poverty and cost of education will be addressed by providing a targeted bursary programme in future. (Ministry of Education Data, 2006) The number of secondary schools has increased from 3,166 in 1999 to 4,071 in 2003 an increase of 9. 7 percent. In the last five years, the enrolment in secondary schools has increased by 29. 8 percent from 695,025 students in 1999 to 902,276 students in 2003. Ministry of Education Data, 2006) Table Secondary School Completion Rates by Gender: 2003 Year inEnrolment in Form 1 (‘000)Enrolment in Form 4Percent completing Form 4 Form 1 Form 4BoysGirlsTotalBoysGirlsTotalBoysGirlsTotal 1996199996302842351805378423372232156465878687 1997200098487886141871019170078371170071938891 19982001102449928131952629892086987185907979495 19992002105231957732010049930385881185184949092 20002003108116971962053129754186121183660908989 Source: Ministry of Education, Science and Technology 2006 In 1999, the secondary completion rate was 87 percent increasing to 95 percent in 2001 as shown in Table 2. 7 below.
However, the rates dropped to 89 percent in 2003 with boys constituting 90 percent as compared to the girls 89 percent. There is no significant gap in completion rates between the boys and the girls at secondary school. The reasons attributed to drop out at this level are costs of schooling, unfriendly school environment especially for girls and lack of anticipated future benefits of education. (Wossman, 2003). Statistics from the Central Bureau of Statistics reveal that between 2005 and 2006, the number of students who got admitted to local private and public universities decreased from 81,491 to 79,735 respectively, a 2. 5 per cent drop. However, admission of Kenyan students to Ugandan universities grew. Approximately 21,000 Kenyans have turned to Ugandan universities to achieve their dreams. Education in Uganda from primary to university level is relatively cheaper, thanks to the stronger Kenyan shilling. Kenyans spend Sh2. 3 billion a year to secure places for their children in institutions of higher learning to cash in on the cheaper education offered. (Business Daily, Africa, July 2007). The “A” level education facility in Uganda has also attracted many Kenyans. It was scrapped in Kenya in the wake of the 8-4-4 system in 1984.
The Uganda education system is based upon the 7 – 4 – 2 model — seven years in primary school, four in secondary school and two in high school before joining the university. Of the 21,000 Kenyan students studying in Uganda, 6,000 are in tertiary institutions while 15,000 are in secondary schools. (Business Daily, Africa, 2007). The use of English language in school instruction has made Kenyan students opt for Uganda rather than Tanzania where Swahili is widely used. The admission criteria in our public universities have further aggravated the situation.
Presently, a paltry 10 per cent of qualified students join local public universities. The admission has for years been based on bed-capacity. Both public and private universities cater for only 25 per cent of students who graduate from Form Four. University cut-off points are high, due to the few university places available. Even private universities can only admit a limited number. (Dr Mwiria, 2009). Out of 250,000 students who pass the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) with a mean grade of C+, only 10,000 get places in public universities (Mbalu, Joint Admissions Board, 2007).
The reviewed literature has focused on the impact of transition rates from primary school, through secondary and its effect on higher education access and equity. It also looked at cost of education as a determinant of the current trends in our higher education provision. Given these factors the Government needs to address the plight of the high numbers of children in public primary schools who miss out in secondary school and thus in institutions of higher learning. This is in light of the fact that they will eventually form a work force that is highly deficient in skills. As such Vision 2030 may not be achieved.
Studies of education outcomes often are framed in terms of the supply-side factors, but demand-side factors are also important in determining education outcomes. Participation in school is regarded here as an input and completing school with the acquisition of desired knowledge and skills is regarded as a desirable outcome . The desired outcome in this argument is thus the acquisition of the necessary skills that the country needs to drive us towards VISION 2030. These both depend also upon various demand factors at the household level and within the broader social environment (Journal of Economics Literature, 2000).
Examining both supply and demand factors in the determination of education outcomes provides a more complete framework for policymaking and assessment. In analyzing the determinants of education outcomes, education economists have studied specific aspects of supply and demand for education. Typically, such models are formulated with households on the demand side and learning institutions as the production units on the supply side (while noting that households also play a role on the supply side).
Households demand more education because there is private economic rate of return to acquiring human capital, as well as social and cultural benefits. But more education has a cost to households, especially poor and rural ones, which face serious income, asset, and credit constraints. (White, 2004). Cultural impediments to female education and formal sector employment (in the adult years) are also important demand factors. School quality and learning outcomes can play a role in both supply and demand of education, as with most goods and services. (White, 2004).
Demand factors often include judgments on the part of families about the returns to schooling in terms of marketable knowledge and skills (literacy and numeracy) compared to school costs in terms of both direct costs (fees, supplies, and uniforms) and indirect ones (loss of household labor). A favorable calculation would increase the demand for education, even by poor and rural households (Glewwe 2002). This argument is illustrated in the conceptual framework below. Conceptual Framework 4. DISCUSSION Following the implementation of the free primary Education programme, there has been a surge in enrolment in primary schools.
