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Tripartite education and inequality in Kenya: Quality effects and life chances

Wed, April 17, 10:00 to 11:30am, Hyatt Regency, Floor: Atrium (Level 2), Waterfront A


Since independence, measures to broaden access to schooling took priority in the development agenda for Kenya’s education system. Now, and in line with the SDG 4, the point has been reached where, if Kenyan schools are to retain their vitality and utility, it is crucial that quality issues be addressed. However, Kenya’s public secondary schools are arranged in a tripartite hierarchy: a tiny minority (about 5%) of students in prestigious national public schools at the top of the pyramid, a growing minority in the middle tier (about 20%), with the remaining majority (about 75%) of students forming the base of the pyramid. The selection process for entry to secondary schools, drawn from primary schools whose student outcomes vary dramatically in learning quality, reflects and powerfully reinforces this tripartite hierarchy. This paper presents a systematic analysis of the relationships between the secondary school hierarchy just outlined and primary education as a major impediment to progress toward realizing quality education for all. It also aims to demonstrate that the learning pathways that students follow in moving from primary to secondary school has massive consequences for his or her life chances.


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