The secondary cycle lasts four years. At the end of the fourth year, students take examinations administered by the KNEC, which lead to the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE).
Thirty subjects are currently offered at the academic secondary level, grouped into six learning areas:
- Languages (English, Kiswahili, Arabic, German, French)
- Sciences (mathematics, chemistry, physics, biology)
- Applied Sciences (home science, agriculture, computer studies)
- Humanities (history, geography, religious education, life skills, business studies)
- Creative Arts (music, art and design)
- Technical Subjects (drawing and design, building construction, power and mechanics, metal work, aviation, woodwork, electronics)
In the first two years of secondary education, students take as many as 13 subjects. This is narrowed down to eight subjects in the final two years, with three core and compulsory subjects taken by all students: English, Kiswahili and Mathematics. Students must also take two science subjects, one humanities subject, either one applied science or one technical subject chosen from the pool of subjects above. The subjects offered will depend on individual schools and what they can offer in terms of learning resources and teachers.
Students are tested in four subject groups for the KCSE school leaving examination. The three subjects in Group 1 (English, Kiswahili and mathematics) are compulsory. The final grade on the KCSE is an average of the scores achieved in the best eight subject examinations. Where a candidate sits for more than eight subjects, the average grade is based on the best eight scores. A final grade of C+ is required for university entry, although higher scores are required for some public universities. Admission to programs leading to certificates and diplomas at polytechnics requires a D+ or C- average, respectively.
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