Consequently as these pupils complete their Std 8, there’s a huge influx of graduates seeking to join secondary schools. As stated in the literature review, a large number of these pupils fail to proceed to secondary schools. This is illustrated in the chart below. PRIMARY EDUCATION COMPLETION RATES Year%age completing primary school 199945. 8 200357. 2 (Ministry of Education Data, 2006) While the figures above display an increasing trend, the percentages show that only slightly more than half the students joining STD 1 manage to complete primary school. TRANSITION RATE FROM PRIMARY TO SECONDARY
Year%age proceeding to secondary school 199238. 4 2003 46. 7 The above table an chart indicate an increasing transition from primary to secondary school from 1992. However the 2003 figure is 46. 7%,indicating that less than half of the pupils proceed to secondary school. The above chart indicates an increase in completion rates between 1999 and 2001. However a declining trend is observed between 2001 and 2003. The gap thus arises in that in spite of the efforts made by the higher learning institutions, this drop outs will never be able to reach these colleges since they are unlikely to achieve the secondary level of education.
STUDENT POPULATION IN KENYAN UNIVERSITIES YEARPOPULATION 200581,491 200679,735 Source: Central Bureau of Statistics KENYAN STUDENTS STUDYING IN UGANDA BY 2007 InstitutionPopulation Tertiary6,000 Secondary school15,000 (Tables and charts above derived from Source: Central Bureau of Statistics) The above table and chart shows the distribution of Kenyan students in Ugandan institutions as at 2007. These figures are likely to be higher over time. Recently the Government has not shown much interest in developing and expanding youth polytechnics. There arises a need to determine the fate of these thousands of pupils.
Arguments of access and equality cannot hold weight if they continue to lock out such a large number of Kenyans. The problem is further aggravated by the recent trend adopted by the Government of converting middle level colleges into universities. A case in point is the plan to convert Kenya Polytechnic and Kenya Science Teachers College into university constituent colleges (Mbalu, 2007). The emergence of free primary – and now partially free secondary- education will put more pressure on local institutions of higher education to admit more students, increasingly feeding Ugandan universities with local students.
Presently, a paltry 10 per cent of qualified students join local public universities based on bed-capacity. Both public and private universities cater for only 25 per cent of students who graduate from Form Four. (Mbalu, 2007). Already Kenyan students are injecting over 2. 3 billion Kenya Shillings annually into the Ugandan economy alone. (Business Daily, Africa, 2007). This amount coupled with the associated brain drain is too big a price for the country to pay. The government needs to address these pertinent issues urgently. Building more universities is one of the moves that can counter the problem.
Already, the building of a university in Mombasa to accommodate 5,000 students is underway. (Mbalu, 2007). On the other hand, with the East African Community integration in progress, the country faces pressure on the education system because countries like Uganda and Tanzania prefer the “A” level system of education, while Kenyans prefers the “O” level system. The country needs to set up a mechanism of getting feedback from the Kenyan populace on the preferred Education System. This issue has arisen in several forums but has always been played down by our authorities.
If the East Africa Community is to work in harmony, Kenya’s system has to change. However, changing the system in the country will be expensive, and it will take some time before the system is finally adopted. (Business Daily, Africa, 2007). The government should take measures to make education in the country more affordable. The trend can only be reversed through an expansion or increase of local universities. (Mwiria, 2007). The increased focus on universities alone will be detrimental to the country. The focus should be on all levels of tertiary education.
Only then can issues of equity and access be better addressed. The parallel programme which had been introduced as a panacea for access to higher education has recently drawn harsh criticism from sections of our public and political class. The criticism is on the basis that it is too expensive and thus a preserve for the rich. (Daily Nation, Aug 24th 2008). In view of the above discussion, there’s need for a Government (or interested parties) sponsored research to highlight each of the following concerns: •The fate of the school dropouts at primary level on or before sitting for KCPE exams. The fate of the students who drop out of school before or after sitting for KCSE exams. •The gap in provision of higher education in Kenya that necessitates the huge influx of Kenyan students into neighboring countries, especially Uganda. The findings of such a study are likely to give insight into equity issues that continue to deny many young Kenyans an opportunity to even get closer to achieving Higher Education. It will also address the pertinent issues of educational access as well as help us to restore our National Pride by retaining more Kenyans in our local Universities and Colleges.
This is against a backdrop of the recent tussle between Kenya and Uganda over the tiny Migingo Island. N. B The author of this paper would willingly take up the challenge to carry out such a research when funds are available. REFERENCES Bruns, Barbara, Alain M, and Ramahatra R. (2003). “Achieving Universal Primary Education by 2015: A Chance for Every Child. ” World Bank Policy Study. Glewwe, Paul. (2002). “Schools and Skills in Developing Countries: Education Policies and Socioeconomic Outcomes. ” Journal of Economic Literature 40:436-482.
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