Determinants of school choice: understanding how parents choose secondary schools in Lusaka District

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Kaoma, Kunda Godfrey
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University of Zambia
The study explored the determinants of school choice by parents in selected secondary schools in Lusaka district. This was done by investigating whether school choice was determined by the school‘s academic performance, parents‘ socio-economic status, location of parents and moral and religious values. The theories that guided this study were rational choice and free market theories. The research design used in this study was a convergent parallel mixed-methods design; an approach to inquiry that combines both qualitative and quantitative methods concurrently, prioritizing both methods almost equally. For qualitative method, interview guides were used and for quantitative method, questionnaires were distributed to respondents. The sample size was 135 participants. The study used both simple random sampling and purposive sampling to select respondents. 120 parents responded to questionnaires, 8 parents were interviewed to crosscheck other parents‘ responses in the questionnaires. Interviews were also used to collect data from 6 head-teachers and 1 officer at the DEBS office as key stakeholders or informants. Qualitative data was analysed according to emerging themes while quantitative data was analysed using SPSS, excel and mega stata where regression was run. The findings of this study suggested that parents had the freedom to exercise school choice in Lusaka. However, this choice was hampered by some factors. The research conducted found out that school academic performance was the significant variable; hence it was the biggest determining factor in parents‘ school choice for their children for it told a lot about the quality of education offered at a particular school. It was followed by moral and religious values. Respondents revealed that they appreciated schools where discipline was enforced. Parents‘ socio-economic status was also revealed to have influence on school choice though not significant when multiple regression was run. Location of parents was found to be insignificant as a determinant of school choice. The study recommended that government needed to work at issues that enhanced school academic performance and discipline in schools such as intensifying monitoring and supervision especially in public schools so as to reduce teachers‘ and pupils‘ laisser-faire kind of attitudes and avoid big class sizes by building or opening more secondary schools thereby improving the quality of education in schools. There was need for further research in rural areas of Zambia on determinants of school choice as some of the factors that might have influenced parents‘ choices in urban settings may not apply in rural areas. There was also need to conduct research on determinants of school choice at primary level in Zambia both in rural and urban settings as it seemed a major factor in influencing the type of secondary schools pupils went to.
Master of Education in Education and Development
School choice-Zambia , Education-Parent Participation