An Analysis of the 8-4-4 System of Education in Kenya Submitted By Evelyn JepkemeiEvelyn Jepkemei 2011
2Table of ContentsIntroduction ..................................................................................................................................... 3The Impetus for Change.................................................................................................................. 3The Policy Framework .................................................................................................................... 4The Concept of Change .................................................................................................................. 6Introduction of the 8-4-4 Policy and Reaction of the Public .......................................................... 7The Implementation Process ........................................................................................................... 7Did 8-4-4 Succeed or Fail? ........................................................................................................... 10Conclusion .................................................................................................................................... 11References ..................................................................................................................................... 13
3IntroductionFormal education in Kenya was introduced by missionaries and later administered by thecolonial government. The Ominde Commission of 1964 (Republic of Kenya, 1964) proposedchanges that were aimed at shifting educational focus to the needs of the newly independentstate. It was necessary that soon after independence Africans were enabled to take charge ofrunning the nation and there was need for the education sector to reflect that change. It wasreckoned education would be instrumental in enhancing national unity and africanization of thestate. Consequently, the new state adopted a system christened 7-4-2-3 which is basicallyinterpreted as seven years of primary education, four years of lower secondary education, twoyears of upper secondary education, four years of lower secondary education, and three years ofuniversity education. The need was critical for the country to develop skilled workers to holdpositions previously held by the British. Hence, expansion of educational opportunities became apriority in the government‟s development agenda. The system was soon however criticised thatsince it was modelled after the British system, it propagated British interest and actually createda white collar job mentality among the youth.Interestingly, the new government maintained the colonial mode of addressing educationalproblems through commissions of inquiry and task forces. In 1981, The Presidential WorkingParty on the Second University was established to study the prospects of establishing a seconduniversity in the Kenya and reforming the educational system. The report of the Presidentialworking Party on the Establishment of a Second University also known as the Mackay Report(Republic of Kenya, 1981) recommended a change from the 7-4-2-3 system to an 8-4-4 system,implying eight years of primary education, four years of secondary education and four years ofuniversity education.The government adopted and implemented the proposals by the Mackay Report and 8-4-4system of education was introduced in January 1985.The Impetus for ChangeChange is considered a necessary process of development and progress. Obligatory change isoften ineffective because it does not address principal structures or attitudes and beliefs. Changeas a response to external or political pressure is least likely to succeed, whereas as an outgrowth
4of internal problem solving has the best chance of success (Fullan, 2002). According to scholars(Jordan, 2004; Gill, 2003), change is a constant feature in systems and change is often a responseto the need for improvement.In Kenya, the call for change of education system was based on the apparent limitation of theformer educational policy. Critics of the former system argued that it lacked the capacity andflexibility to respond to the changing aspirations of individual Kenyans and the labour marketneeds, in terms of new skills, new technologies and the attitude to work (Owino, 1997).The weakness of the former educational policy reportedly manifested itself throughunemployment due to lack of specific skills required for wage employment or self-employment(Elimu Kwa Wanavijiji Coalition, 2004) or because the graduates had an expectation andselective attitude towards the type of jobs they wanted to engage in (Kerre, 1997). While citingthe weaknesses of the former system, it is important to note that there was a pervasive negativeattitude towards vocational engagements ( CBS, 2002; Otiende, Wamahiu, & Karagan, 1992).King & McGrath (2000) maintain that “the 8-4-4 policy arose out of the concerns that a basicacademic education might lack the necessary content to promote widespread self employment”(p. 73). The policy that promoted 8-4-4 therefore arose from the notion that the system wouldimpart skills that would enable individuals leaving school at any level to find employment in theformal or informal sector. Essentially the new system was meant to steer the youth towards self-employment. Consequently 8-4-4 set out to promote attitudinal and skills preparations for theworld of work and especially self-employment.The Policy FrameworkThe concept of PolicyThe society is constantly undergoing change and from time to time policy underpinnings ofeducational practice are subsequently changed to reflect the dynamics in the society. Thepolicies that guide the sector form the basis of the practice in the sector. It would be important tobriefly discuss the influence of policy in education as it underpins the educational culture.Harman (1984) has articulated policy to imply:
