Rethinking School Inspection in the Third World:  The case of Kenya

Zachariah Wanzare, O.


Many countries throughout the world have developed some means of monitoring the quality and standards of their education systems.  In most cases, the monitoring process involves supervision by inspection of educational institutions such as schools, and other aspects of the education systems.  The critical role of inspection as one of the dominant strategies for monitoring and improving the performance of education system in schools cannot be overemphasized.  Inspection is concerned, in the main, with the improvement of standards and quality of education and should be an integral part of a school improvement program.  In many countries where inspectoral system of supervision of schools is conducted, the responsibility for inspection lies with the Inspectorates.  School inspection practices, especially in Third Word countries, such as Kenya, are associated with numerous problems which, as a result, force attempts to improve education quality into the background.

This paper examines some of the problems that frustrate inspection of schools in Kenya and provides alternative strategies for improving the practice of school inspection. Also, included are some fundamental assumptions underpinning the practice of inspection, the recent attempts by the Kenyan government to improve school inspection, and the major challenges that the future school inspection system will have to address.  The chapter concludes by providing some implications for practice and for research.

Sources of information include print-media articles from Kenyan major newspapers and magazines on school inspection, professional educational journals, seminar papers written by professionals, and educational books. 



One strategy for monitoring teaching and learning in schools and for enhancing quality and raising standards which has received a great deal of attention over the years concerns supervision by inspection.  According to Clegg and Billington (1994), in reflecting on the practice of inspection by the Office For Standards in Education (OFSTED), Britain, a major purpose of inspection is “to collect a range of evidence, march the evidence against a statutory set of criteria, arrive at judgments and make those judgments known to the public” (p. 2).  Also, Maw (1996), in reflecting on the British Education (Schools) Act 1992, noted that the role of inspection in Britain is to monitor the standards, quality, efficiency, and ethos of the schools and to inform the government and the general public on these matters.  Further to this, McGlynn and Stalker (1995), who wrote about the process of school inspection in Scotland, cited the following three reasons for conducting school inspection.  These are to: (a) report on the effectiveness of education in schools and other educational institutions and to recommend action for improvement; (b) evaluate the arrangements for assuring quality in schools; and (c) provide frank and objective advice to the higher education authorities and to ensure that educational initiatives are implemented effectively.  Additionally, Wilcox and Gray (1994), in a study that explored the reactions of primary teachers, headteachers, and inspectors to school inspection in three Local Education Authorities (LEA) in Britain, reported that both inspectors and the school staff agreed that inspection had been valuable in reviewing the position of the school and indicating its way forward. 

Therefore, inspection is concerned, in the main, with the improvement of standards and quality of education and should be an integral part of a school improvement program.  The rational for this improvement is three folds (McGlynn & Stalker, 1995):  (a) the universal recognition of the right of every child in every classroom, in every school to receive a high quality education appropriate to their needs and aptitudes; (b) the effectiveness in education system is a key influence on economic well-being of every nation; and (c) the recognition of the need to equip students with the kind of education that will enable them to contribute to increasingly complex and changing society.  In many countries where inspectoral system of supervision of schools is conducted, the responsibility for school inspection lies with the Inspectorates.  For example, in Scotland, as explained by McGlynn and Stalker (1995), Her Majesty’s Inspectorate (HMI) is charged with the following major inspectoral responsibilities:  (a) to undertake a program of inspections of individual schools and colleges and of key aspects of education; (b) to monitor arrangements for quality assurance in education through the Inspectorate’s Audit Unit; (c) to provide frank and objective advice through the Inspectorate’s Chief Inspector of Schools to the Secretary of State; and (d) to ensure that educational initiatives are implemented effectively. 

Similarly, in South Africa, as noted by Chetty, Chisholm, Gardiner, Magan, and Vinjevold (1993), the Inspectorate is primarily concerned with and is divided into management functions and advisory services.  However, they argued, the functional effectiveness in terms of quality of teaching and learning and the instruments used to assess teacher competencies are highly limited.


Benefits of Inspection

Inspection, as a mode of monitoring education, offers the following major benefits (Wilcox & Gray, 1994): 

.  It gives inspectors an opportunity to observe classrooms and, thereby, a better basis for discussing the development of the school  with headteachers;

.  It gives school inspectors an opportunity to learn about the schools, the headteachers, the teachers, the curriculum, and the students and indicates which way forward;

.  It can be a potential learning experience for those involved;

.  It should provide useful information for parents in their choice of schools;

.  It leads to a better understanding of schools;

.  It enhances staff cooperation and public recognition that the school is basically on the right track; and

.  It boosts staff morale;

Also, as noted by Hargreaves (1995), inspection is a powerful way of monitoring the education system, tracking standards and performance levels over a period of time, and of identifying schools’ failures.  Furthermore, in McGlynn and Stalker’s (1995) view, findings of inspection are used to identify aspects requiring attention and improvement in individual schools; to clarify performance of education system as a whole; and to inform national and regional educational policy, practice, and development.  In addition, they argued, inspection findings are important in view of the government’s guidelines on school development planning and should provide the basis for national evaluation of education. 


Assumptions Underlying School Inspection

Inspection is built upon a number of assumptions and ideas about schools that raise the possibility that new inventions are possible.  The following four basic assumptions underlie school inspection (Hargreaves, 1995; Gray & Wilcox, 1995; Wanga, 1988):

1.  Inspection is an effective and cost-effective method for improving schools;

2.  The inspection process leads to a set of recommendations which describe the main areas requiring improvement;

3.  Improvement of schools through inspection can be gauged from the extent to which the recommendations are implemented; and

4.  Those in authority know and understand the objectives and goals of the school so well that they can assume superior academic and professional roles over teachers and pupils.


The Kenyan Context

In Kenya, responsibility for the education system is vested in the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology.  Supervision by inspection has long been and still is a major device employed by the Ministry of Education to monitor education quality in the country.  The Kenyan philosophy of education embraces “the inculcation of a high quality instruction” (Republic of Kenya, 1999).  According to Republic of Kenya, this quality has been equated with high standards, namely, a set of criteria against which an institution or system is judged.  Among the determinants of quality on education, Republic of Kenya noted, are the availability of qualified and motivated teachers, a conducive environment for teaching and learning, including the curriculum, facilities, the resources available for their provision, and the tools for evaluation.

Commenting on the government’s commitment to ensuring quality through inspection, Kipkulei (1990) stated that

The [Kenyan] government is committed to provide sound and effective management and professional services in the administration, supervision, and inspection of education and training programmes, the development and implementation of various curricula, and the production of education materials.(p. 27)

The Kenyan school inspection model has its historical roots in the colonial era, the years before 1963 when Kenya achieved her independence.  Because Kenya has been influenced greatly by the British system of education, the current practice of inspection of schools mirrors closely that of the British model from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate. 


Legal Basis of Inspection

In Kenya, inspection of schools is a function that has, over the years, been entrusted to the Ministry of Education in accordance with the provisions of the Education Act, Chapter 211, Section 18 of the Laws of Kenya (Republic of Kenya, 1980), which empowers the Minister of Education to promote the education of the people of Kenya.  According to this Act, the management and general control of the school system, in particular, is the responsibility of the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology.  The Education Act gives the Minister of Education the power to appoint school inspectors with authority

To enter and inspect any school or any place at which it is reasonably suspected that a school is being conducted at any time, with or without notice, and to report to [the Minister] with respect to the school or any aspect thereof. (Republic of Kenya, 1980, p.13)

As explained by Republic of Kenya Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology (1999), this legal statement not only confer upon the inspector the necessary authority to carry out his or her duties, but also defines the obligations and manner of performing these duties as a responsible professional.  According to Wanga (1988), the main purpose of such legal provision for school inspection is

To enable the Minister [of Education) as [a] representative of the government and the people to satisfy himself that educational standards are being maintained or improved, and that the schools and colleges are being conducted in accordance with national aims and policies.  Seen from a legal standpoint, therefore, inspection is an instrument with which the political and administrative authorities maintain a necessary contact with schools, teachers, and the community. (p. 19)

Therefore, inspection in Kenyan schools takes place in the context of Kenya’s hierarchical, highly bureaucratic, and authoritarian education system.

