Preferences of parents on quality pre-school education in Athi River Sub County, Machakos County
Amenya, Obang'i Donvan
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What constitutes quality preschool education from the perspective of parents? Are there features that they consider inherent in preschool programs perceived to be of good quality? This study was carried out to establish preferences of parents on quality preschool education in Athi river sub-county, Machakos County. The study explored parents' preferred preschool learning conditions, teacher practices and learning competencies children ought to attain at the end of the preschool period. In addition, the study examined the extent to which parents' demographic characteristics influenced their preferences on quality preschool education. The study was guided by the rational choice theory which argues that in principle, rational individuals have perfect knowledge on v.arious issues and it is such knowledge which shapes their preferences. In documenting parental preferences, a descriptive survey design was adopted. The respondents of the study were 114 parents, 14 preschool teachers and 14 head teachers. All the respondents were drawn from 14 public preschools distributed across Lukenya and Athi river divisions of Athi river sub-county. Data collection instruments employed were questionnaires for parents and interview schedules for the preschool teachers and head teachers. To ascertain validity and reliability of instruments, a pilot study was undertaken in one preschool located in Lukenya division. Test retest method was employed to compute reliability measure of instruments using Cronbach's coefficient alpha. The reliability coefficient of the subscale items on the learning environment, teacher practices and preferred learning competencies was 0.796, 0.922 and 0.912 respectively. This implies that the instruments were reliable. Statistical package for social sciences (SPSS) spreadsheet was prepared for entry of quantitative data which was analyzed by running frequencies and doing correlation analysis on various variables. Qualitative data was transcribed, analyzed thematically and reported inform of verbatim quotations and narrations. Findings revealed that nearly all parents preferred preschool classes with lower teacher: child ratios and those equipped with a variety of learning materials and activity corners. On preferred teacher practices, majority of the parents (72.1 %) were in favour of teaching literacy and nurneracy skills. Basic reading, writing and nurneracy .skills were rated as the most preferred learning competence at 89.4%, 86.2% and 84,8% respectively. Using a correlation analysis, the study established that there was a statistically significant correlation between highest level of education attained by the parents and their preferences on quality preschool education, (r = .568, P = < .000, with a R2 = 92.516). On the other hand, there was no statistically significant correlation between parents' age (r = .126, P = < .234, with a R2 = l3.69), gender (r = .176, P = < .091, with a R2 = 11.28) and preferences on preschool education. A major conclusion from the study is that majority of parents have a clear and nearly common understanding on what constitutes quality preschool education. The study recommends that parents should be actively involved in formulation and implementation of preschool education policies since they are equally critical stakeholders that can no longer be ignored. In addition, the study recommends that quality assurance officers at district level should 'encourage preschool teachers to promote holistic development of children instead of emphasizing only in academic areas. Further, the study also recommends further research to establish the impact of parental preferences on preschool curriculum implementation.