Kenyans’ social-cultural trends have bearing in choice of schools and education outcomes

Pupils overcrowding in classes due to FPE

Kenyans’ social and cultural trends manifest in their perceptions of “quality” of education, which according to research findings by African Population and Health Research Centre (APHRC) also affect enrollment, retention and transition in school.

Although examination results ranking is abolished by the Ministry of Education, the findings also help shed light on regional perceptions and stereotypes that determine “quality” of school enrollment in public and non-governmental institutions, with varying regional and social disparities.

The perceptions have a bearing on educational outcomes, the research demonstrates. The report also sheds light on recent trends in public school enrollment reversals as 47 per cent of parents from informal settlements in Nairobi, Nakuru, Eldoret, Nyeri and Mombasa prefer low-cost informal schools instead of free primary education in government schools.

While choosing schools for their children, parents in Kisumu will be influenced by buildings as opposed to qualified personnel and learning material. In this case, 76 per cent of parents in Kisumu were influenced by type of buildings to pick private and low-cost informal schools over government-funded schools. This is because public school buildings in the area of study are dilapidated and overcrowded.

The study found that despite Mombasa putting a premium on personnel and textbooks, the region ranks high on teacher absenteeism, with up to 85 per cent of respondents saying their teachers are either “often” or “sometimes” absent.

By contrast, Kisumu reported the lowest teacher absenteeism, which also helps explain in part the good performance posted in national examinations.

“Generally, parental perceptions of quality were related to inputs into the education process. For instance, 84 per cent of parents in Kisumu assessed the quality of learning in a school by the type of buildings present in a school, while 72 per cent of parents in Mombasa assessed the quality of learning in a school by presence of textbooks.”

“Kisumu recorded the highest proportion of pupils reporting that their teachers are rarely absent from schools; both government and non-government. It is notable that in Kisumu pupils reported the lowest pupil absenteeism.”

The results may explain why Coast, until last year when ranking was abolished, perennially performed poorly in national examinations. The results also show married female teachers are more likely to be absent from school.

In Mombasa and Nairobi, women tend to be absent from school more than men. The gap between male and female teachers is wider in government schools than low-cost schools at 50 per cent and 26 per cent respectively.

Social biases that sciences and mathematics are masculine is replicated in Standard Six as learners taught by male teachers score higher marks than those taught by female teachers.

According to the findings: “In formal private and low-cost schools, teachers’ gender was not associated with pupils’ mean scores in math achievement... However, in government schools, Grade Six pupils taught by a male teachers scored four percentage points higher than those taught by a female teacher.”

Classes taught literacy by female teachers scored eight percentage points more than those taught by male teachers. Grade Three literacy classes taught by female teachers scored five percentage points more than those taught by male teachers.

However, teachers’ gender had a statistically significant effect on Grade Six Math test scores; being taught maths by a male teacher increases pupil’s maths test scores by about 11 per cent.

The findings also bring out socio-cultural-stereotypes associated with lifestyle that in turn are attributed to attainment in education.

The distribution of household heads by highest level of education attained follows the socio-cultural habits in the study sites.

“In Kisumu, the highest proportion (66 per cent) of household heads reported to have some secondary or higher level education, followed by about 47 per cent in Eldoret,” says the report.

By contrast, 71 per cent of household heads in Nyeri reportedly had only elementary level or no formal education.

“Among male household heads in Nyeri, 49 per cent had at least secondary education while only above 28 per cent of female household heads had similar level of education. Less than 10 per cent of household heads in each study site had education beyond secondary level; the exception was Kisumu where 16 per cent of household heads had education beyond secondary level,” the study reveals.