It is a popular misconception in Kenya that the British curriculum or National Curriculum of England is a piece of cake; at least compared to our system (8-4-4- which is set to change) which was based on the curriculum.

The idea that the “British system” is the easy way out cannot be further from the truth Students who come to GEMS from other systems and topped national examinations do need a lot of extra attention when they join, to transition to NCE. However, it is not a burdensome system and focuses on quality of work rather than quantity.

The British curriculum is definitely very well respected all over the world for its quality and focus on the wholesome development of the child. The system is definitely ‘scholarly’ but balances the academic and pastoral life of students very well.


There are 5 Key stages; Early years and foundation stage for 2 - 5 year olds. Key Stage 1 for years 1,2,3, Key Stage 2 for years 4,5,6 which ends Primary Education. Key Stage 3 starts the Secondary for years 7,8, and 9, Key Stage 4 for years 10 & 11, and finally Key Stage 5 which is Years 12 & 13.

In Primary, the Core Subjects are English, Mathematics and Science

In addition to the core subjects, there is an emphasis on the development of other skills e.g. leadership, IT, creativity, social, etc. Students who go through this system ‘explore’ the world from a very young age and are very aware of not just their local surroundings but of global circumstances as well.

Students take progression tests (set by schools) before they advance to the next year. In years 6 and 9, there are “Checkpoints’ (set by external examiners) where the students take tests whose results are analyzed by the respective exam bodies to ensure they are progressing according to international benchmarks.

At the end of Year 11 they take their IGCSEs (International General Certificate of Secondary Education), followed by AS (Advanced Subsidiary) at the end of Year 12 and A (Advanced) level exams at Year 13. In some schools (like GEMS) students can opt for the BTEC Diploma (a career-based qualification with emphasis on practical knowledge and skills e.g. BTEC Sports) rather than A-level exams at Key Stage 5.

In year 11, students take at least nine subjects which comes down to four at year 12 and at year 13 they can drop one and take a minimum of three. This is because at the advanced (A) level they are required to have in-depth knowledge of the subjects they take.

While the general structure of the curriculum is the same, there are different programme and examination bodies; the most recognized being the Cambridge programme and Pearson’s Edexcel. These bodies are also tasked by the British Government to ensure that the schools all over the world that offer this curriculum meet the set standards.

What are the advantages of the British Curriculum over the Kenyan system? Kodek Mose, GEMS Nairobi’s Head of BTEC Programmes and Examination officer summarizes these as:

“The British curriculum is skills-based and emphasizes on knowledge application while the Kenyan system emphasizes on simply knowledge and ultimately exam success”

While there are many other differences, it is safe to say that ultimately, in the job market worldwide, an applicant who went through the British curriculum has an advantage over another who went through the local system (with the same qualifications) if for nothing else, their global view and practical approach to the workplace.

Difference between the 8-4-4 system and the British system

The 8-4-4 system is an education system that was used in Kenya and Tanzania, while the British system is a system of education that is used in the United Kingdom.

There are several differences between the two systems, including the following:

  • Age of entry: In the 8-4-4 system, children start school at the age of six, while in the British system, they start at the age of four or five.
  • Duration of primary education: In the 8-4-4 system, primary education lasts for eight years, while in the British system, it lasts for six years.
  • Secondary education: In the 8-4-4 system, secondary education lasts for four years and is divided into two phases: lower and upper. In the British system, secondary education lasts for five years and is divided into two phases: lower and upper.
  • Examinations: In the 8-4-4 system, students take the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examination at the end of primary school and the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examination at the end of secondary school. In the British system, students take the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) examination at the end of secondary school and the A-Level examination if they want to go to university.
  • Curriculum: The 8-4-4 system has a curriculum that focuses on vocational skills and practical training, while the British system has a more academic curriculum that emphasizes theoretical knowledge.

Pros of the British education system

  • High quality of education: The British education system is renowned for its high quality of education. This is due to the well-developed curriculum, experienced teachers and well-equipped schools.
  • Strong emphasis on academic excellence: The British education system places a strong emphasis on academic excellence, which helps to prepare students for future academic pursuits.
  • Recognized worldwide: British qualifications are recognized worldwide, which makes it easier for Kenyan students to pursue further education or work opportunities abroad.
  • Broad curriculum: The British education system offers a broad curriculum, which allows students to explore a range of subjects and interests.
  • Critical thinking skills: The British education system promotes critical thinking skills, which are essential for success in both academic and professional pursuits.
  • Student-centered learning: The British education system places a strong emphasis on student-centered learning, which encourages students to take ownership of their education and develop independent learning skills.
  • Well-rounded education: The British education system focuses on developing well-rounded students who are equipped with not only academic knowledge, but also practical skills and social skills.

