Kenyans Score Highly on Spelling, Prioritize Dictionaries – Oxford Report

Oxford University Press East Africa on Thursday published the results of spelling tests showing exceptionally strong spelling scores from Kenyan students and high levels of dictionary ownership.

Oxford published the results as Kenyan students flew to South Africa to compete in the first ever African Spelling Bee final and shortly after the launch of the 9th edition of the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (OALD).

The research conducted in May this year saw 363 secondary school students around Kenya complete a standard spelling test. The words were taken from the Oxford 3000 – a list of the most commonly used words for English learners.

Across all the students, treat the average score was 78 per cent, with more than four-fifths – 81 per cent – of the students reporting that they owned home dictionaries. However, the average score was significantly higher, at 82 per cent, for the 38 per cent of students with a home dictionary who reported using it more than once a day.

The survey also found that 36 per cent of the form 2 students had access to a smartphone, 12 per cent to a computer, and another 13 per cent to both a smartphone and a computer, meaning that almost two-thirds of public sector students now have access to technology as part of their learning.

“The priority given to education by Kenyan parents comes through powerfully in our research, said John Mwazemba, General Manager of Oxford University Press East Africa. “It is a testament to Kenyans’ commitment to education to see four-fifths of school students reporting that they have a dictionary at home, and scoring A grades.”

The strong results tie in with research from Financial Sector Deepening, which shows that up to a third of Kenyans consider education a higher priority in spending than food.

This emphasis is resulting in clear educational leadership, with Kenya’s youth literacy rate now standing at 85.9 per cent, compared with the average youth literacy rate for sub-Saharan Africa of 70.5 per cent.


The relative strength in English is linked to leadership in other academic areas too, according to research by Sokoine University of Agriculture, Morogoro, Tanzania, which found that an improvement in English Language Proficiency (ELP) among students correlates with an improvement in their general academic performance.

The educational community in Kenya hopes this educational prowess will shine through at the pan-African Spelling Bee, which will take place in Johannesburg, South Africa, on July16th.

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