Financing basic education: What are the equity and quality implications of free primary education (FPE) and free day secondary education (FDSE) policies in Kenya?
The thrust of this paper is to examine free primary education (FPE) and Free Day Secondary Education (FDSE) education policies with a view to critically assess their implications on equity and quality of the education provided through these initiatives in Kenya. It is concerned with three questions? What is the current progress in enrollment and equity trends in education in primary and secondary schools in Kenya? What are the funding strategies for the primary and secondary education sectors in the country? What are the emerging challenges and implications of these free education policies on equity and quality in Kenya? The study utilizes both data and methods triangulation techniques combining secondary data sources through desk literature review and primary data from interviews with purposively sampled 136 primary and secondary school teachers and headteachers pursuing their school-based degree progrmmes at Kenyatta and Mount Kenya Universities. The major finding is that there has been a phenomenal growth in student enrollment both in primary and secondary schools in Kenya as a result of the implementation of these free education policies. However, education in the country has been fraught with multifarious and intertwined finance related challenges of providing quality and equitable education, resulting in conspicuously wide and severe regional and gender disparities in access to, and quality of education. The funds meant for primary and secondary schools are inadequate and irregularly transmitted to schools and this has exacerbated teacher shortages, high pupil-teacher ratios and inadequate and /or inappropriate teaching resources forcing teachers to resort to unorthodox instructional techniques. This has resulted in a drop in quality outcomes of education. It is concluded that although Kenya has adroitly put in place additional series of educational interventions and incentives including bursaries for the poor needy learners and encouraging individual schools to solicit for additional funds from the community and school projects to supplement government funding, these interventions are yielding more of quantitative growth in student enrollment at the expense of equity and quality of the education provided. It is recommended that in order to effectively finance basic education of high quality, all constraints related to additional educational financing should be eradicated through making strong and tough decisions that pragmatically translate the education policies from the current rhetoric chimera to practice.