Exploring School effectiveness in challenging contexts: A study of selected day Secondary Schools in the Western Province of Zambia

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Kakupa, Paul
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This study analysed practices of selected rural day-secondary schools in the Western Province. The aim was to explore the particular factors which appeared to make some of these institutions more effective despite their challenging contexts. The study inquired into the perceptions of school effectiveness by headteachers, teachers and pupils; examined features that distinguished the more effective from the less effective schools; explained the key factors associated with effective rural schooling; and finally explored the factors that threatened school effectiveness. A multiple-case study design was adopted which combined both qualitative and quantitative methodologies; but with a greater focus on the qualitative strand. A sample of four rural day- secondary schools was selected after analysis of their performance in School Certificate examinations over a three year period (2010-2012). The data were collected from 128 participants, distributed as follows: four headteachers, four PTA chairpersons, 40 teachers and 80 pupils. Both probability and purposive sampling techniques were used to select the participants.The data were collected using questionnaires on teachers, focus group discussions with pupils and interview schedules on headteachers and PTA chairpersons. Other research instruments used were the observation schedules and schools’ official documents which gathered information on the schools’ facilities and enrolments among others. The qualitative data were analysed thematically by comparing and categorising participants’ responses. The Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) computer software was used to analyse the quantitative data in order to generate simple descriptive statistics in form of frequencies and graphs. The findings of the study revealed that the perceptions of school effectiveness in rural areas were diverse, but mostly influenced by the schools’ prevailing circumstances. Many considered it in terms of the availability of resource inputs. However, some defined it in terms of school processes and outputs. In terms of distinctive features, the more effective schools were characterised by moderately large classrooms and sufficient textbooks and desks. The schools also had boarding facilities for pupils. In addition to having more teachers with diplomas than degrees, they had local and regular professional development meetings. The key factors associated with the greater effectiveness of the rural day-secondary schools included proactive leadership that focused on teaching and learning as well as the creation of academic partnerships with external agencies. Others were a positive learning climate as perceived by the presence of adequate learning materials; teachers’ professional efficacy; high expectations of pupils’ success; and strong academic policies. The factors that threatened school effectiveness were identified. These included: insufficient teaching and learning materials, inadequate classroom accommodation, negative parental attitudes, pupil background and poor working conditions among others. The study recommended that the Ministry of Education should upgrade more rural basic schools into secondary schools so as to reduce overcrowding in classrooms. The role of headteachers should also be re-defined from that of passive administrators to active resource mobilisers. In collaboration with other stakeholders, school administrators should ensure that all their activities, policies and goals focus on improving teaching and learning.With the help of Parent-Teachers Associations, boarding facilities should be set up in all the day-secondary schools.
Educational Evaluation-Western Province, Zambia , School Improvement programs-Western Province, Zambia