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An International Centre of Excellence in Public Policy and Research

Towards Attainment of Gender Equality in Kenya’s Education Sector

Introduction

Kenya has nearly achieved gender parity in education at all levels, ensuring inclusive, quality education for all by 2030 in line with the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) No. 4. The enactment of the Constitution of Kenya in 2010, and the Basic Education Act of 2013, emphasizes the right to education for all children, regardless of gender. These legislations also emphasize the elimination of gender discrimination in schools. Other adopted legislations include UNESCO’s 2015 guidelines, which has helped the government to move towards achieving gender parity in education since then. A Gender Parity Index (GPI) of between 0.97 and 1.03 is considered balanced, below 0.97 favours males, and above 1.03 favours females. The enactment of the 2007 and 2015 Education and Training Sector Gender Policy in Kenya was the cornerstone in eradicating gender discrimination. Kenya has shown dedication to gender equality by endorsing global agreements such as showing commitment to various international conventions and agreements, including the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG-4) on Quality Education, Education for All (EFA), and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). These commitments reinforce the government’s dedication to achieving gender parity in education and have led to closure of gender gaps in primary and secondary education over the years.  

Gender equality is an important policy concern, particularly in education. It signifies equal rights, responsibilities, and opportunities for all genders. Achieving gender equality in education leads to various societal benefits, including poverty reduction, improved maternal health, lower child mortality, enhanced HIV prevention, and reduced violence against women. Studies show that each additional year of schooling for girls can increase their adult earnings by up to 20%. Despite government efforts and policies such as the Education and Training Sector Gender Policy, gaps persist. For instance, girls now outnumber boys in secondary education, but women’s literacy rates lag. Adolescent girls often face barriers such as early pregnancies and societal expectations, leading to school discontinuation. This blog explores Kenya’s progress in gender equality in education, identifies remaining gaps, and offers policy recommendations.

Current Status on Equity in Education

Over the recent past, Kenya has made significant strides towards achieving gender parity in education on a national scale. Analysis reveals gender disparities in terms of access, survival rate and transition to higher levels of education. This gap, which predominantly favours males, becomes more pronounced as one progresses up the educational hierarchy. In general, government interventions through programmes, such as Free Primary Education (FPE), Free Day Secondary Education (FDSE) and the 100% transition from primary to secondary, all aimed at having all children attain basic education, are bearing fruits. Other measures outlined in the policy documents include: appointing qualified female education managers at school and administrative levels to help promote gender balance in leadership positions within the education sector; allowing girls who drop out of school due to pregnancy to re-enter the education system; established affirmative action programmes to support and encourage the enrolment and retention of girls in schools; providing financial support, scholarships; and mentorship opportunities specifically for girls; offering courses with flexible scheduling and innovative delivery methods, such as the use of information and communication technologies to increase access to higher education for both males and females.

The figure below shows the Gender Parity Index (GPI) in enrolment of students in primary, secondary and university. The figure also shows the survival and transition rates for boys and girls across various education levels (primary, secondary, and university) over the years from 2018 to 2022.

Figure 1: GPI in enrollment, transition, and survival rate, 2018-2022

Source: Ministry of Education; Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (Various)

The gender parity index in Early Childhood Development and Education (ECDE) moved from 0.95 in 2009 to 1.05 in 2021, indicating a transition from a male majority to a female majority over the period. In primary education, there has been an achievement in gender parity in enrolment, with the Gender Parity Index (GPI) being around 0.97. This indicates a slightly lower enrolment rate for girls compared to boys. There are slightly more boys than girls enrolled from Grade 1 to Class 6.

At the secondary education level, the situation changes. The GPI in enrolment surpasses 1, signifying a higher enrolment rate for girls. This trend grows over the years, with the GPI reaching around 1.04 by 2022 indicating gender disparity favouring females. The GPI in enrolment for university education shows an advantage for boys, but this gap has been decreasing over the years. For example, by 2022, the GPI had increased to around 0.84, indicating reducing gender gap in university enrolment. The Gender Parity Index in secondary school and university is not within the acceptable range of between 0.97 and 1.03, implying that there is gender disparity in access to secondary education favouring girls and university enrolment in favour of boys.

Comparing the transition rate from primary to secondary level education, a higher proportion of girls were successfully moving from one educational level to the next compared to boys. In 2020, both genders experienced significant increase, with boys at 91.9% and girls at 90.0%. However, in 2021, there was a considerable drop, with boys at 77.4% and girls at 79.5%. By 2022, there was a slight recovery, with boys at 76.7% and girls at 80.5% indicating girls still having higher transition rate compared to boys.