5“the implicit or explicit specification of courses of purposive action being followed or to befollowed in dealing with a recognised [educational] problem or matter of concern, and directedtowards the accomplishment of some intended or desired set of goals. Policy can also be thoughtof as a position, or stance developed in response to a problem or issue of conflict, and directedtowards a particular [educational] objective” (p.13). Trowler, (2002) also contributes to thedefinition of policy by stating that policy the clear expression of current actions or preferredaimed at attaining certain clarified goals. Often, policy is conceptualized and created mainly atthe highest level and is assumed to be generally coherent and rational.Is policy text or action? Most of the time documents have been produced as policies, suchNational Aids Policy, Gender Policy and Non Formal Education Policy. However, scholars haveexplained that policy goes beyond text and influences action. Ball (1990) states that policy is theeconomy of power; while (Dinan-Thompson, 1998) highights that power and politics are centralto policy development and implementation. From the many different definitions of policytherefore it can be deduced that policy is a set of guidelines and values that guide governanceand practice in a given area.Policies can be classified in a number of ways usually applying a binary distinction. Mostcommonly, policies are classified by the subject or policy arena with which they are concerned,e.g. educational policy (Dinan-Thompson, 1998). The 8-4-4 policy is definitely a significanteducational policy because it commanded sweeping changes in the entire education sector inKenya.Perspectives on Policy ChangeAccording to Gill (2003), change is necessary in every organization and in every society.However, it is only proper leadership of change that delivers the desired results. Said he, “itrequires leadership to introduce change successfully” (p. 307). A number of theoreticalapproaches to the changes in public policy share a common and popular feature: policy change isthe outcome of changing preferences among political actors . In one view, (Trowler ) policychange is the outcome of changing preferences in actors or changing power assemblage betweenactors with different preferences (Ostrom, 2003). Sabatier & Jenkins-Smith, 1993) puts forthanother version of an actor‟s perspective and emphasize that policy change is normally caused by
6external system events such as changes in economic and political conditions that affect actors‟belief systems. A structural perspective emphasizes how underlying norms and values shapepolicy change. This perspective explains policy change as an outcome of shifting values orconstellations of values (Rodgers, 1983). Such shifts may in turn be caused either by internaldynamics of political institutions or external events that causes internal disruptions. In the case of8-4-4, it is interesting to note that a foreign consultant chaired to commission that proposed thechanges. Many have suggested that this was a foreign concept, while others find it a paradox thatthe former system was criticized for serving British interests yet a foreigner was instrumental inchanging the system (Owino, 1997). According to Ayiro, (2008) the 8-4-4 phenomenon was acase of “employing a foreigner to implement an idea close to the president‟s heart” (p.6).The Concept of ChangeIn analyzing the introduction of 8-4-4, it makes sense to briefly explain change and explore theconditions for successful change. In the education sector the world over, there is constant talkabout reforms. This craving for change is evidenced both in developed and developing countries(Layton, 2003). In fact, successful leaders are those that are thought to employ transformationalleading styles, which imply change (Stewart, 2006).So Why is change necessary? According to Wagner ( 2001) argue that in the arena of educationalchange, the politician‟s solution to educational problems is reform. In his view, the coomonproblem that the education sector is failing and its subsequent solution of reforms is amisdiagnosis of the real problem. He argues that education today is certainly better in terms ofpractice than it was in the past and that the problem is in the content taught which has becomeobsolete as a result of the demand of new skill sets for the present society. Instead of reformstherefore, he argues that there is need for reinvention.Anderson & Kumari (2009) have added their voice to the debate by stating that educationimprovement will not happen simply because there is a new policy, organizational structure orpractice, rather, when educational institutions become learning organizations in which thepersonnel are engaged in continuous cycles of innovations, analysis of progress and results andchange directed towards a shared vision. Earlier, Sahlberg (2005) had avered that while nationschange their curricula because the exisiting ones are not what they should be, that change should
7be a learning process. He underscores the need for in-service training of teachers, raisingawarenes among the public and dissemination of curriculum support materials to improveknowledge of the curriculum and the changes.Introduction of the 8-4-4 Policy and Reaction of the PublicThe introduction of 8-4-4 faced criticism from its beginning. Some of the fiercest critics cite poorimplementation process. According to Amutabi (2003), the implementation was done withoutadequate preparations of the implementers and the public. It is also seen as a decision taken bythe political class without adequate consultation with education experts (Sifuna, 1990; King &McGrath, 2002). The new system was resource intensive and the hurried implementation did notgive adequate time to institutions to set up the essential infrastructure. For instance the newcurriculum demanded use of workshops which schools except technical schools had to beginconstructing.Examining the introduction of 8-4-4 in the context of existing change theories advanced byscholars, it is not surprising the new changes were received with hostility. The