The relationship between physical environment and academic achievement in public secondary schools in Nairobi city, Kenya
Does the settings where learning occurs matter? Research in North America and Western Europe shows that learning outcomes are hampered in physical environments where extreme climatic conditions are experienced.The settings and climatic conditions differ significantly in Sub-Saharan Africa as they are not as extreme. In fact leading rresearchers in Kenya offer mixed signals on the role of the school environment on achievement. This study sought to contribute to factors that explain learning achievement from the perspective of an architect planner rather than the predominant descriptive educationist viewpoint. The objectives of the study were to examine the quality of the physical school environment, establish academic achievement among form four students and explore the relationship between the school physical environment and student achievement. The study adopted the case study research design. Public secondary schools were stratified into boys, girls and mixed categories. These were further stratified along eight geopolitical divisions in Nairobi County. Schools were proportionally allocated to the divisions. Systematic and simple random sampling techniques were employed to select the 36 schools investigated by the study. A revised Commonwealth Association of Physical Environment questionnaire, an interview schedule and an observation schedule revealed that the overall average quality of mixed schools’ index of 126 was lower than that of boys’ and girls’ schools. The indices for boys’ and girls’ schools were both equal to 134. In the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education results of 2011, girls recorded the best performance with a mean grade score of 51.9, followed by boys’ and mixed schools with scores of 46.2 and 31.2 respectively. The extent to which the environment influenced the test scores, Pearson’s r, revealed a positive correlation between the school environment and student achievement; r = 0.370, n = 35, p = 0.029. Analysis of variance tests indicated that the impact of the internal environment and facilities on student achievement differed among boys’, girls’ and mixed schools; F (2, 7) = 4.178, p = 0.042. The correlation and multiple regressions computed identified the key predictor variables of achievement as size in acreage of the school, availability of a title deed, aesthetics, security, school grounds, type of lighting, paintwork to interior walls, graffiti occurrence, classroom furniture condition and noise from the neighbourhood. The study concluded that school physical environment contributes to student achievement. The task of improving school facilities from the foregoing results was noted. Focus is recommended on putting in place measures to upgrade old facilities, improve school grounds and control development around educational facilities.