Among the cohort that joined Grade 1 in 2013, a higher percentage of girls (86.2%) completed primary education compared to boys (79.7%) (Ministry of Education, 2020). This indicates that girls showed a higher survival rate in primary education within that cohort compared to boys. The survival rates of both boys and girls in secondary schools from Form 1 to Form 4 indicate that, in 2018, boys had a slightly higher survival rate at 82.2% compared to girls at 81.9%. However, in 2019, both genders experienced substantial increases in survival rates, with boys reaching 94.9% and girls at 94.55%. This trend continued into 2020, with both boys and girls maintaining a high survival rate of 96.4% (Ministry of Education, 2021). The survival rate indicates boys and girls who enrolled in the first grade of secondary education in 2017 were able to survive up to the final grade of secondary education at 96.4% each. There was parity in survival rates between boys and girls.

The Gender Parity Index (GPI) for Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) enrolment shows male dominance from 2018 to 2021, with GPI values ranging from 0.76 to 0.80, indicating larger proportion of male students enrolling in TVET programmes compared to their female counterparts. However, in 2022, the GPI increased significantly to 0.86, indicating an improvement in gender parity because of targeted efforts to encourage and support female participation in TVET, under the National Policy on Gender and Development of 2019.

In 2019, the Kenya Violence Against Children Survey (VACS) revealed that 49% of girls and 48% of boys aged 13-17 experienced physical violence. Additionally, 11% of girls and 4% of boys reported experiencing sexual violence. Academically, girls who experience sexual violence tend to exhibit poorer performance, decreased participation in school activities or, in some cases, may even drop out due to lowered self-esteem, reduced focus, and heightened anxiety. In the long term, SRGBV significantly diminishes the learning potential of affected students (UNGEI, 2013).

Education Policy on Gender Equality

Policy reforms

The government has undertaken policy reforms to align education with constitutional provisions on equality and non-discrimination. To align the education sector with Article 27(3-8) under the 2010 Constitution of Kenya, legislations have been enacted by Parliament to establish the necessary legal and regulatory framework for comprehensive education reform. The Sessional Paper No. 14 of 2012 aimed to harmonize education with the constitutional provisions and laid the groundwork for key Acts of Parliament in 2012 and 2013, which were instrumental in driving policy reforms such as reducing gender parity.

School safety

Kenya, as a signatory to the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, has implemented legislative and policy measures to ensure child protection and school safety. The Children’s Act (2001, revised in 2012) prohibits discrimination, torture, cruel treatment, sexual exploitation, and physical punishment of children. It emphasizes the right to protection from abuse, neglect, and all forms of violence. The Ministry of Education’s Gender Policy in Education (2007) addresses the risks faced by girls in schools and promotes measures to eliminate factors such as sexual harassment, discrimination, and gender stereotyping. The Kenya Sexual Offences Act (Act No. 3 of 2006) and the Basic Education Act (Act No. 14 of 2013) further support these efforts by endorsing policies against gender discrimination and corporal punishment in schools.

Gender equity

The Education and Training Sector Gender Policy (2015) is a cornerstone in this effort. It aimed to bridge gender disparities in education, with a special focus on establishing the National Gender Equality Commission by an Act of Parliament in August 2011, to combat gender disparities and discrimination. This commission succeeded the Kenya National Human Rights and Equality Commission, pursuant to Article 59 of the Constitution, whose main objective includes championing gender equality and equity at a national level, and to coordinate and facilitate gender mainstreaming in the broader landscape of national development. As a result, Kenya is making positive strides towards achieving Education for All (EFA) goals. The government has implemented several interventions to support this goal, including the introduction of Low-Cost Boarding Schools and Mobile Schools in Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs), the initiation of Free Primary Education (FPE) in 2003, and the introduction of Free Day Secondary Education (FDSE) in 2008.

All these measures have resulted in improved gender equality and better opportunity for boys and girls in schools and universities. Despite these initiatives, the government continues to encounter obstacles in addressing parts of gender equality issues in the education sector.

Conclusion and Recommendations

Kenya has made progress in achieving gender parity in its education system, with successes in areas such as pre-primary and primary education. However, gender disparities persist in secondary and tertiary education. Initiatives such as the Free Primary Education (FPE) and 100% transition from primary to secondary education have contributed to this progress. Yet, the Gender Parity Index (GPI) in certain areas such as technical and vocational education still reflects male dominance. Addressing gender-based violence (GBV) remains crucial, as it has direct implications on academic performance and overall well-being of students.

Authors: Powel Murunga , KIPPRA Young Professionals

Purity Machio, KIPPRA Young Professionals

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