Dynamics of Low-Fee Private Schools in Kenya: Governmental Legitimation, School-Community Dependence, and Resource Uncertainty
by D. Brent Edwards Jr., Steven J. Klees & Janet L. Wildish — 2017
Background/Context: The UN Sustainable Development Goals include a renewed commitment to inclusive and equitable education for all and will maintain pressure on governments in low-income countries to ensure this provision. A range of prominent researchers and institutional actors continue to explore and to promote low-fee private schools (LFPSs) as a viable option for achieving universal access to basic education. The emphasis on LFPSs can be seen as part of the push for education policies that attempt to improve educational access and quality not through the strengthening of public education but through the establishment of public–private partnerships.
Focus of Study: In this paper we explore the Kenyan government’s engagement with LFPSs, document and assess the impact of this support on the behavior of LFPS and clarify key actor perspectives and responses within this context.
Research Design: Through a qualitative case study of two LFPSs in a large urban informal settlement near Nairobi, we focus on the dynamic interaction and delicate equilibrium within which government officials, LFPS representatives, parents, and students not only interact with but influence each other. Data for the study were gathered over the course of 8 weeks during May and June of 2010 in the urban slum called Mathare Village in Nairobi through document review, 35 interviews, and school visits.
Conclusions: The findings suggest that LFPSs do not function in practice as in theory, and crucially, that there are inherent trade-offs, tensions, and unexpected dynamics in operation that have serious consequences for such issues as quality and equity, even when supported by formal government policy designed to address these aspects. The study reinforces the importance of national governments and international bodies increasing the resources devoted to improving access to, and the quality of, public education.
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