Have you ever wondered how 8-4-4 came to be?

Have you ever wondered how 8-4-4 came to be? I will tell you, and then perhaps you can understand why it became what it did. After all, if we have learnt anything from BBI, it is that everything has a basic structure; the thing that makes it what it is, its DNA if you will.

8-4-4 was “created” in Paragraphs 34, 35 and 37 of the MacKay Report of 1981 otherwise known as “The Report of the Presidential Working Party on the Establishment of the Second University in Kenya.” That University was eventually created and called Moi University

  1. Paragraph 34 reads “that the A Level segment should be scrapped altogether and that the entire educational system be suitably restructured”

  2. Paragraph 35 reads, “that university education be of at least four years (4). The first year should be spent on inducting students into university life both socially and intellectually, as well as to give the foundations for degree training, taking off from school level.”

  3. Paragraph 37 reads, “that in order to streamline the education system of the country as a whole, the present primary education system be extended from seven (7) to eight 8 years

Now, you may wonder how the history of the formation of Moi University is relevant to 8-4-4 but stay with me…

Once upon a time, President Moi wanted to establish a second university in Kenya. In addition to this very noble idea, he also had political problems to take care of; central Kenya where the bulk of his enemies, both real and imagined came from, and Luo Nyanza.

In order to actualize this plan, he appointed a Presidential Working Party led by Dr. Colin B. MacKay (A Canadian) and deputized by Prof. Douglas Odhiambo… (Keep these ones in mind). There was also an unnamed American.

The MacKay Group was given 6 months to complete their work and so they agreed, and I quote “that no issues should be considered at too great a length or reported on in extensive detail since this would be to the detriment of others.” They were so pressed for time that data gathering took a record 8 days.

MacKay and his team acknowledged that while some areas of the nation were well served in terms of primary and secondary schools, and so had probability of greater access to University Education (think Central Kenya), there were sections of the nation, particularly the arid and semi-arid areas which were at a disadvantage in terms of access to education. At the time Central Kenya had a significant number of A Level schools and the A Level exam was the university entry exam.

There was also the acknowledgement by the MacKay team that because there was a push to correct this situation through engagement with communities which previously had not seen the need to take their children to school, the knock off effect would be an increase in public demand for more post-secondary and university education facilities in the country.

This problem had been foreseen and two previous “task forces”, the Ominde Commission (1964) and the NCEOP (1976) had made some sober recommendations. The NCEOP had recommended an investment and increase of A Level institutions. They had also recommended that all students at form 4 transition to to form 5 and 6. The Ominde report on the other hand recommended the establishment of junior colleges.

The MacKay Commission however, had a different mindset. Their cure to the need for more A Level facilities was to abolish A-Level schools because, and I quote, “clearly, the A Level scheme of education now gives false hopes to far too many students regarding their potential capacity for university education.” If that irritates you, they went further to say that the cost of setting up secondary schools and having all students transition to form 5 and 6 was too high. Simply said, the government of the time had other priorities.

The committee also seemed to believe that a broadening of opportunity and expansion of places for students could also serve to correct the impression that a university degree could only be the possession of a small, educated elite. Increasing numbers of graduates would serve to challenge those already holding degrees. I have quoted that bit verbatim from paragraph 5 of that report.

Remember what I said about the bulk of A Level institutions being in Central Kenya and therefore the need to invest and build more in other parts of the country? Remember also that the creation of Moi University was supposed to cure some political problems (including the “problem” that alot of intellectuals/professors came from Luo Nyanza)? Well, the MacKay report held that the University needed to be established far away from the capital (read Eldoret) and they then they eliminated the need for A Level altogether. Not because of any research done or need but because the government then could not be bothered to build more A Level secondary schools and Moi needed to dilute the dominance of the two tribes that were a headache for him.

A Level was to be replaced with an extra year at University, which should have been spent inducting students into university life both socially and intellectually, as well as to give the foundations for degree training, taking off from school level. This never happened. One is called to University for a specialized program (it is what senior secondary at CBC is trying to cure).

8-4-4 therefore was not about addressing the perceived challenges of the system before it. It was consequential, accidental even. It was the accidental consequnce of establishing Moi University and using its creation to stifle regions. It was the first of many plans to equalize poverty rather than empowering the disenfranchised.There was no grand plan…no consultation, no research, no need to fill. The methodology used to come up with it was an insult to this country. Its very DNA was flawed.

It was a political process that we have been trying to fix and work out ever since. And because it was fatally flawed from the beginning, all interventions only served to butcher it and make it worse.

Do you remember the vice chair of the MacKay commission Prof Odhiambo? Well, in 2012 Prof Odhiambo was the chair of the task force to reform education and his first recommendation was to do away with 8-4-4.

Going back to 8-4-4 is not safe or the right thing to do…and frankly speaking, there is no fixing it. We have progressed inspite of it, not because of it.

Everytime you start something new, it has growing pains, and it is easy to think that the past is better and less painfull. Its the same with CBC. Its experiencing growing pains and so we are romanticizing 8-4-4 and painting it as something it wasnt.

Lets demand for better implementation of CBC. 8-4-4 and what it had become is Egypt… the one of the 10 plagues, not the one with the pyramids.

Lets not go back there.

PS: Just FYI, Moi University was established in 1984 and 8-4-4 was rolled out in 1985


I think the idea of opening up university education to more people was a good one, and the same was tied to the idea of doing away with the A levels, which was also a good one since it made sure more individuals had a chance at getting into university. Otherwise opportunities that some of us have gotten are directly related to those changes.

in my opinion CBC was not well thought out, there is no way you are going to add 2 extra classes in the existing highschool structure, given it’s already congested, and just like in the case of 8-4-4 there is no way the government is going to avail such resources, and now we have a case where 15/16 year olds will be in primary school, most of the sport and arts talent that was being moulded in high schools will most likely go to waste since primary schools don’t have that structure - a whole generation will be messed up.

They should have worked with the 8-4-4 structure and seek to change the content, lakini hizi egos za politicians and some academics who felt slighted by 8-4-4 will and have just created bigger problems, our is a resource problem not a curriculum or structure one.


So CBC is also a brainchild of the same Odhiambo guy who made bad recommendations before?


CBC is practically the old system.


The problem with the old system was when one was unable to make it to uni.
Those two years would appear to have been wasted. There were no clear options.
You ended up having to compete with form four leavers for further studies.

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8.4.4 was okay. The curriculum was pure shit, it was more theory than practical. Kalonzo had a report for it in the 90s on improvements. Having a learned population would not be in the political bigwigs interests

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public education is a zombie factory

8-4-4 was watered down by the culture of shortcuts and corruption. Nowadays teachers assist the kcpe and kcse candidates to cheat in exams