September 22, 2017

Schools don’t track their alumni very well. In Kenya, it matters

Written by Eric M. Johnson

This post originally appeared on Brookings.

As a riff off the old public service announcement to parents—“It’s 10:00 p.m., do you know where your children are?”—we might ask educators, “It’s been a year, do you know where your alumni are?”

If a country can’t track its graduates, then there’s no way to know if its education system is having any positive effects. This has particularly become a problem in Kenya.


In some countries, the government provides labor market information and alumni tracer studies. These data help educators, policymakers, and the general public track the labor market outcomes of recent graduates—potentially informing a wide range of decisions. Unfortunately, many countries do not collect these data, or collection is delayed and data is hard to find. So, in these countries, we do not know where the graduates are; labor markets suffer as a result.

Kenya is one of these countries. According to the International Labor Organization, labor market information in Kenya is inconsistent, incomplete, and outdated. The World Bank is supporting Kenya’s reforms in this area, one of several labor market functions the Kenyan government is working to improve. I work for RTI International, which, as the implementer of the Kenya Youth Employment Services (K-YES) project—a U.S. Agency for International Development program that seeks to provide 30,000 Kenyan youth with market-relevant job and business skills—needs graduate outcome data to guide program investments.

To find where the graduates are, we used low-cost mobile phone survey techniques to survey 1,266 youth aged 18-35 across five counties (Nairobi, Bungoma, Kwale, Kericho, and Garissa). Eligible respondents had to have recently enrolled in secondary school or higher and be currently employed. For this study, we focused on employed graduates in order to understand their wage and employment patterns. While we have concerns about survey coverage (82 percent mobile ownership in Kenya according to the Pew Global Attitudes Survey) and non-response bias (we achieved a woefully low response rate of 15 percent), in the end, we think the results are useful for our purpose.

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