Concept of Inspection

As noted by Wanga, inspection can be conceptualized as overseeing, which involves directing, controlling, reporting, commanding, and other such activities that emphasize the task at hand and assess the extent to which particular objectives have been accomplished within the bounds set by those in authority for their subordinates.  And, according to Okumbe (1999), writing from a Kenyan perspective, inspection is an old concept in management whose basic concept is that of autocratic management aimed at catching the workers red-handed; a fault-finding attitude in management, and a one-time fact-finding activity.  Therefore, in Kenya, school inspection seems to be viewed as a process of checking other people’s work to ensure that bureaucratic regulations and procedures are followed and that loyalty to the higher authorities are maintained.  This view of inspection overlooks the professional interests and needs of the teaching personnel.  Inspection process conducted with this view in mind, may not be effective in facilitating educational quality or in improving teaching and learning in educational institutions.


Reasons For School Inspection

In Kenya, school inspection is conducted for the following six major reasons (Kamuyu, 2001; Republic of Kenya, 1994; Republic of Kenya Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology, 1999:

.  To have an overview of the quality of education in Kenya, based on agreed all-round performance indicators of the performance of an educational institution (benchmarks) and to report back to the educational institutions to enable them plan improvement strategies;

.  To supervise the implementation of school curriculum;

.  To help diagnose the problems and shortcomings in the implementation of the curriculum;

.  To identify some of the discipline problems encountered in schools;

.  To monitor and to improve teaching and learning in schools; and

.  To provide guidance to schools on how they can improve.

The purposes of inspection may be prompted by the following four major factors (Republic of Kenya Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology, 1999): (a) agreed inspection plans and work programs at national, provincial, district, divisional, or zonal levels; (b) inspectors’ personal initiatives; (c) adverse reports or anonymous correspondence from the stakeholders and school managers asking for inspection; and (d) follow-up inspection from concerns indicated in the previous inspection report.



In Kenya, inspection services and report-writing is the responsibility of the Inspectorate, the professional and consultancy arm of the Ministry of Education under the Director of Education (Republic of Kenya, 1993).  As explained by Republic of Kenya Ministry of Education (1994), the Inspectorate is charged with the responsibility of maintaining and improving educational standards in Kenyan schools and colleges and, as a result, acts as the Ministry’s intelligence wing, gathering the necessary information to feed the Ministry on the trends in standards obtained in the learning institutions.  Being a custodian of standards, Republic of Kenya Ministry of Education noted, the Inspectorate plays two major roles:  (a) a supervisory role by ensuring on behalf of the Ministry that the laid down procedures and set goals are followed and attained and (b) an advisory or professional role by liaising closely with classroom teachers to attain the required educational standards.  The Inspectorate is headed by the Chief Inspector of Schools (CIS). 

According to Republic of Kenya Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology (1999), the Inspectorate is a prime mover in steering the establishment, improvement, and maintenance of educational standards of education and, consequently, it must be fully accountable and transparent in all its standards. 



As explained by Republic of Kenya Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology, the Inspectorate has the following two major complementary objectives:  (a) quality assurance, achieved through the inspections of institutions and reporting on these inspections to the institutions and to the Ministry and (b) quality development, achieved through the work of the advisory services, the provision of staff development opportunities, and the development of learning and teaching materials, by thy advisory wing of the Inspectorate. 


Education Inspectors

As explained by Kenya Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology (1999), education inspectors (or school inspectors) are officials of the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology charged with the responsibility of identifying and providing feedback on strengths and weaknesses in educational institutions, so that these institutions can improve the quality of education provided and the achievements of their pupils, and who may inspect any educational institution – pre-school, primary, secondary or college, public or private. 

To achieve its inspectoral functions in particular, the Inspectorate endeavors to arrange some visitations to schools by inspectors to carry out general supervision or inspection, including the following activities (Chabala, 1994; Ministry of Education, 1994; Republic of Kenya Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology, 1999):  (a) checking on educational facilities; (b), monitoring, reviewing, and assessing how well educational standards are being maintained and implemented by teachers and school administrators; and (c) observing classroom teaching  by individual teachers to assess their professional competence for promotion on merit and professional guidance.  Arising from inspection, in-service training needs for teachers and headteachers are expected to be identified. 

Categories.  There are two major categories of schools inspectors in Kenya (Wanga, 1988):  (a) generalists, who include education officers charged with inspecting all areas of curriculum, especially those in charge of primary schools and (b) subject inspectors, who have both general and specialist areas and are recruited to offer advisory and consultatancy services to teachers and to headteachers on teaching of the various subject in the schools.

The recruitment of education inspectors, Kenya Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology (1999) noted, is a prerogative of the Public service Commission and is done from among serving teachers following advertised positions and through interviews. 


Problems With the Current Inspection Practices

Numerous problems are associated with the present Kenya’s system of school inspection.  The problems are those associated with the following major areas: 

(1) professionalism; (2) attitudes and commitment; (3) feedback and follow-up; (4) collaboration; (5) pre-service and in-service training; (6) foci of inspection; (7) Inspectorate autonomy; (8) transport; (9) planning inspection; (10) Inspectorate-university Partnerships; (11) education system; (12) cost of inspection; (13) inspector recruitment, selection, and deployment; (14) adequacy of inspection; (15) resourcing; (16) inspection reports; (17) post-inspection evaluation; (18) Inspectorate titles



Over the years, the behavior of Kenyan school inspectors, especially toward teachers has been criticized by Kenyans.  The major concerns are those associated with unprofessional conduct of school inspectors which, as Wanga (1988) noted, has had serious implications for teaching and learning to the extent that “a private cold war” has developed between teachers and inspectors. 

Some school inspectors have been criticized for being harsh to teachers and for harassing teachers even in front of their pupils (Bowen, 2001; Isolo, 2000; Kamuyu, 2001; Nakitare, 1980; Ndegwa, 2001).  According to Isolo, many school inspectors have developed the following questionable habits: (a) they look down upon teachers with resentment and suspicion; (b) they demand bribes from teachers in order to make favorable reports; (c) they are dictatorial and have taken the attitude of “do as I say or get in trouble” and (d) they work with unsmiling determination.  Describing unprofessional conduct of school inspectors, Kamuyu (2001) noted that some inspectors behave like outsiders whose sole mission is to work against teachers to prove that no teacher is competent.  Similarly, Masara (1987) noted that some inspectors reportedly visit schools to boss and to harass teachers instead of helping them solve professional problems. 

The unprofessional behavior of some school inspectors has had the following serious negative consequences: 

.  Poor relationship between inspectors and teachers (Masara, 1987);

.  The tendency of teachers to mistrust school inspectors (Republic of Kenya Ministry of Education, Science, and technology, 1999);

.  Teachers have regarded inspection as a stressful experience due to fear of the unknown (Ndegwa, 2001);

.  Education standards have been compromised because teachers are not given a chance to disapprove inappropriate policies forced on them by inspectors (Ndegwo, 2001);

.  A harsh and unfriendly teacher-inspector relationship (Daily Nation Editor, 2001; Isolo, 2001);

.  Lack of sufficient teacher support (Wanga, 1988);

.  There is no guarantee that teachers will recognize and accept any shortcomings identified by inspectors;

.  Many teachers and headteachers when advised on impending inspection, are likely to be apprehensive and, consequently, they may decide to put something of a show to impress inspectors;

.  Fear among school personnel (Wanga, 1988); and

.  Lack of professional commitment on the part of teachers (Nakitare, 1980).

