Factors contributing to poor performance in mathematics at KCPE in in Public primary schools in Isiolo District, Eastern Province, Kenya
The central problem of the study was that, despite the fact that over 80% of the primary school children are in public primary schools in Kenya, these children do not perform well in mathematics at KCPE examination. The performance of mathematics at KCPE has been poor since independence. The study was to identify factors influencing students' poor performance in selected schools in Isiolo District. The objectives of the study were to investigate the extent to which factors such as: nature and adequacy of resources and school facilities, syllabus coverage, teachers/pupil ratio, teachers and pupils' attitude towards mathematics and social cultural background of the learners, influenced students' performance in mathematics. Six out of 46 KCPE public primary schools were purposefully sampled in Isiolo District. These schools were: Kilimani, Elsa, Wabera, Goda, Bula Mpya and Isiolo Barracks. The schools were selected on the basis of rural and urban, good and poor performing schools, high and low enrollments. The study involved 6 head teachers, 2 mathematic teachers and 20 pupils from each sample school, 3 AEOs and 24 opinion leaders. Pupils included in the study were those in classes 6, 7 and 8 because they were more mature and could respond to the questionnaires correctly. Out of the 20 pupils per sample school, 60% were boys while 40% were girls. The difference was because in ASAL districts few girls attend school. Pupils selected were those in age bracket of 8 - 12 years. The total sampling matrix was 165 respondents. Data collection instruments comprised of questionnaires, interview schedules and observation guidelines. The developed instruments were piloted to determine their reliability and validity. Reliability of measurements concerned the degree to which a particular measuring procedure gives similar results over a number of repeated trials. Test retest method was used. Content validity referred to establishing whether the instruments could measure what they were intended to measure. This was done through inviting 5 expert mathematics teachers who participate in marking KNEC examinations, to look into the content of the instruments and then give feedback on the same. Different methods were employed to gather information for the intended research. Data was collected using questionnaires, interview guides and observation guidelines. Questionnaires were presented to standard 7 and 8 pupils, teachers, head teachers and AEOs. The opinion leaders were interviewed using structured interview guides. The researcher observed variables such as physical facilities, scholastic resources, class size and both pupils and teachers behaviour during the lesson. Classroom observation was done in order to judge teaching methodology and learners' attitude. The data collected was processed and analyzed using descriptive form. Tables. frequencies, graphs, charts and percentages were used to present the data. The research findings revealed that, there were inadequate physical facilities and instructional materials such as classes, desks, teaching and learning resources. This did not enhance nor facilitate teaching and learning process. There was inadequate syllabus coverage and even when covered, it was not effectively done by more than half of the schools. Pupils and teachers attitude towards mathematics was found to be negative due to various factors such as lack of motivation. Social cultural background of the learners was found to be discouraging as far as education was concerned. Culture does not allow counting of items especially livestock for fear of bewitching. This denied children basic skills of counting, additions and subtractions. It was found out that, teacher/ pupil ratio in about 67% of the public primary schools was within MOFST recommended ratio of 1:40. This was not found to be a contributing factor to poor performance in mathematics at KCPE. The researcher made the following recommendations as per the study objectives. Education stakeholders at school level should solicit for funds to provide more classes, desks and teaching/ learning materials, which facilitate the process of teaching and learning. Teachers should strive to cover mathematics syllabus effectively and on time. All school aged children should be taken to school. Both parents and teachers should strive to cultivate positive attitude towards mathematics among learners by encouraging them. Teachers should be motivated by providing them with instructional materials and rewarding them when they perform well in mathematics. For social cultural background of the learners, parents should be educated on the importance of education and be encouraged to take their children to school. Parents should be made aware of the out dated cultural practices like female genital mutilation and early marriages for girls and instead, take them to school. The researcher recommends further research be conducted covering a wider scope and other possible factors which might be contributing to poor performance in mathematics.