Cons of the British education system

  • Lack of relevance to Kenyan culture and context: The British education system was designed for students in the UK and may not adequately address the needs and interests of Kenyan learners. The curriculum may not reflect local cultures, languages, and traditions.
  • Focus on exams and rote learning: The British education system in Kenya places a lot of emphasis on examinations and standardized tests, which may lead to an over-reliance on rote learning and memorization rather than critical thinking, creativity, and problem-solving skills.
  • Inequitable access and quality: The British education system in Kenya may be limited to urban areas and private schools, leaving rural and disadvantaged communities without access to quality education. Additionally, the quality of education may vary widely, depending on the resources and expertise of the school.
  • Limited opportunities for vocational training: The British education system in Kenya may not adequately prepare students for vocational careers or entrepreneurship, which are important for economic development and reducing unemployment.
  • High cost: The British education system in Kenya may be expensive, especially for low-income families, making it difficult for many students to access quality education.

Best IGCSE Schools in Kenya

The establishment of international schools in Kenya stretches back to colonial days when European immigrants built special schools.

After independence, the schools were opened up to all.

International schools mainly admit the children of personnel of foreign embassies, foreign business communities, and other international organizations.

Kenyan students keen to gain international qualifications are also enrolled.

The rise of IGCSE schools in Kenya reflects the desire for foreign education and qualifications.

All foreign schools are private, and most offer a British curriculum leading to GCE/IGSCE certificates.

Others provide the North American High School Diploma, International Baccalaureate (IB), and European Baccalaureate (EB) diplomas.

Here are some of the most outstanding Best IGCSE Schools in Kenya.

1. Braeburn School

Since its founding, the school has developed into one of the most prestigious international school groups in East Africa.

The school has more than 3,600 students aged 2 to 18 years old.

Braeburn is home to sixteen schools with nine sites.

It is also considered one of the most successful IGCSE schools in Kenya.

The institution has distinguished itself by generating some of its most disciplined kids.

Location: Gitanga Road, Lavington

Telephone: 020-3875573, 3878161, 3872316

Website: www.braeburn.com

2. Riara International School

Riara International School offers a high-quality creative approach to increase learning and accomplishment.

The institution ensures pupils build excellent intellectual foundation skills for life.

Location: Along Riara Road, Off Ngong Road, Nairobi.

Contact: 0703 038 500.

3. Brookhouse School

Also known as Brookhouse International School, it accepts both day and boarding students.

Students can enroll in an early years program, preparatory school, and secondary school that adheres to the British National Curriculum.

Cambridge International Examinations (ICE) and Edexcel Boards administer the examinations.

Contact Information Address: Magadi Road, Lang’ata

Telephone: 020 2430260

Website: www.brookhouse.ac.ke

4. Light International School

Light International is a Kenyan international school with five branches in Nairobi, Mombasa, and Malindi.

The British curriculum is used in all schools, from kindergarten to A level.

Contact: 0703 200 002.

5. International School of Kenya

The International School of Kenya (ISK) is a Nairobi preschool through grade 12 institution.

This school offers students the option of pursuing either an International Baccalaureate or a North American high school diploma.

The MSA has accredited ISK, and it is one of the largest IGCSE schools in Nairobi, Kenya.

Additionally, the school is affiliated with the Association of International Schools in Africa (AISA).

International School of Kenya (ISK) is Kenya’s most costly secondary school, offering IGCSE courses.

For a child to study in this school comfortably, a parent will part with a staggering Kshs.2.7 million a year.

This fee structure renders the institution restricted to ex-pats and wealthy Kenyans.

Contact Information Address: Westlands

Telephone: 020-4183622

Website: www.isk.ac.ke

6. Nairobi Academy

Nairobi Academy is a coeducational institution serving students ages 2 to 19.

The school’s curriculum prepares students for the International General Certificate of Secondary Education and the General Certificate of Education.

Lang’ata Road, Adjacent to Mamba Village.

7. International Hilltop School

The Hillcrest International School has asserted its commitment to the success of its pupils.

The school was founded in 1965 by long-time government official Frank Thompson and educator Dorothy Noad with the establishment of their preparatory kindergarten.

One of the best IGCSE schools in Kenya, it expanded from a nursery school to a secondary school.

It is a member of the IAPS, which enables it to participate in the worldwide British Curriculum conglomerate.

Location of Contacts: Karen-Lang’ata

Telephone: 020-8067783

Website: www.hillcrest.ac.ke

8. Crawford International School

It is situated along Ngenda Road in Tatu City, 5 kilometers from Thika Superhighway exit 11.