Furthermore, as noted by Mwanzia (1985), teachers have developed negative attitude toward inspectors.  On this point, Masara (1987) commented that, although things at times have changed, teachers still view inspectors in the same way they were during the colonial time in which many teachers regarded school inspectors as intruding policemen who were always looking for faults, and as potential danger.  As Masara concluded, teachers have tended to develop a great deal of anxiety about inspection and, consequently, they are unable to carry out their duties well.  Also, Wanga concluded that, because of questionable behavior of some school inspectors, the idea of inspecting teachers still makes teachers “feel small” and irresponsible and, consequently they tend to remain more anxious, consequently, they are unable to discharge their duties well.  Furthermore, Kamuyu (2001), commenting about the problem of school inspectors, commented that headteachers and teachers are normally thrown into a panic any time school inspectors are mentioned.  Maranga (1986), in a study that analyzed school inspectors’ perceptions of teacher-inspector relationship in Kenya, reported that 75% of the inspectors studied felt that most inspectors portrayed themselves to teachers in such a manner that teachers perceived them as a potential danger to their work and a threat to them.  In a similar study in UK, Dean (1995), who examined what primary and secondary teachers and headteachers thought about inspection, reported that teachers studied generally felt threatened by inspection and that an inspector’s attitude in the classroom was intimidating, especially if the inspector spent all the time at the back of the class with a clipboard making notes which were never shown to the teacher.  These findings are corroborated by other findings elsewhere (e.g., Thomas, 1996).


Attitudes and Commitment

Over the years, school inspectors have had general negative attitude toward inspection and a decided lack of commitment and positive approach to inspection (Olembo et al., 1992).  Nakitare’s (1980) critical study of supervisory practices in Kimilili Division of Bungoma District, Kenya, reported that 5% of the teachers studied believed that some inspectors were not dedicated to their inspectoral duties. 

The general negativity toward and the lack of commitment to inspection may be attributed to the lack of appropriate incentives associated with inspectoral role of school inspectors.  As noted by Wanga (1988), there seems to be a lack of recognition for inspectoral role by the higher government authorities.  Because of apparent lack of incentives, she noted, there is a lack of commitment and initiatives on the part of school inspectors to their inspectoral roles which has further led to the inspectors performing inadequately.


Feedback and Follow-Up

Productive feedback and follow-up initiatives relative to inspection are lacking in the Kenyan inspection system (Olembo, Wanga, & Karagu, 1992; Wanga, 1988).  As Wanga noted, opportunities for follow-up regarding recommendations based on inspection, such as the need for in-service training of teachers are badly lacking.  Moreover, because school inspectors are not members of the school, their attempts to provide follow-up initiatives, for example, in facilitating in-service training programs based on their recommendations, are highly limited.  Therefore, there does not seem to be a sure mechanism for ensuring that improvement initiatives will, be undertaken.  Furthermore, because of lack of follow-up, there is no way of ensuring that inspection will contribute to school development in a cost-effective way.  The problem of the lack of feedback is not unique to Kenya.  In a study that examined primary and secondary teachers’ and headteachers’ perceptions of inspection in 5 local authorities in UK, Dean (1995) reported a lack of feedback to teachers who, as a result, were frustrated.  Also, teachers in this study agreed that they were disturbed whenever an inspector simply left the lesson without saying anything. 



Because school inspectors have tended to evaluate teachers based, in the main, on their own perceptions of teacher performance, teacher involvement on matters regarding school inspection has been very minimal (Wanga, 1988).  Opportunities for meaningful dialogue between teachers and inspectors, especially after inspections, are also highly limited.  As Masara (1987) noted, currently teachers do not understand and never participate in designing instruments that are used to evaluate them.  Moreover, he argued, school inspectors have had the tendency to be secretive, concentrating on their business and not able to communicate adequately with teachers to put them at ease. 


Pre-Service and In-Service Training

Currently, there are no courses specifically regarding school inspection at the pre-service training programs for aspiring teachers at the Kenyan teachers colleges and universities.  Similarly, in-service training opportunities for school inspectors and teachers on school inspection are hopelessly inadequate (Daily Nation Editor, 2001; Olembo et al., 1992; Wanga, 1988).  On this point, the Chief Inspector of Schools CIS), Daniel Rono (Achayo & Githagui, 2001), in a speech at a sub-regional curriculum development workshop in Nairobi, Kenya, noted that there existed no comprehensive programs for inspector in-service training and that induction courses, where available, had been conducted inadequately due to financial constraints.  Further more, Wanga (1988) observed that opportunities for in-service training for inspectors to keep them abreast of developments in education, to improve their professional skills, and to enjoy the respect and esteem of the teaching profession were highly lacking.

Because of unlimited in-service training opportunities for teachers, especially in the skills and techniques of inspecting, they lack a wide perspective relative to school inspection.  Further to this, as Republic of Kenya (1999) noted, because school inspectors are incompetent and are untrained, they are unable to monitor and to evaluate educational programs effectively. 


Foci of Inspection

School inspection in Kenya lack proper, appropriate, and uniform foci (Kamuyu, 2001).  As Republic of Kenya Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology (1999) noted, school inspectors have the tendency to focus on school buildings and administrative systems rather than on teaching and learning, with minimal attention to the identification and improvement of educational standards.  Also, Daily Nation Editor (2001), observed that even where inspections have been carried out, school inspectors have tended to focus on buildings and rarely get down studying the greater details of the day-to-day lives of students.  Furthermore, Kamuyu (2001) noted that, because of conflicting inspection standards, school inspectors have the tendency to inspect everything and sometimes they make contradictory proposals.  Olembo et al. (1992) added that school inspectors sometimes have the tendency to over-emphasize certain areas, such as the smartness of the teacher, instead of the way the teacher teachers.  On this debate, Republic Kenya Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology (1999) concluded that the inspectors often seem to be checking up schools rather than trying to identify and improve standards. 

            Therefore, it seems that the present inspection system is control-oriented rather than service-oriented and tends to focus on maintaining status quo by regulating institutional functions and by ensuring that bureaucratic rules and regulations are adhered to. 


Inspectorate Autonomy

As noted by the CIS, Daniel Rono, in a speech at a sub-regional curriculum development workshop in Nairobi8, Kenya (Achayo and Githagui, 2001), Kenya’s Inspectorate lacks autonomy to execute its services and, consequently, it is unable to implement recommendations based on inspections.  Also, the CIS, commenting about the lack of Inspectorate autonomy (Siringi, 2001), explained that all school inspectors could do was to inspect schools, point out mistakes, make recommendations, and pass them to the boards of governors, district education boards, and Provincial Directors of Education (PDsE) for implementation.



School inspectors are often faced with the problem of lack of transport, especially for those inspectors deployed in rural areas (Mwanzia, 1985; Nakitare, 1980; Olembo et al., 1992; Republic of Kenya, 1999; Wanga, 1988).  This problem is aggravated by the fact that some schools are located in areas that are too remote to be reached by school inspectors (Oloo, 1990; Nakitare, 1980; Mwanzia, 1985).  As noted by Oloo, who commented about the difficulties Kenyan school inspectors experience in the process of inspection of schools:

There are some geographical regions in the country where visits to schools are easily possible even by most unmechanised means, like walking across to a school.  But, proportionately, such regions are very few indeed.  The majority of the regions are the very epitome of impossible physical terrain.  It is even worse if such areas are prone to capricious weather condition.

p. 11-12)

Further to this, there is a lack of sufficient funds, especially traveling and subsistence allowances, provided to inspectors to meet expenses associated with transport and accommodation (Mwanzia, 1985; Wanga, 1988).  The CIS, Daniel Rono, in a speech at a sub-regional curriculum development workshop, Nairobi, Kenya (Achayo & Githagui, 2001), concluded that the problem of lack of transport had affected regular and efficient inspection of schools in different parts of the country. 


Planning Inspection

School inspection practices in Kenya have been marked by poor planning (Republic of Kenya Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology, 1999).  As the Republic of Kenya Ministry of education, Science, and Technology noted, plans for inspection of schools have been over-ambitious and, consequently, they are seldom carried out. 

Similarly, Olembo et al. (1992) noted that inspection of schools in Kenya has at times been marked by impromptu, irregular visits by some inspectors with the object of “catching” the teachers doing the wrong.  Further to this, Mwanzia (1985), in a study of the factors that affect inspection and supervision of primary schools in Changwithya and Mulango Zones, Central Division, Kitui District, Eastern Province, Kenya, reported that some schools and teachers were visited and supervised more frequently than others. 


