The Impact of Secondary Schools on Students' Career Aspirations in Kisumu Municipality, Kenya

Article excerpt


Adolescence is a time when teenagers develop certain aspirations regarding their education and future careers. Aspirations represent a person's orientation towards particular goals (Domenico & Jones, 2007). According to Silvia (2001), career aspirations refer to an individual's career related goals or intentions and also include motivational components which are not present on mere interests. Traditional theories of career development propose that career aspirations develop in stages from childhood to adulthood. According to Ginzberg (1952), young adolescents from 11 to 14 years of age have tentative choices based on interests but with little attention to realistic constraints. By the age of 14 to 24 adolescents are in the exploration stage with progressive narrowing of career options to make final decisions regarding career choices. Gotfredson's (2002) theory asserts that at the age of 14 students begin to adjust their career aspirations to factors of personal self and compromise their options to more realistic factors (Hirschi, 2010).

According to Gotfredson (2005), by the age of 13 and 14, adolescence have developed two cognitive competencies related to career development i.e. self concept and perception about occupations. During adolescence, students have achieved an adult level understanding of the sex type and prestige level of common occupations. Gotfredson argues that adolescents start to eliminate occupational choices based on sex types and prestige levels. For example, female students might avoid choosing occupations that are perceived as too masculine such as mining and also might consider eliminating choices that are perceived as having low social prestige status such as a career as a house maid. Research shows that girls tend to aspire to a narrower range of occupations than boys because they believe many jobs are unsuitable for them whereas boys have a greater occupational understanding, focus and see more occupational opportunities than girls (Creed, Conlon & Zimmer-Gembeck 2007).

Current researches on occupational aspirations have been conceptualized within theories that more readily recognize the influence of contextual factors. The Social Cognitive theory by Lent, Brown and Hacket (2002) for example holds that occupational aspirations are influenced by different socialization practices that adolescents are exposed to as well as adolescents' internalization of these different experiences. It focuses on the interaction between adolescents' cognitive personal variables and the contexts which may limit or encourage personal urgency in career development (Patton and Creed, 2007).

Schools are in the most strategic positions to impact on career aspirations and expectations. This is mainly due to the existing school based resources such as vocational interest inventories and career seminars (Diemer 2007).According to Kniveton (2004), schools an provide career information or career guidance directly or indirectly to influence a students career choice behavior. School teachers can also identify aptitudes, abilities and encourage students to take certain subject combinations or take part in work experience. In a study conducted in Kenya by Dondo (2006), the results indicate that school culture can influence one's career choice and aspirations since there are standards of performance which are set in each school leading to the choice of certain careers. This is also due to the curriculum that one is exposed to and the quality of career guidance services available in the school.

Schools through streaming practices stereotype the participation of girls and boys in secondary school technology subjects. Female education in science and Technology in Africa (FEMSA, 1999) study found out that certain subjects such as home science was considered as meant for girls while certain subjects such as woodwork and metalwork was meant for boys. The imbalance trends also continue to tertiary level. …