Contacts: +254 020 765 1053, +254 020 708 995254

9. Peponi School

The school was founded in 1989 on a 45-acre plot of land.

The institution is independent of the English language.

At 16 years of age, children take their school leaving exams.

Location: Ruiru, Kenya

Telephone: +254 67 25058 Website: www.peponihouseschool.co.ke

10. Svenska Skolan I Nairobi

The majority of students attending Svenska Skolan in Nairobi are from Scandinavian nations.

The institution offers lessons to both elementary and secondary students.

Teachers of Svenska are fluent in Norwegian, Finnish, Danish, and Swedish.

Contact Information

Address: Malindi Road off Ngong Road, Nairobi

Tel: +254 20 386 65 44

Website: www.ssn.or.ke

11. Nairobi Japanese School

The school offers Japanese-language instruction.

The Japanese government has sanctioned its curriculum.

Location: Karen, Nairobi

Telephone: +254 302578554

Website: njs2011.web.fc2.com

12. Rosslyn Academy

The private Christian school was established to offer a North American curriculum to children of expatriates in the country.

Rosslyn Academy has classes from preschool through the twelfth grade.

Before, most of its students transferred to the Rift Valley Academy when they reached the ninth grade.

Contacts Location: Nairobi

Phone number: 020-7122168 9.

13. Deutsche Schule Nairobi/German School Nairobi (DSN)

The school serves the children of German ex-pats in Kenya.

Its curriculum follows the German system of education.

At the eighth-grade level, students are taught geography in English.

In contrast, history is taught bilingually (German/English) when pupils reach 9th grade, except for the Day of German Unity in October.

Additionally, they observe all Kenyan national holidays.

Location: Limuru Road, across from Village Market, Nairobi

Telephone: 0721-258417

Website: www.dsnairobi.de

14. Lycee Denis Diderot

The school’s lessons are taught in French and emphasize the French education system.

Location: Kilimani, Nairobi

Telephone: (254) 020 2437714

Website: www.diderot.ac.ke

15. Rusinga School

Kenyan private Christian IGCSE schools adhere to the British National Curriculum.

Until ninth grade, students follow the national curriculum designed for the Kenyan market.

When students reach 10th and 11th grade, they transition to an IGCSE curriculum developed by the University of Cambridge.

Location: Lavington, Nairobi

Phone number: +254 722205341

Website: www.rusinga.ac.ke

16. GEMS Cambridge International School

The school is an English-speaking institution that offers instruction from the foundation level to the thirteenth grade.

As with all other foreign schools in Kenya, uniforms are required.

GEMS Cambridge provides its graduates with IGCSE and A-level exams in the British format.

17. Pembroke House School

It’s a British Common Entrance (BCE) school founded in 1927.

It has educated boys and girls for almost 85 years, making it one of the oldest foreign schools in Kenya.

Most white settlers were in the Naivasha area, so the school was initially intended for white nobility.

Pembroke House has also maintained high intellectual, economic, and moral standards about the upbringing of students that attend there for their education.

Contacts Address: Gilgil

Telephone: 020-2312323

Website: www.pembrokehouse.sc.ke

18. Greensteds School

On a 50-acre plot of property 17 kilometers south of Nakuru town, the school was established in 1936.

Greensteds school offers A-levels and IGCSE English curricula, with courses ranging from science and maths to French as a second language.

Greensands is a coeducational boarding and day school with an English curriculum of the highest caliber.

Location: Mbaruk neighborhood, Nakuru

Telephone number: 050-50770

19. Turi, St. Andrews School

Having pursued all routes to become the leading IGCSE school in Kenya, the institution has plenty to brag about.

Since its foundation, the school has grown into a boarding institution that provides education of the highest caliber.

This school attracts students from East Africa and beyond, making it one of the most desirable international schools.

The school was founded to provide for settlers’ children in the Highland regions of Kenya.

Location: Molo

Telephone: +254 (0) 0722 209750 or +254 (0) 20 2025709

Website: standrewsturi.com

20. Braeburn Kisumu International School (BKIS)

Students at the school range in age from 2 to 16 years old.

The group is affiliated with the Braeburn International consortium of schools.

It adheres to the Wale and English National curricula.

Physical Location: Aput Lane, Kisumu

Phone number: +254 (0) 720 655 200

Website: braeburnschool.braeburn.com

21. Blenheim High School

It is one of the upcoming IGCSE curriculum high schools in Kenya.

It was founded in 2009 after partnering with the Kisumu day high school.

The partnership has allowed students from both schools to become well-versed in the culture of the other.

Contact information: Blenheim High School, Longmead Road, Epsom, Surrey

Telephone: 01372 745333

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