Secondary education begins around the age of 14 and lasts for four years. However, due to delayed entry into primary school and limited educational facilities, many students, especially those from rural areas, experience late admission into the secondary education system.
Under the current system, students attend secondary school for four years before sitting for the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education exam at the end of the fourth year from October to November. The first year of secondary school is known as Form 1 and the final year is Form 4.
Due to the significant increase in primary school enrollment after primary education became free, the number of students seeking secondary education has also grown significantly. In 1963 (the start of Kenyan independence) there were 151 secondary schools with a total of 30,120 students enrolled. Today there are about 3,000 secondary schools with an enrollment of about 620,000 students.
Secondary schools in Kenya fall into three categories – government funded, harambee, and private. While government schools are fully funded, harambee schools do not receive full funding. Private schools, on the other hand, are funded and run by private organisations or individuals.
Government funded secondary schools admit students based on test results of the Kenyan Certificate of Primary Education exam. Students with the highest scores gain admission into national schools while those with average scores are selected into provincial or district schools. Harambee schools accept students with low scores. Students who fail their examinations pursue technical and vocational education.Private secondary schools in Kenya are generally expensive, offering students an alternative system of education with better or more luxurious facilities compared to public schools. They are often favoured for their prestige.