fact that thisinnovation was seen as KANU idea; it automatically drew opposition from political opponents ofPresident Moi who was the initiator of the system. But moving into more scholarly analysis, 8-4-4 was hurriedly introduced. Apart from the Mackay Report, there was no research carried outand so the decision to change the system and even the suitability, of the subjects was notevidence based. Instead it was a presidential decree, and therefore fell short of successful changestrategies advance by scholars (Fullan, 2002; Huber & West, 2002; Gill, 2003).The Implementation ProcessThe 8-4-4 policy system was introduced because it was believed that it would empower learnerswith practical skills which would be useful to them either in wage or self employment. It wasmeant to enhance the employability of the learner and thus making self-reliance a reality.The Ministry of Education stated that the 8-4-4 policy was designed to encourage students tobecome more self-reliant and better oriented towards self-employment (Ministry of Education,Science and Technology , 2004). It contained a rather broad curriculum at both primary andsecondary levels, with a strong emphasis on practical subjects sitting alongside a rather
8traditional approach to academic subject. Business education was introduced into upper primaryas an evident of encouraging self-employment. As well as business education‟s focus onproviding basic knowledge and skills on issues such as record keeping, there was a cross-curricular emphasis on attitudinal orientation towards self employment.With regard to content, system has come under condemnation for the broadness of content andthus being burdensome to pupils. In fact, in a study carried out by Kenya Institute of Education,(1999) it became apparent that there were problems relating to overloads within and acrosssubjects. It is due to the burdensome nature of education that there were widespread incidencesof violence in schools.The Ministry of Education, charged with the responsibility of implementing the policy, assignedtwo task forces, one to assess curriculum implementation and the other to assess the cost ofimplementing the 8-4-4 curriculum (Saitoti, 2004). The recommendations of the taskforce(Ministry of Education, Science and Technology , 2004)on the curriculum recommended that “Astructure … should lead to the development of communication skills (literacy) through theteaching of mother tongue, English, and Swahili languages. The development of positive attitudetowards sciences was expected to be done through the teaching of mathematics and sciences.The development and acquisition of social and cultural knowledge, skills and attitudes will bedone through the teaching of social studies, religious education, music and physical education,art, craft and home science will provide for practical knowledge and skills” (p.4).The task force appointed to assess the cost of implementation urged caution and phasing instrategy in implementing 8-4-4 reform (Eisemon, 1988). The observations of the task forceindicated that “the cost of sustaining education system represented about 26% of the nationalbudget; The estimated cost of building and equipping more than 1300 (13,289) standard eightclasses, employing new teachers and supplying free milk to additional 437,330 students was atotal of Ksh439, 039, 516 ($ 3,337,000). But the savings of the government were projected to beless than a quarter of the total” (p.29)The task force in analyzing the implication of eight years scheme in relationship to theavailability of trained teachers reported that two-thirds of the „teaching stock‟ at the primarylevel in 1983 had one or two years of initial training. None of them was trained in technical and
9vocational subjects”. Essentially there was no human resource who could competently teach inthe system especially for the added subjects. There were no trained technical and vocationalsubjects teachers and local craftsmen could not be used since they did not have a pedagogicalbackground (Kerre, 1997; Simiyu, 2001). In February 1984 the Minister for Education and thePresident were determined to proceed with the 8-4-4 scheme and stated that there was not goingto be any more debate about it.The Kenya Institute of Education was subsequently instructed to prepare new syllabuses forstandard VII and VIII in less than a month and the District Education Officers and schools weremade responsible for ensuring that standard eight class rooms were ready in time for registrationof students in January 1985. The government employed more that 18,000 additional teachers(untrained) in order to cope with the demand of additional year (Eisemon, 1988).The new policy created opportunity for more options in technical and vocational subjects;however, it experienced serious shortages or lack of essential resources and facilities (Simiyu,2001). The cost of education invariably went up and local communities could not be mobilizedto provide the facilities required (Kerre, 1997). As a result, the policy was criticized that in washeavily theoretical owing to scarcity of infrastructure. Due to high cost of facilities and resourcesinvolved, the general public view is that the 8-4-4 education system activities be removed fromthe mainstream and be left with the informal education system such as Jua Kali sector and thenon-formal institutions such as Youth Polytechnics (Kerre, 1997).The objective of vocationalizing formal schools was to inculcate the necessary skills foremployment. Vocational subjects at the primary school level include art and crafteducation, business education, agriculture and home economics. In secondary education,vocational curriculum covers, business education, agriculture, metal and wood work, powermechanics, electrical technology and othersThe new 8-4-4 curriculum especially at primary school level reportedly had overloads in terms ofdepth and width (Kenya Institute of Education, 1999). In fact according to the KIE study, therewere also overlaps with and across subjects. This finding was also advanced by the KoechCommission and later by a needs assessment carried out by KIE (Kenya Institute of Education,1999). This factor was a huge impediment to effective learning because the pupils worked under