Inspectorate-University Partnerships

There does not seem to be a clear formal link between local universities and the Inspectorate section of the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology, especially on matters regarding school inspection (Wanga, 1988).  As Wanga explained, because of the lack of Ministry of Education-university collaboration, the Inspectorate may only involve university teaching personnel as facilitators during inspector in-service training programs on individual basis at an agreed-upon cost. 


Education System

Kenya’s inspectoral system is highly bureaucratic and shares with all other aspects of the education bureaucracy, a top-down, hierarchical, and authoritarian character.  As Wanga (1988) noted, Kenya’s hierarchical set up of the education system has created communication problems between school inspectors and the higher education authorities.  Inspectors on the ground sometimes cannot take decisions on matters regarding inspection of schools before consulting the higher authorities who may have little or no knowledge about the situation on the ground. 

Cost of Inspection

School inspection is expensive and has serious implications for funding of public education.

Inspector Recruitment, Selection, and Deployment

Several Kenyans have criticized the practices of inspector recruitment, selection, and job assignment.  For example, the Kenya CIS , Daniel Rono, in a speech at a sub-regional curriculum development workshop in Nairobi, Kenya,  noted that there had been a lack of clear policy of identifying suitable candidates to be recruited as school inspectors and, consequently, unsuitable personnel find their way into the Inspectorate and put the integrity of some officials into question (Achayo & Githagui, 2001).  Some inspectors seem to be highly incompetent and are unable to apply desired practices of school inspection and to distinguish between effective and ineffective schools. 

According to Wanga (1988), the Inspectorate has the tendency to deploy some inspectors in areas very remote from their areas of expertise and experience without initial induction.  For example, she noted, some inspectors who had been secondary teachers had been deployed to inspect primary schools without induction courses.  Nakitare (1980), in a critical study of supervisory practices in Kimilili Division of Bungoma District, Kenya, reported that 25% of the teachers studied agreed that some inspectors had limited knowledge about most subjects taught in schools and, consequently, they did not advise teachers adequately.  


Adequacy of Inspection

School inspection as currently done in Kenya is highly inadequate and, consequently, it does not meet the needs of schools, teachers, headteachers, students, and parents.  Commenting about the inadequacy of school inspection, Daily Nation Editor (2001) reported that, in general, Kenya schools are rarely ever inspected.  Also, Adongo (2000) noted a lack of inspection of schools by the Inspectorate department of the Ministry of Education.  Further to this, the amount of observation of classroom teaching by inspectors is uneven and disturbingly small.

There are several reasons for inadequate inspection in Kenyan schools:  (a) understaffing of inspectors; (b) heavy workloads; and (c) time constraint.


Understaffing of Inspectors.  The Kenya Ministry of Education Inspectorate is relatively understaffed by school inspectors (Olembo et al., 1992; Nakitare, 1980; Onyango, 2001; Wanga, 1988).  As Olembo et al. noted, the number of school inspectors is highly inadequate as compared to the number of schools.  On this point, Wanga (1988) observed that the number of schools outdistance the capacity of the existing number of inspectors because of the alarming rate at which enrolments of schools is increasing. 


Heavy workloads.  A second reason for inadequate inspection concerns the heavy supervisory loads of school inspectors (Wanga, 1988).  Apparently, inspectors tend to be so busy with other duties that they hardly find adequate time to engage themselves in meaningful inspection and supervision of schools. 


Time constraint.  In Kenya, like in Britain, there is a lack of sufficient time for adequate and meaningful inspection of schools and, consequently, school inspectors do not seem to obtain a true picture of the state of schools and to reflect on the outcomes of inspection (Nakitare, 1980;Wilcox & Gray, 1994).  In a critical study of supervisory practices in Kimilili Division of Bungoma District, Kenya, Nakitare (1980) reported that teachers studied believed that the time spent by inspectors to offer professional support to teachers in schools was usually negligible and ranged between 2 minutes to 5 minutes, that inspectors spent most of their time solving administrative problems with headteachers, and that teachers were never helped as adequately as they should.  Due to paucity of time at the disposal of school inspectors, the school inspections, wherever held, have become superficial and a mere formality.  Also, because of inadequate time, the inspectors experience the following two major constraints: (a) they hardly devote their attention to the follow-up action of the inspection reports with the result that the very purpose of the inspection gets defeated and (b) they find it difficult to maintain themselves abreast with the latest development in their subject areas.



School inspection in Kenya, especially in rural areas, has been frustrated by the lack of essential facilities, such as office accommodation, clerical services and support staff for school inspectors, funds, equipment, and stationery (Chabala, 1994; Mkwanzia, 1985; Republic of Kenya Ministry of education, Science, and Technology, 1999; Wanga, 1988).  Perennial shortage of stationery and inadequate secretarial services also make it difficult for the inspectors to prepare meaningful reports.  Commenting about the lack of funds to support educational programs in Kenya, Kipkulei (1990) noted that

As you are aware, the provision of [quality] education has several constraints, but the most important one is finance.  Like any other developing country, Kenya continues to experience a shortage of resources that are needed to meet our national development requirements.  I wish to stress that Government funds are limited.  The education sector must, therefore, share equitably whatever Government funds are voted to run each educational service for each financial year. (p. 27)

In brief, the general support relative to school inspection, especially in terms of staff, equipment, accommodation, and advisory services is often not matched to the tasks to be discharged. 

Inspection Reports

As explained by Ministry of Education (1994), school inspectors are expected to prepare inspection reports with detailed recommendations and to avail the reports to the school authorities, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, and the Secretary, Teachers Service Commission, to take any necessary action.  However, there is no clear indication regarding accessibility of the reports by teachers, parents, and any other interested parties.  Furthermore, there seems to be a deliberate neglect of school context in the process of inspection as well as in the inspection reports.  Context, with reference to school inspection, refers to the conditions, both in the school and beyond, within which the school operates and school’s achievements prior to inspection (Wilcox & Gray, 1994). 


Evaluating Inspection

There is a general lack of appropriate post-inspection evaluation by school inspectors at the conclusion of each inspection to determine the views of headteachers and other school personnel regarding the practice and process of inspection.


Inspectorate Titles

            Some of the Inspectorate titles, such as inspector and inspection, seem to be associated with harsh, colonial overtones, and a master-servant type of relationship (Wanga, 1988). 

In summary, the above problems tend to perpetuate inadequate inspection by creating a vicious circle in which school inspectors are reluctant to invest the necessary time and effort to matters relating to school inspection.


Proposed Solutions

Several strategies may be employed to improve Kenya’s system of school inspection.  These are presented in this section in the following major themes:  (1) professionalism; (2) attitudes and commitment; (3) feedback and follow-up; (4) collaboration; (5) pre-service and in-service training; (6) foci of inspection; (7) transport; (8) planning inspection; (9) Inspectorate-university partnerships; (10) education system; (11) incentives and motivation; (12) inspector recruitment, selection, and deployment; (13) adequacy of inspection; (14) resourcing; (15) inspection reports; (116) evaluating inspection; and (117) alternative terms.



School inspectors should endeavor to be as professional as possible in their inspection practices.  This includes an attempt to:  (a) provide objective judgments of teacher and headteacher performance (Olembo et al., 1992); (b) establish a friendly and interactive atmosphere with teachers and headteachers (Ndegwa, 2001); (c) cultivate a harmonious working relationship with teachers and heasdteachers (Ndegwa, 2001); and, above all, (d) stop their bullying attitude toward teachers and headteachers (Kamuyu, 2001).  Also, in advocating for professional inspection, Bowen (2001) suggested that school inspectors must change with the times, shift from their traditional crude image and do their work objectively, professionally, and with courtesy.  In a critical study of supervisory practices in Kimilili Division of Bungoma District, Kenya, Nakitare (1980) reported that 45% of the teachers studied suggested that supervisors should be more friendly in their approach to inspection than they were at the time of the study.  Professionalisation of the Inspectoratye, thus, is an urgent need of the present day in order to give a new turn to the inspection system prevailing in Kenya.  


Attitudes and Commitment

A major ingredient of professional inspection relates to change of attitudes toward inspection.  As Olembo et al. (1992) and Kamuyu (2001), suggested, there is need to develop more positive attitudes toward inspection on the part of inspectors, teachers, and headteachers.  In addition, there is need for these three groups of professionals to be committed to the practice of inspection. 


