Determining optimal size and existence of economics of scale in Kakamega district secondary schools
Nafukho, Fredrick Muyia
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This study was designed to investigate into operational efficiency of secondary schools in Kakamega district during the school year 1989. The main objective of the study was; to determine the optimal size of secondary schools and find out whether economies of scale existed in the operation of the schools. The study also aimed at showing how the schools in the district could lower unit costs while still maintaining high quality of education. Data for the study were collected from a sample of 41 secondary schools in the district. Stratified and proportionate random sampling techniques were employed to select the sample. A pre-testing of the research instrument used was done to attest its validity and reliability. The research instrument used was a detailed questionnaire which was completed by the headteachers of 41 secondary schools used in the study. Data from the field were collected by the researcher and one research assistant. It was analysed for basic descriptive statistics and regression analysis by the use of the computer. From the findings of the study, it was established that the optimal size of secondary schools during the year of investigation (1989) was 574 students. At this level of enrolment, schools in the district would be able to lower the unit costs. It is however important, to note that this optimal size can never be static and will change with time when prices of educational facilities go up and when teachers' salaries for example are raised. Economies of scale were a reality in the operation of secondary schools in the district, for the year used in this study. The savings that would be realized by increasing enrolment, for instance from 250 students to 500 would be very high (Ksh. 635.25) per pupil. When school size exceeded the optimal, less saving would be realized only (Ksh. 35.25 per pupil) meaning that school size could not be expanded indefinitely. The other interesting finding was that personal integrity of headteachers, their management skills and accountability, though not initially part of the model emerged as important attributes necessary for the headteachers in the district to ensure efficient use of educational resources. This could be reinforced by some incentives like promotion and scholarships for further studies being given to headteachers who manage well school resources. Majority of the 41 schools under investigation performed poorly in the 1989 KCSE examination, only 12 per cent obtained a mean score of 7 points. There was no school that had a mean of between 8 and 12 points. This poor examination results could be an indication of inefficiency in resource use. Thirty eight per cent of the schools under investigation had a laboratory, workshop or home science room, music room, library and all the required textbooks. This fairly low percentage, of the facilities that schools had, could be another factor that contributed to poor K.C.S.E. results in the year 1989. Non-teacher expenditure per pupil had a positive and statistical significant relationship with the dependent variable; the recurrent expenditure per pupil as hypothesized. The student/teacher ratio had an inverse linear relationship with recurrent expenditure per pupil. This ratio had the highest responsiveness to unit costs in the schools observed. The cost curve with respect to this ratio was of inverse type. The teacher quality variables; average teacher salaries and teacher qualifications had positive and statistical significant relationship with eh recurrent expenditure per pupil as hypothesized. Based on these findings it was recommended that to lower the unit costs in secondary schools in the district, each school should have a minimum size of 480 students (3 streams of 40 students per class) and a maximum of 640 students (4 streams of 40 students per class). For proper use of educational resources, there is need for headteachers to be well equipped with accounting knowledge. In order for the schools to be able to reap maximum benefits of scale, there is need for facility sharing especially in the case of neighboring schools. Also, the setting up of new schools in the district should be given low priority; instead existing schools should be provided with the necessary learning facilities that are lacking to improve examination results. Finally, as the findings of the study show, there is urgent need to enforce uniform student/teacher ration in all the schools in order to fully utilize school resources. This regulation is also necessary because schools are public institutions and are not likely to work towards optimality. Unlike private institutions, where the verdict is already given by invisible hand of the market, hence the concept of optimality is well applied, this is lacking in public schools. To ensure that teacher resources are not under utilized, the government should not post qualified teachers to under enrolled schools, this should apply to all schools in the country.