Throughout Kenya’s history, tensions between two goals have characterised the educational policy debate: first, the expansion of access; second, the containment of costs. During the colonial period, cost-containment predominated, leading to severe restrictions on access and massive unmet social demand. Then, during post-Independence years, broadened access became the predominant policy objective, leading to massive cost increases and to negative quality effects. In the final section, this paper considers current issues concerning access, cost and quality, stressing the need to bear in mind the complex relationships among them in planning future policy. It is clear that any initiative to achieve universal primary education is unlikely to succeed unless the tension between access and cost, and its implications for quality, is recognised and taken into account. If the programme does not incorporate viable plans to meet the additional costs and prevent quality being compromised, its prospects will almost certainly be in jeopardy from the outset.
Journal of Education Policy (2011) 26 (4) 483-497 [DOI:10.1080/02680939.2011.554998]