Feedback and Follow-Up

The provision of feedback regarding findings of inspection, especially to schools inspected, should be ongoing during the process of inspection.  This should include providing oral feedback to headteachers, to teachers, and to other school personnel, with opportunities for discussions and reflections with the key stakeholders, such as boards of governors, school committees, and sponsors.  In stressing the importance of feedback, Trethwan (1991, cited in Thomas, 1996) advised appraisers to

Give feedback soon.  It is a mistake to bottle up feedback; give it as soon as you have it.  This not only stops the teacher wondering whether some action was right or wrong in the appraiser’s eyes, but feedback can be such a boost to morale.  Too often an opportunity for positive feedback is lost because appraisers are not in the habit of giving a brief but timely acknowledgement.  Even negative feedback reassures the teacher that the appraiser cares and in touch. (p. 366)

The need for feedback on findings of inspection has also been expressed in a few studies.  For example, Dean (1995), in a study that explored primary and secondary teachers’ and headteachers’ perceptions regarding school inspection in 5 local authorities in UK, reported that participants studied felt very strongly about the importance of feedback, especially verbal feedback on lessons observed by inspectors.  The participants in this study also felt a need for follow-up both in terms of support for working on the findings of the inspection and reviews of progress later.

There is need to facilitate appropriate follow-up after inspection of schools to ensure that schools implement suggested changes for improvement (Olembo et al., 1992; Wanga, 1988).  This follow-up should be undertaken within a specified period of time to determine the extent to which the recommendations of the implementation.  Conclusions of the follow-up should be published and copies availed to the major stakeholders.  Further to this, the Inspectorate should endeavor to establish appropriate post-inspection action plan which should be tabled with the key stakeholders in the management of the schools.  Once inspection is over, the school needs support to move forward.  Inspectors are the best people for further advice rather than someone coming in the “cold” from outside. 



There is need to facilitate collaboration between school inspectors and school personnel, especially teachers and headteachers, on matters pertaining to inspection.  Commenting about teacher involvement in school inspection, Wanga (1988) proposed that teachers be encouraged to participate adequately in developing assessment procedures employed by school inspectors to evaluate teachers to enable them understand the criteria on which school inspectors commonly judge them.  This collaboration will, no doubt, facilitate a shared understanding of what constitutes effectiveness in education in general, and school inspection in particular and how this might be evaluated. 

As Olembo et al. (1992) suggested, teachers should be part and parcel of inspectoral activities and should be informed about the following six major aspects of inspection: (a)  when to expect an inspection; (b)  the nature, type, and purpose of inspection; (c)  evaluation format; (d)  inspection results; (e)  commendable aspects of the teachers’ performance; and (f)  areas of improvement and strategies for making the improvements.  In this collaboration, Olembo et al. noted, teachers’ feelings, aspirations, and attitude toward inspection results should be considered. 

Similarly, Kipkulei (1990), commenting about teacher involvement in curriculum implementation, suggested that

For evaluation in curriculum development to be carried out effectively, the teacher has to be involved in the process throughout the exercise.  Teachers should provide data on the progress of the pupils and on the materials.  Teachers are best placed to judge the quality of the materials, the depth to which the topics have been or should be dealt with, and the sequencing of the topics. (p. 25)

Mwanzia (1985) further suggested that the superiority-inferiority relationship between inspectors and teachers should be replaced by that of partnerships.  On this point, Masara (1987) commented that “the ideal situation is that school inspectors should be partners with teachers in the development and management of education” (p. 13).  Furthermore, Maranga (1986), in a study designed to analyze school inspectors’ perceptions of teacher-inspector relationship in Kenya, reported that 90% of the inspectors studied preferred inspectoral program in which both inspectors and teachers to be inspected come together and agree on the objectives of inspection and together work toward achieving the set objectives.  Additionally, Wilcox and Gray (1994), in a study that explored the reactions of primary teachers, headteachers, and inspectors to school inspection in three local education authorities in Britain, reported that teachers studied supported joint inspection in which the inspector and the school staff are involved.


Pre-Service and In-Service Training

Another strategy in Kenya’s school inspection system that requires a great deal of attention relates to pre-service and in-service training.  In particular, in-service training of inspectors, teachers, and headteachers on matters regarding the best practices of inspection of schools is urgently needed (Amunga, 2000; Bowen, 2001; Daily Nation Editor, 2001; Olembo et al., 1992; Wanga, 1988).  As Wanga noted, there is need for a thorough in-service training of inspectors in the principles and techniques of objective supervision and evaluation and in procedures of fostering self-evaluation by teachers.  Similarly, Republic of Kenya (1999) has recommended that “additional policy on staff development be put in place to continually upgrade the inspectors’ qualifications, particularly in pedagogy and curriculum changes”

(p. 229). 

In-service training is important in creating awareness on the part of inspectors and teachers regarding their respective roles in inspection and in facilitating healthy human relations.  Similarly, the training and development of the school inspectors on a systematic basis is critical so that they are able to meet effectively the new challenges of education and shoulder with confidence new responsibilities they are required to perform in a developing country such as Kenya.  Furthermore, Bowen (2001) and Wanga (1988) suggested that the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology should collaborate with other agencies that are involved in teacher education, such as Kenya Education Staff Institute (KESI), with a view to facilitating in-service training.  Furthermore, as Wanga (1988) suggested, this Ministry should endeavor to facilitate inspectors’ study visits to other countries on exchange programs to enable them acquire additional knowledge about inspection. 

Findings of a few local studies have also expressed the need for in-service training, especially of headteachers.  For example, Nakitare (1980), in a critical study of supervisory practices in Kimilili Division of Bungoma District, Kenya, reported that 18% of the teachers studied felt that headteachers should be inserviced in order to update their knowledge of all the subjects taught in schools.  This training would perhaps facilitate the headteachers’ roles relative to school inspection by enabling them to provide objective and realistic feedback to external school inspectors.  Similarly, Mwanzia (1985) observed that the training of school inspectors was essential as a means of providing them with the necessary skills unique to supervision and to facilitate their understanding of the modern methods and tone regarding inspection.  Therefore, there is need for a substantial on-the-job training of inspectors to prepare them for their changing inspectoral roles.  Induction, especially of new inspectors, could include “shadowing” of experienced inspectors and opportunities to learn about continuing educational reforms not part of the previous experience of inspectors.  In-service training for inspectors should be aimed at not only keeping them up-to-date but also at responding to the needs identified through staff appraisal process.  

            There is also an urgent need for local universities and teachers colleges involved in pre-service training of teachers to include courses on principles and techniques of supervision (inspection) as a component of their training programs for aspiring teachers to enlighten them about school inspection (Olembo et al., 1992).  Through training and professional approach to the job, inspectors of schools can provide leadership and serve as agents of change.


Foci of Inspection

There is need to identify, to define and to have consistent and appropriate foci or key features (or performance indicators) relative to school inspection process (Kamuyu, 2001; McGlynn & Stalker, 1995; Wilcox & Gray, 1995).  Major ingredients of inspection process of a school may be described adequately in terms of the following thirteen discrete features (McGlynn & Stalker, 1995; Wilcox & Gray, 1995):

(a)  major outputs, such as the standards of student achievements in the national examinations; (b)  quality of teaching and learning; (c)  school contexts, such as motto, vision, and development plans and targets; (d)  parental concerns and involvement in school development; (e)  school intake; (f)  school data and indicators; (g)  school’s efficiency (i.e., the standards of financial planning and management); (h)  pupils’ personal development and behavior; (i)  subjects of the curriculum; (j)  accommodation; (k)  staffing; (l)  Iistructional resources; (m)  planning and organization of school functions; and (n)  assessment in classrooms.

Classroom observation, in particular, should be given a great deal of emphasis in the future practice of school inspection,.  School inspectors, who are expected to be experienced teachers, should be more involved in direct observation of classes to enable them make judgments about the quality of teaching and learning based on the evidence they collect in the schools. 