10great pressure. The total number of subjects taught was 13, nine of which were examinednationally at the end of the course.According to Abagi & Olweya (1999) the extended curriculum content needed to be coveredwithin a short period and this increased pressure to students and staff and thus reduced studentsperformance (lower test scores). Intrinsically, teachers resorted to drilling the students forexaminations rather than teach for mastery of content (Heyneman, 1987). Consequently, pupilswere held in school until late and even during weekends. The subjects that were not examinednationally were not taught and instead the examined subjects were taught at every availableopportunity. The pressure negatively affected the children‟s motivation to learn resulting in therise in dropouts (Owino, 1997).Did 8-4-4 Succeed or Fail?Critics generally argue that the 8-4-4 educational policy has not been a successful one due to thefactors already discussed that is failure of government to involve stakeholders, high cost ofsustaining the system, hurried implementation, lack of qualified technically and vocationallyqualified staff and weak infrastructure and general inefficiency.Although the 8-4-4 system of education was overloaded with subjects, reforms andrationalization was carried out in 1999 as part of the implementation of the recommendations ofthe Koech Report (Republic of Kenya, 1999). The subject load is now relatively low, a newcurriculum has been put in place which has addressed issues of overloads and overlaps withinand across subjects (Kenya Institute of Education, 1999).Although the issue of the shortage of teachers persists, it is more a feature of the impact of SAPsby the World Bank than an inherent feature of the 8-4-4. According to The Whirled Bank Group(2003), In addition to making children pay for education, “the World Bank and the IMF havealso forced countries to crack down on teachers”.According to Saitoti (Ministry of Education Science and Technology, 2004) the the concern onthe education system should be on quality rather than structure, the latter being just a vehicle andnot the substance; a means to an end. Structure refers to the cycles in relation to time taken to
11complete each level, yet of more critical importance is the curriculum, that is, what is containedin the school syllabus within the cycles.The current concerns therefore, as Saitoti expresses should be addressing the currentphilosophical underpinnings of the curriculum. As reforms continue on the 8-4-4 system ofeducation, my opinion is there are concerns that extend beyond how the system was introducedand the challenges of the past (UNESCO, 2004). While I find it difficult to say whether 8-4-4 is asuccess or a failure, in my opinion, the greatest weakness of 8-4-4 as a system is the fact that itsintroduction was not research based, rather it was a political decree. As such, many issues thatneeded to be addressed on the basis of research data were tackled intuitively. All educationsystems across the world are continually seeking for ways to improve (The World Bank, 2008;Anderson & Kumari, 2009; UNESCO, 2010). The society is ever dynamic and therefore thechallenges facing the sector now have to do with whether it addresses the needs of the 21stcentury, with regard to integration of ICT (Jepkemei, 2008), vocationalization of the curriculum(Makori, 2005), life skills, emotional intelligence (Ayiro, 2009) and entrepreneurship (Taatila,2010) among other skills. Currently, a taskforce has been appointed to review the educationsystem and make recommendations on the way forward.ConclusionThe criticism of 8-4-4 with relation to its policy underpinnings and implementation process hashad its merit. However it is also apparent that the criticisms are more about the structure ratherthan the curriculum and the pedagogical practice. 8-4-4 as a system should be judged on thebasis of its performance in delivering on the national goals of education. As study carried out byKIE (Kenya Institute of Education, 2010) found that the curriculum to some extent addressed thegoals of education particularly those to do with the psychomotor and cognitive domains. Ithowever pointed out that the curriculum was inept in addressing the affective domain and thusfell short of expectation in addressing issues realting to morality, patriotism and social cohesion.The study (Kenya Institute of Education, 2010) also established that the curriculum cannotadequately address the dicates of the current development blueprint, the Kenya Vision 2030(GOK, 2007) since the policy framework of Vision 2030 was put in place after the curriculumhad been reviewed. Nevertheless, the Vision 2030 recommends the reform of the secondary
12education segment in Kenya. In my view, that recommendation implies reform of the entiresector. The policy framework guiding the educational sector is contained in the Sessional PaperNo 1 of 2005 (Republic of Kenya, 2005). This paper also proposes sweeping changes includingmaking early childhood and secondary education part of basic education in accordance with theEFA and MDG initiatives (UNESCO 1990; UNESCO, 2000). Other instruments providedirection on how the education system should respond to the needs of the Kenyan society, theseinstruments include the constitution, poverty reduction strategy papers and KESSP (InternationalMonetary Fund, 2005; Republic of Kenya, 2010). It seems however that the political class is stillkeen on making intuitive decisions such as the recent upgrading of 30 schools to national status(Ole Kiyiapi, 2011). The success of 8-4-4 as a system will therefore depend on how it respondsto the demands of the society expressed in the various policy instruments.
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