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Which is the Better System of Education, 8-4-4 or IGCSE?

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In 1985 former Kenyan President Daniel Arap Moi, introduced the 8-4-4 System of education, which adopted 8 years of primary education, 4 years of secondary education and 4 years of university education. Since 1985, public education in Kenya curriculum has been based on an 8-4-4 system. The examining body is mandated to test students after 8 years primary level and 4 years secondary level through the Kenya National Examinations Council KNEC. KNEC then offers national exams to all students who register with the body.

After 8 years of Primary education, KCPE is offered and the subjects tested include Mathematics, English, Kiswahili, Social Studies, Science and Religious Studies (Christian/Islamic/Hindu). After 4 years of secondary education, KCSE examinations are offered and the subjects tested include;

  • Group 1: (All Subjects to be offered) English, Kiswahili and Mathematics or Mathematics Alternative “B” 
  • Group 2: (At least two subjects must be offered) Biology, Physics, Option “A”, Chemistry, General Science - for Option “B”
  • Group 3: (At least one subject must be offered) History & Government, Geography, Christian Rel. Education, Islamic Religious Education - only one to be taken and Hindu Rel. Education.  The seventh (7) subject can be obtained from the remaining subjects either one Science in Group 2 or one subject from the remaining subjects in Group 3, or any other subject from Groups 4 and 5.
  • Group 4: Home Science, Art and Design, Agriculture, Woodwork, Metalwork, Building Construction, Power Mechanics, Electricity, Drawing and Design, Aviation Technology and Computer Studies.
  • Group 5: French, German, Arabic, Kenya Sign Language, Music and Business Studies.

The International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) is a globally recognized qualification, taken at the Class 10 level, similar to the Class 10 examinations of the CBSE and ICSE or the middle years Programme of the IB.   IGCSE, formed in 1988, is a comprehensive two-year programme, spread over Class 9 and 10, and leads to the final examinations offered every year in May and November.  IGCSE assessment is conducted by two UK assessment bodies: Edexcel (also known as London Examinations) and Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) (see below).

A student who has passed IGCSE is eligible for any +2 level qualification, like Class 12 CBSE/ ICSE or any international pre-university programme, like the IB Diploma, Advanced Placement Diploma (US), and A/AS Level & AICE (UK). Like other modern programmes, IGCSE offers a wider range of subjects and encourages high academic standards through a practical approach to teaching and learning. Assessment is not limited to conventional written papers and they consist of a variety of tests e.g. oral and listening tests.  The assessment is aimed at a wide ability range of students, with an eight-point grading scale, from A+ to G, with A+ being the highest.

There are five Subject Groups in IGCSE with several subjects to choose from, in each group:

  • Group 1:  Languages (First Language, Second Language, Foreign Language, etc)
  • Group 2:  Humanities and Social Sciences (Geography, English Literature, History, etc)
  • Group 3:  Sciences (Biology, Chemistry, Physics, etc)
  • Group 4:  Mathematics (Mathematics, Additional Mathematics, etc)
  • Group 5:  Creative, Technical & Vocational (Accounting, Business Studies, Computer Studies, Music, etc)

The IGCSE curriculum has its own fair share of weaknesses especially in literature because for one it does not expose learners to African or Asian books yet there are so many great African writers. However the way the curriculum is structured is so relevant to the western world, learners leave the school set knowing what they want from life and how to proceed to the next level. The greatest strength 8-4-4 has is that the learners are very disciplined and exposed to different cultures from various subjects taught in schools.  The most basic thing that can be done for learners in Kenya is to make a curriculum that is relevant to the Kenyan context, practical rather than theoretical in nature. If all the good of 8-4-4 and IGCSE systems could be incorporated into one system, then Kenya can have a great system of education. 


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