Education is highly valued in Kenya, with many families making huge sacrifices to send their children to school. The education system has undergone significant changes over time, and you can choose between public, private and international schools.

Public primary and secondary schools in Kenya are free of charge, but the lack of funding in many schools means a shortage of qualified teachers and limited resources, particularly in rural or impoverished areas. While there are some good government schools in Kenya, especially in major cities, most expats opt to enrol their children in private or international schools, which tend to be less disruptive to a child’s education, especially if you're only in Kenya for a short time.

Public schools in Kenya

globe atlas next to educational supplies and apples

The standard Kenyan education system consists of eight years of primary school, four years of secondary school and four years of university education. With the introduction of this system, if your children complete their primary education in public school, they will receive the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE), and if they complete their secondary schooling, they will receive the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE).

There are no fees for primary and secondary education, but additional expenses such as uniforms, lunches and stationery are usually required. Kenyan public schools have varying capacities, impacting their resources and what subjects they offer. The core subjects are English, Kiswahili and maths. The language of instruction is English, although Swahili is taken as a compulsory subject throughout primary and secondary schools.

Kenyan education is split into:

  • kindergarten (ages 4 to 5),
  • primary school (ages 6 to 14),
  • secondary school – academic or technical and trade schools (ages 14 to 18), and
  • university (age 18 and older).

After primary school, high-performing students can attend national secondary schools, though provincial schools are also available. At the secondary level, children can attend an academic school or a technical and trade school.

Academic schools offer a broad scope of subjects grouped into languages, sciences, applied sciences, humanities, creative arts and technical subjects. Technical secondary schools give your children a more practical approach to learning, preparing them for the workforce. Regardless of the type of school (academic or technical), all secondary school graduates are eligible for university, depending on their grades.

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Private schools in Kenya

Private schools in Kenya are a good option, especially if you're from the UK, as their systems are similar. These schools offer enhanced educational experiences with additional programmes and extracurricular activities that foster holistic development. You’ll find that the standard of education at Kenya's private schools is superior to that of its public schools, mainly due to better funding and resources.

Private schools typically maintain smaller class sizes, allowing for more personalised attention and tailored instruction. They also have the flexibility to design their curricula, often integrating innovative teaching methods that align with modern educational practices and global standards.

Costs vary from one school to another. Basic private education is generally cheaper than sending a child to an international school, but it still comes with additional fees, such as uniforms, textbooks and extracurricular activities.

Some private schools have religious affiliations, while many follow Kenya’s national curriculum. International schools are private schools that follow curricula from around the world, such as the British or American systems and are recognised globally.

International schools in Kenya

primary school children working with coloured pencils

There is a good range of international schools in Kenya, especially in the capital, Nairobi. If you’re living in Kenya, you will find many schools that follow the British curriculum, partly because of the country's historical links with the UK.

To accommodate the growing expat community, there are also schools offering the globally recognised International Baccalaureate or the curricula of countries such as France, Germany, Sweden, America and the Netherlands.

The standard of education in international schools in Kenya is high, with qualified and experienced teachers and greater attention paid to students. Your children also have the opportunity to participate in a wide assortment of extracurricular activities, including sports, drama and music.

On the downside, fees are high. On top of basic school fees, you will need to budget for extra expenses such as textbooks, stationery, school uniforms and field trips. Some schools also provide a boarding option, which again comes at an additional cost. If you are working in Kenya and want to send your child to an international school, you should budget accordingly and try to negotiate an allowance for school fees into your employment package.

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Nurseries in Kenya

If you have young children in Kenya, you will discover a large pool of nurseries and kindergartens to select from, especially in large cities such as Nairobi and Mombasa. 

Early education is fundamental for a child's development. Research shows that the early years, particularly from birth to age five, are crucial for brain development. During this period, children develop essential cognitive, social and emotional skills that influence their future educational achievements and overall well-being. Nurseries are also great spaces for you to meet and make friends with other parents.

Many nurseries emphasise play-based learning and holistic development, ensuring a well-rounded approach to your child's growth. Some nurseries and childcare centres are attached to larger international schools, and some follow a Montessori-style approach, although you should bear in mind that some come with heavy fees.

When choosing a nursery, consider its location and proximity to your accommodation or workplace. Other factors include the teachers' qualifications, fee structure, facilities and curriculum.

Homeschooling in Kenya

Kenyan law regarding homeschooling is unclear, and there is no standard process to follow. Still, this hasn’t stopped determined parents. Many families opt for homeschooling to provide personalised education tailored to their child's learning style and pace. Some prefer incorporating cultural or religious values into their children's education. Others choose homeschooling for safety reasons or for the flexibility it offers, accommodating travel or other commitments.

Social media is one of the best ways to reach out to the homeschooling community in Kenya. You can join online forums, attend local meetups or engage in co-ops where families share resources and teaching responsibilities.

You can choose a curriculum that works best for your family. Popular options include the Kenyan National Curriculum, British or American curricula and alternative methods like Montessori or Waldorf. Homeschooled children can participate in national or international exams by registering with recognised examination bodies or using learning centres that offer exam preparation and registration services.

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Special-needs education in Kenya

Kenya’s private and international schools are more likely than public schools to provide inclusive support for children with disabilities. These schools often develop Individualised Education Plans (IEPs) that cater to each child's specific needs, ensuring personalised learning experiences.

Private and international schools frequently employ trained special education teachers and therapists. They integrate children with disabilities into mainstream classrooms, fostering social interaction and peer relationships. These schools also have better access to resources, such as assistive technologies and specialised learning materials, enhancing the learning experience for children with disabilities.

In contrast, the public school system faces challenges due to a lack of resources, inadequate teacher training and limited accessibility. Many public schools do not have the necessary facilities or materials to support children with disabilities adequately.

If you are moving to Kenya, research private and international school options and contact them directly for information on the services available. This may include additional learning support sessions, therapeutic services or specialised devices adapted for students with hearing or visual impairments. Embassies also provide lists of recommended schools that integrate and include students with learning or physical disabilities.

Tutors in Kenya

Whether your children are homeschooled or attend a mainstream school in Kenya, extra classes may be desired – especially during exam time. Several online platforms can help you find a tutor in Kenya, including TeacherOn and PigiaMe.

To find a suitable tutor, define the specific subjects or skills your child needs help with. Use online platforms to browse profiles, read reviews and compare qualifications. Seek recommendations from friends, family or teachers who may know qualified tutors.

Online learning and tutoring offer flexibility, allowing students to learn at their own pace and schedule sessions at convenient times. Online platforms provide a wealth of resources, including recorded lessons, practice exercises and interactive tools. Students can connect with tutors from different regions, gaining access to a broader range of expertise.

During exam time, tutors support students by creating personalised revision plans, providing practice exams and teaching stress management techniques. This tailored approach helps students focus on their weaknesses and improve their performance.

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Expat Health Insurance

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