According to McGlynn and Stalker (1995), there are three major reasons for having consistent performance indicators or foci regarding school inspection.  These are to:  (a) identify areas for detailed investigation (‘signposts’); (b) provide a basis for measuring the performance of the school against a set of defined criteria (‘touch stones’); and (c) enable school managers to facilitate decisions regarding strengths and shortcomings in the school’s performance.


Inspectorate Autonomy

As recommended by Republic of Kenya (1999), the Inspectorate, as a quality audit organization, needs to have adequate autonomy to discharge effectively its duties.



As Wanga (1988) suggested, there is need to devise ways and means of alleviating the problem of transport and the general lack of funds to travel across schools.  Nakitare (1980), in a critical study of supervisory practices in Kimilili Division of Bungoma District, Kenya, reported that the supervisors studied recommended a need to provide them with vehicles to facilitate inspection of schools.  Similarly, Mwanzia (1985) suggested a need to improve and to maintain roads to facilitate visits to schools.


Planning Inspection

School inspection should be planned properly and appropriately.  Commenting about the need to plan school visits, Olembo et al. (1992) recommended that visits by school inspectors should be scheduled, that headteachers be provided with a “timetable” for such visits, and that teachers should have access to inspection schedules.  They also expressed a need to facilitate proper coordination of inspectoral services and results.  Furthermore, Republic of Kenya Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology (1999) expressed a need to make prior planning regarding the following major areas relative to inspection of schools:  (a) annual costed work plans for inspection visits; (b) work program or inspection register; (c) transport; (d) type of inspection; (e) purpose of inspection; (f) inspector roles; and (g) briefing meetings of inspection teams. 

In addition, Republic of Kenya Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology noted, educational institutions, such as schools, should endeavor to prepare the following documents in readiness for inspection:  (a) pre-inspection analysis of the school curriculum, staffing, costs, and results; (b) school statistics on enrolment; (c) individual teachers’ timetables; (d) school internal audit and review report; (e) school mission, motto, aims, and development; (f) past examination performance; (g) list and addresses of school committee and BOG members; and (h) records of school indiscipline. 

According to Kenya Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology, there are three major benefits of pre-inspection preparation, especially by schools:  (a) It provides the school with an opportunity to engage in review process; (b) it enables the inspection to be based on the evidence provided on the school; and (c) it puts teachers on their toes to prepare adequately for inspectors’ visits.  The usefulness of pre-inspection preparation has also been highlighted elsewhere.  For example, Thomas (1995), in a study that surveyed headteachers, deputies, heads of departments, and class teachers regarding their views about the process of school inspection and its effects in three different Local Education Authorities (LEAs) , UK, reported that participants studied agreed that preparation process of inspection had brought the whole staff together and also improved their schools and certain aspects of their work. 


Inspectorate-University Partnerships

There is need to facilitate partnerships between the local universities and the Inspectorate to enable university faculty to assist with in-service training, especially of school inspectors as facilitators an “harambee” basis.  The term harambee is a Kiswahili word which refers to Kenya’s unique self-help movement that has been associated with development programs since independence in 1963.  Such partnerships may also enable university teaching staff to collaborate with school inspectors in conducting studies relevant to inspection in Kenyan schools and colleges.


Education System

            In order to alleviate the problems associated with tight bureaucratic procedures, as suggested by Wanga (1988), there is need to cut down bureaucratic steps and to reduce the amount of paper work.  In her view, this strategy is likely to improve the communication between school inspectors and school personnel.  Additionally, there is need for regular and systematic assessment and analysis of the Kenyan education system followed by action based on this analysis to sustain education quality.


Cost of Inspection

            There is need to device more cost-effective strategies for facilitating inspection of Kenyan schools and colleges and for accessibility to up-to-date data on school effectiveness and improvement than ever before.


Inspector Recruitment, Selection and Deployment

There is need to facilitate mechanisms for identifying and recruiting persons with the right qualities from among serving teachers as school inspectors (Amunga, 2000; Wanga, 1988).  In Wanga’s view, this recruitment should be based on the following major criteria: (a) at least 5 years of teaching experience in either primary, secondary, or teachers college; (b) an understanding of the national educational goals and objectives; (c) a sound understanding of the educational system; (d) superior teaching and supervisory skills; (e) proven integrity and commitment; (f) ability to win the respect and confidence of the people with whom they work; (g) the capacity to contribute to the nation of new policy and the improvement of educational system as a whole; (h) proven academic and professional proficiency; and (i) ability to understand and work with and through the community, for example with parents.  As Republic of Kenya (1999) recommended, “inspectors be recruited competitively from those professionals who have additional qualifications beyond their initial training, preferably masters degree holders in the relevant subjects . . . (p. 229). 


Adequacy of Inspection

To provide adequate inspection, the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology should endeavor to recruit more inspectors (Olembo et al., 1992; Nakitare, 1980).  This calls for the need to have a sufficient pool of experience inspectors, especially at the primary school level.  Also, Mwanzia (1985) advised the Inspectorate to ensure visitations of all schools and observations of teachers by school inspectors.

            Furthermore, school inspectors should endeavor to devote more time to inspection in the schools to facilitate the following aspects of the inspection process (Wilcox & Gray, 1994):  (a) desired social courtesies, which means “not only the friendly demeanour which teachers expect [school]inspectors to display, but also the opportunity of allowing teachers to explain what they are doing and to receive feedback on how they are doing” (p. 2256) and (b) the credibility of the methods employed.  In a project that examined the views of headteachers, members of the senior management teams, heads of departments, and class teachers regarding what was involved in OFSTED school inspections in Wales, UK, Thomas (1996) reported that teachers studied felt that inspectors should have seen them teach more often in order to get a fuller picture of their work.  A part from the usual armoury of methods employed to collect data on schools, additional information relative to school inspection could be collected from parents through formal meetings and postal questionnaires. 


Headteacher empowerment.  As suggested by Singhal, Bhagia, Kalpande, and Nair (1987),the responsibility for inspection can be entrusted with the headteachers of the schools themselves.  A special proforma for inspection can be designed and the headteachers requested to conduct annual inspections of their schools at particular times during the academic year and to forward the inspection reports to the nearest District Education Office.  While this strategy is not intended to be a substitute for the normal inspection by the Inspectorate personnel, however, it offers several advantages:  (a) It can ensure that all schools will be inspected adequately; (b) it ensures that every school will be inspected simultaneously, thus, making it possible to make meaningful comparisons across schools; and (c) it is cost-effective.  Also, the headteachers, who are expected to be in their schools throughout the year, are in a position to discharge many supervisory functions more effectively than external school inspectors who may afford to visit schools only occasionally.  Furthermore, the possibility of schools putting up artificial shows to satisfy external inspectors becomes irrelevant when headteachers are entrusted with inspectoral functions.



There is need to provide adequate resources, such as funds, to facilitate inspectoral services (Republic of Kenya, 1999).  Additionally, as Wanga (1988) and Mwanzia (1985) suggested, school inspectors should be provided with more and adequate facilities, such as office accommodation and secretarial services to enable them serve effectively.  Because inspectors are in the field for much of their time and because record-keeping is essential to the success of their inspectoral functions, an adequate secretarial support is very necessary. 


Inspection Reports

There is need to refine procedures and formats for reporting findings of inspection to make them meaningful and credible.  In preparing reports, as suggested by Wanga (1988), there is need to involve all members of the school community, especially teachers and headteachers, to discourage possible biases. 

The final reports should contain, among other things, the context of inspection.  To Wilcox and Gray (1994), the term Context, as relates to inspection, includes the conditions under which the schools function and schools’ major achievements prior to inspection.  They also noted that appropriate contextualising judgments within the main text of an inspection report is essential and is the responsibility of the inspectors. 

The final inspection report should also include a summary of the findings which should be made public and availed especially to parents and to other stakeholders, such as Parents Teachers Associations (PTAs), Parents Associations (PAs), Boards of Governors (BOGs), School Committees, sponsors, and the area education officers (Daily Nation Editor, 2001; Republic of Kenya Ministry of education, Science, and Technology, 1999).  Information from the reports is only useful if it is accessible when it is needed. 

