The global discourse of human capital theory has long dominated educational development commitments. There is a huge body of literature which critiques how this discourse and associated global trends and targets have created a standardised blueprint for how education in low income countries should be carried out. While most attention has been given to the primary sector, this article shifts the focus to post-compulsory secondary education. The study investigates how quality is conceptualised in Kenyan secondary education policy documents, and critically examines the influence of the global discourse of educational development on these conceptualisations. Situated within a postcolonial framework and using thematic discourse analysis, findings suggest that neo-imperial power relations continue to exert significant influence in the formulation of the Kenyan secondary education policy. Conclusions point to the need for more local participation in the policymaking process if qualitative improvements are to be successful in promoting sustainable development.