Academic journal article Geography

Improving the Quality of Education: Kenya's Next Challenge

Academic journal article Geography

Improving the Quality of Education: Kenya's Next Challenge

Article excerpt


Kenya is experiencing a rapid increase in primary school enrolments following the introduction of free primary education in 2003. This has impacted on the quality of education received by children, and the levels of achievement in state schools. This article explores the educational pressures on a primary school in rural western Kenya and the views of its teachers concerning the quality of the educational experience they provide. Absenteeism, overcrowding, poor school infrastructure and a plethora of local languages all affect pupil progress, which in turn impacts on the perception of the quality and value of education among the rural population. As well as increased funding for education, improvements in initial teacher training and in-service training (INSET) are needed to raise the reputation of the profession to attract new and more able teachers.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDG) were adopted by the international community in 2000 as a major initiative towards development and improvement in people's lives in the 21st century. The overarching aim of poverty reduction incorporates specific goals to improve nutrition, child and maternal health, gender equality, living conditions and, crucially, access to education. The combined focus of governments and nongovernmental organisations (NGOs), concentrating efforts on specific targets and interventions, has provided significant improvements in many aspects of quality of life in the developing world. In particular, progress towards MDG 2 (to achieve universal primary education by 2015) is recognised as key to raising living standards and providing opportunities for sustained development into the future. This Goal was reinforced in the 2000 Education For All (EFA) Dakar Framework that committed signatories to 'ensure that by 2015 all children, particularly girls, children in difficult circumstances, and those belonging to ethnic minorities, have access to, and complete, free and compulsory primary education of good quality' (UNESCO, 2000).

Although some countries, including several in subSaharan Africa, will not meet their education enrolment target (such as Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone and Somalia), there is much to celebrate. Ninety-three percent of children were enrolled in primary schools in the developing world in 2009, an increase of 18% since 2003 (EFA, 2010). Access to education in sub-Saharan countries, such as Nigeria, Niger and Ethiopia, is improving rapidly. Some African nations, notably Benin, Tanzania, Zambia and Kenya, are on target to achieve MDG 2 by the deadline of 2015 (EFA, 2010).

In many countries it is the abolition of primary school fees that has been instrumental in encouraging enrolment. This welcome change has, however, raised further challenges for developing countries as they strive to finance a rapid expansion of primary educational provision. Resources are also stretched by the need to provide progression into an expanded secondary sector, plus the recruitment of suitably wellqualified teachers. How do poor and middle-income countries maintain good quality education, particularly in public sector primary schools, when increased enrolment exposes the need for greater investment in resources, infrastructure and teachers?

The quality of education has become a major issue for governments in developing countries, prompted by the low levels of educational achievement recorded at primary level, especially in subSaharan Africa (EFA, 2010). There has been considerable debate over the last 30 years about the factors which influence pupil achievement in African schools. Hungi and Thuki (2010) summarised the principal, and contradictory, findings over the last three decades. They describe analyses by Heyneman and Loxley (1983), Fuller and Clarke (1994) and Baker et al. (2002) who have variously attributed factors affecting pupils' attainment such as family background, class size, school infrastructure, resource provision and teacher quality. …

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