According to Republic of Kenya Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology, there are two major uses of inspection reports.  These are to: (a) facilitate future follow-up inspection and (b) inform the Inspectorate about needed special attention by institutions inspected.  Similarly, in UK, Gray and Wilcox (1995), who explored the extent to which Local Education Authority (LEA) primary schools in UK had implemented the key issues or main recommendations of the inspection reports, observed that the inspection and subsequent reports were considered to have had a generally beneficial effect, particularly on those recommendations which staff considered to have already been in mind before the inspection.  Furthermore, the headteachers in this study saw inspection recommendations as a means of furthering their own aspirations for their schools. 


Evaluating Inspection

Another strategy in the improvement of the system of school inspection in Kenya concerns the need to introduce a post-inspection questionnaire to be completed by headteachers in consultation with members of the teaching staff at the conclusion of each inspection as a means of evaluating the process and impact of inspection (McGlynn & Stalker, 1995).  As Wilcox and Gray (1994) noted, reactions to the findings of an inspection may sometimes reflect concern about the aspects of the process of inspection and the way the inspection is conducted and carried out. 


Inspectorate Titles

Finally, there is need to abandon Inspectorate tittles, like “inspector” or “inspection” and to adopt alternative terms, such as “advisor”, “supervisor” or “supervision” which denote collegial approaches to supervision (Wanga, 1988). 

Table 1 summarizes the present problems in the Kenya system of school inspection and proposed strategies for improvement.


Recent Attempts by the Kenyan Government to Improve School Inspection

A few attempts have been made by the Kenyan Government to improve the practice of school inspection.  These are presented in this section.


Table 1:  Current problems in Kenyan school inspection system and proposed strategies for improvement


















Inspection Handbook.

The Ministry of Education, Science, and technology has endeavored to introduction, for the first time, a Handbook for Inspection of Educational Institutions (Republic of Kenya Ministry of Education, Science, and technology, 1999) in which inspection schedules have been included to facilitate data collection from schools and other educational institutions.  The inspection schedules, which vary according to the level of education being inspected – early childhood, primary, secondary, college, non-formal education – address the following major areas of the inspection process:  (a) essential demographic data;

(b) curriculum management and whole institution factors; (c) institution community; (d) pupil welfare and participation issues; (e) physical environment; (f) textbooks and other teaching and learning resources;

(g) financial management issues(h) Individual teacher and observation; (i) overall quality of teaching and learning; and (j) executive summary feedback.

A major objective of the schedules, Republic of Kenya Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology explained, is to organize inspection data into manageable forms and styles which are accessible to the various intended stakeholders, such as schools, headteachersa, and District Education Officers (DEOs).

According to Republic of Kenya Ministry of education, Science, and Technology, the following reasons underlie the introduction of this document: (a)  the realization by the Ministry of Education of the crucial need to improve the quality of education in Kenya; (b)  to improve the inspection process by introducing benchmarks for minimum standards or targets for improvement; (c)  to provide inspectors with an opportunity to become the chief data collectors in the field who feed educational institutions and other stakeholders with information on school effectiveness and improvement; and (d) to ensure a more cost-effective accessibility to up-to-date data on school effectiveness and improvement than ever before.

Furthermore, Republic of Kenya Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology noted, the new inspection document provides, for the first time, a national standardized system of inspection of schools.  As explained by Kenya Ministry of Education, Science, and technology, the new inspection schedules areexpected to offer numerous benefits.  These are: (a) To make inspection process comprehensive and transparent; (b) to provide information for the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology planning by availing data on schools for the new Education Management Information System (EMIS); (c) to provide reliable, comprehensive, detailed, focused, and constructive feedback on the quality of education in schools to enable them identify and to address their future concerns; (d) to facilitate sharing of good practice across schools effectively; (f) to enable inspectors to quantify and to rank qualitative factors identified in the schools; (g) to enable inspectors to obtain holistic view regarding school effectiveness and improvement; and (h) to provide inspectors with guidance regarding data collection from schools and other educational institutions. 

The book, no doubt, is a valuable source for schools by enabling them to improve their self-evaluation capabilities and should be a reference for teachers, headteachers, inspectors, and board members.  It seems to be a remarkably fresh way to view education quality and school improvement. 

Although the new inspection handbook provides a framework for the inspection of schools, however, it has numerous concerns:

.  It seems to be too detailed, bureaucratic, and rigid to be of realistic and practical use in inspection of schools;

.  It is not clear about the criteria and standards used for judging school effectiveness and achievement;

.  It provides no clear guidelines regarding time element associated with school inspection, for example, the frequency of inspection;

.  The sustainability of a continuing inspection program based on such an elaborate model of inspection is doubtful;

.  The possibility of the new inspection model being stressful, fatiguing, and uncongenial experience for school inspectors cannot be ruled out;

.  There does not seem to be sufficient room for inspectors to exercise the credibility necessary to capture conveniently the essential characteristics of individual schools;

.  The repeated experience of writing within a prescribed format and formula based on the inspection schedules is likely to lead to dull reports which may appear to be the same from school to school; such reports are likely to become increasingly an appealing chore.  The end result could be reduced enthusiasm on the part of inspectors and unwillingness by inspectors to participate fully in future inspections;

.  Tone of the book:  Its magisterial certainty:  the inspection process is set forth with little hint regarding the contexts in which Kenyan schools operate, including their problematic characteristics;

.  It gives little emphasis on classroom observation and scrutiny of pupils’ work as principal methods of obtaining evidence in inspections, both of which provide permanent and detailed record of teaching and learning over time;

.  It is not based on a review of any previous inspection model before this alternative was adopted; no appropriate inspection tradition to draw upon to determine what really works .  In other words, no comprehensive review of the previous practice of inspection was made and, in particular, whether fundamental issues concerning the reliability and validity of the former practice were considered;

.  The logistics and practical utility of applying the new inspection document are questionable:  concerns exist regarding its potential ambiguity; its potential for bureaucratic inflexibility, and its uncertainty;

.  Because the handbook is in the hands of a wide range of inspectors, the possibility of the inspectors interpreting and implementing it in somewhat different ways cannot be ruled out;


Deployment of School Inspectors

Another recent attempt by the Kenyan government to improve school inspection, as noted by Siringi (2001), in concurring with Sitima (1988), concerns facilitating supervisory activities in schools by deploying school inspectors at the national, provincial, district, and zonal levels.  However, the number of inspectors is still relatively small as compared to the increasing number of schools across the country. 


Studies on Inspection

And, finally, as explained by Republic of Kenya Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology (1999), the Ministry of Education has conducted a few studies regarding the practice of inspection.  However, such studies are highly inadequate and do not seem to address fully the critical features of the inspection process. 


Strengths of the Proposed Inspection Framework

The proposed inspection framework has the following potential benefits:

.  It is likely to make the current inspection system more effective than ever before.  As Mathews and Smith (1995) noted, “an effective inspection system can provide a powerful incentive for, as well as directly contributing to, school improvement and development” (p. 23);

.  The results of inspection process under this framework should meet the concerns of the different stakeholders as follows:  (a) accountability to pupils, to parents, and to tax payers, for the school’s promotion and pupils’ achievements, as well as the value for money invested in education;

(b) consumer choice of schools through the publication of appropriate inspection reports, including summaries for parents to choose schools; and (c) school, improvement through the use of inspection reports by schools and their governors as both an educational audit and as a tool to help refocus priorities and targets for improvement; and

.  The framework should form a fair and cost-effective basis for inspection of all schools.



The following are major challenges that the future school inspection system will have to address: 

.  Facilitating and monitoring the implementation of key educational reforms, such as: (a) the report of the Commission of Inquiry Into the Education System of Kenya (Republic of Kenya, 1999); (b) reports regarding teacher management (Kamotho, 2001); (c) “Education For All” blue print recently launched by the Ministry of Education, Science, and technology (Nation Reporter, 2001); (d) the Constomer Service Charter developed by the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) in line with a government directive to all its departments to develop the document (Siringi & Waihenya, 2001); and (e) new hiring procedures for teachers, a demand-driven approach to teacher recruitment, introduced recently by the TSC (Aduda, 2001; Siringi & Waihenya, 2001);

.  Helping schools that are in the verge of collapsing, whose academic standards are unacceptably low, and which experience unique problems that threaten their survival (Special Measure Schools), to revert their negative trends (Republic of Kenya Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology, 1999);

.  Addressing the problem of Kenya’s declining education quality in general, and in teaching career in particular, and ensuring education quality to increasing numbers of students despite the inadequacy of the government’s resources (Kamotho & Mabonga, 2000; Republic of Kenya, 1999; The African Standard, 2000);

.  Identifying and addressing the missing links in Kenya’s education sector (Njogu, 2000);

.  Harmonizing the relationship between inspectors and school personnel, especially teachers and headteachers and between teachers and headteachers (Daily Nation Reporter, 2001);

.  Ensuring safety in Kenyan schools (Kigotho, 2001; Aduda, 2001; Siringi, 2001; Barasa, 2001);

.  Facilitating school-community partnerships (Kithi & Nzigi, 1999);

.  Facilitating the implementation of the recommendations based on inspection reports;

.  Ensuring that school inspectors actually get involved in and follow planned approaches to classroom observation and judge teaching and learning effectiveness on appropriate and productive criteria;

.  Helping beginning and experienced teachers and headteachers succeed;

.  Sustaining improvements in the provision of quality education at all levels of education (Republic of Kenya, 1999);

.  Dealing with community hostility toward school which demand the Inspectorate reassures the community that measures will be taken to improve the school (Republic of Kenya Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology, 1999);

.  Helping schools to cope with and to initiate educational change in relation to the changing needs of the Kenyan society (Republic of Kenya, 1999); and

.  Dealing with issues regarding disputed school land or “grabbing of school land” by “greedy” individuals which may require that the Inspectorate Team holds discussions with the District Education Officers (DEOs) and the chairpersons of District education Boards and other interested parties (Republic of Kenya Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology, 1999).


Summary and Conclusion:  Which Way Forwards?

To summarize, there are numerous deficiencies in the practice of school inspection in Kenya to-day.  Of particular importance is the fact that school inspectors themselves are poorly supported and trained and that teachers have virtually no input into the inspection process.  It appears that school inspection in Kenya, being a legacy of the colonial rule, has outlived its utility.  It is too rigid and bureaucratic and, consequently, it does not seem to serve fully the needs of Kenya’s 8 – 4 – 4 education system, teachers, headteachers, and students.  As Fitz-Gibbon and Stephenson (1996) would have concluded, inspection as practiced currently, represents “a source of grave distress to a teaching profession on which we rely for the care of our children and grandchildren” (p. 8).

This trend of events, no doubt, is unfortunate, is unacceptable, and does not seem to suit a democratic and developing country like Kenya.  The big question is:  Where do we go from here? 

While the government has tried to initiate change in the system of inspection by introducing a Handbook for Inspection of Educational Institutions, however, for all the strengths of the new developments, there are still profound flaws.  In brief, the nature of the inspection in Kenya must undergo substantial change consistent with those in other areas of educational policy development and implementation.

If the intent of the current school reforms in Kenya is to provide high quality education, then alternative strategies must be addressed now that will attempt to address the present shortcomings in the practice of school inspection.  These should include, among others, the following:  (a) monitoring continuously the conduct of school inspection and the quality of its reports; (b) facilitating ongoing consultation with the key stakeholders on matters regarding quality assurance; (c) keeping education quality and the quality culture at the top of educational agenda; (d) developing the right attitudes to the “quality culture” to secure the most effective education possible and the best value for public investment; (e) reducing the burden associated with bureaucratic procedures and “red tape” in the current practice of inspection; (f) developing most cost-effective ways to facilitate inspection.  Additionally, all the stakeholders should regard inspection system as an important means to improve the efficiency of the system of education; as an instrument for realizing the goals of educational development; and as a tool of supervision. 

Therefore, a rethink of management arrangements for the inspection of schools and advisory services conducted by the Inspectorate is needed urgently.  The arrangements must meet the following four important criteria:  (a) the quantity and quality of inspection must meet the national educational standards; (b) cost- effectiveness in the inspection practices and procedures; (c) the change must be systematic and far-reaching; and (d) the new approaches must be characterized by an attempt to deal with the myriad problems comprehensively.  In other words, if monitoring is to provide a positive input into improving the quality of education, assessment of deficiencies needs to be turned into advice for improvement.

Successful initiatives will depend on an endeavor to involve all the key players at different levels of thinking through how inspection practices can be adapted to local circumstances and situations.  When all the key stakeholders are participants in the inspection process, there is likelihood of facilitating quality and accountability.

Superior inspection must mean a better basis for school improvement.  The one question that the Inspectorate needs to address is:  Will the inspection practices and procedures put in place help to facilitate standards of education in general and teaching and learning in schools in particular? 



This section addresses major implications for policy, for practice, and for research.



The proposed strategies toward the improvement of school inspection system in Kenya highlighted in this paper are addressed mainly to the Kenyan policy makers in general, and to the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology in particular.  This Ministry should rethink school inspection with a view to providing a clearly written policy regarding inspection of schools which states, among other things, the frequency of inspection, appointment procedures for school inspectors, induction programs for inspectors, and provisions for incentives and rewards for the inspectors.



Quality assurance programs should seek explicitly to evaluate the link between the schools’ development strategies and the outcomes achieved.  There is need on the part of the Inspectorate to strengthen the existing mechanisms of ensuring educational quality, for example, through the following strategies (Amunga, 2000):  (a) ensuring that learning resources in operation are relevant, comprehensive, and are put into effective use; (b) facilitating sharing of positive trends across schools; (c) encouraging inspectors to be open, critical, and able to keep abreast with the changes taking place in the field of education to-day, e.g., being familiar with all aspects of curriculum design, planning, evaluation, review, and forms; (d) encouraging inspectors to be able to learn from teachers, to comprehend the circumstances under which a given school operates, and to give the necessary advice; (e) encouraging inspectors to be positive in their approaches to school inspection by accepting positive opinions from teachers; and (f) encouraging parents to “continue to provide the necessary physical facilities in educational institutions through organized harambee fund-raising meetings. 

Furthermore, the Inspectorate should look critically at the claim by the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology that school inspections are concerned primarily with quality assurance.  The possibility that they prevent sufficient attention being given to the improvement process may not be ruled out.

Additionally, a fundamental pre-requisite for programs and support services to achieve continuous improvement in their performance is a system for routinely monitoring the effectiveness of their impact on schools.  Such monitoring must be embedded into the existing normal fabric of the school operating practices and programs.



The research agenda for school inspection in Kenya in the 21st Century should include the following major areas:

1.  An observational study that focuses on the current practices and procedures of external inspection.  This should include watching school inspectors in their inspectoral process to determine what they actually do and how they do it;

2.  Current support structures relevant to the role of school inspectors.  Information could be gleaned from practicing inspectors, teachers, headteachers, the Inspectorate headquarters, Provincial Directors of education (PDsE), and District Education Officers (DEOs);

3.  Perceptions of the major stakeholders – inspectors, teachers, headteachers, parents, and pupils – regarding the existing and preferred practices and procedures of inspection in Kenyan schools external personnel.  This should include an investigation of the complaints raised in the local public media about inspectors ’behaviors;

4.  The impacts of external inspection on schools.  This should include an investigation on how different types of inspection affect individual schools, teachers, and pupils.  Sample schools may be selected to evaluate the progress regarding inspection within a specified time period after the implementation of the action plans;

5.  An action research on the impact of the present practice of school inspection in inspectors;

6.  Schools’ experiences and expectations of inspection.  Information could be obtained from teachers, headteachers, parents, and pupils;

7.  Determination of whether school inspection programs can actually contribute to school improvement.  Does school inspection actually lead to school improvement, for example, improvement of teaching and learning standards?

8.  Determination of the reactions of inspectors, teachers, and headteachers on the Handbook for Inspection of Educational Institutions and the new approach it puts forward; and

9.  Determination of aspects of the methods presently employed in inspection of schools that most likely lead to an improvement in inspection process.



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