Contrary to earlier research that argued that schools do not have any effect on students’ behaviour (Coleman, Campbell, Hobson, Mcpartland, Mood, Weinfield & York, 1966), there is currently a growing acceptance that schools have a significant impact (Reynold & Creemer, Firestone, 1991). School effectiveness (SE) concern is that schools do have major effects upon children development. This is reflected by the interest various stakeholders have in schools. However, it is widely recognised that there is no simple combination of factors which can produce an effective school (Sammons, Hillman & Mortimore, 1995) because of varied societal needs. This paper discusses the characteristics commonly associated with an effective school in Kenya’s context. It will provide the rationale for these indicators and analytically examine the appropriateness of each.
Characteristics associated with ES in Kenya’s Context
a) Academic Performance
Schools’ academic performance stands out in Kenya as one of the major indicator of an effective school. Almost all education stake holders: parents, students, teachers, education officials all agree that a school with good academic performance is an effective school while the one with poor academic record is an ineffective.
The rationale for this, perhaps, could be traced to Kenya’s capitalistic ideology which encourages stiff competition in both social and political areas. As a result of this, it is the only the best who survive. Consequently, good academic performance in Kenya is relied on for students getting opportunity for higher learning, job placement and even teachers’ promotion. A study by Tomlison (1989) on ES found out that exam entry policies was a key in SE while Goodlad (1984) rightly notes that most school effectiveness studies have focused on academic achievement in terms of exam results.
Although academic performance could be a good indicator of SE, focusing on it in isolation or narrowly as it is the case in Kenya is inappropriate. This is because, as in Kenya, schools may end up designing unorthodox means of getting good exam results. Some cheat, others drill students for exams, while others have commercialised the whole teaching and learning process through heavily charged extra tuition.
I suggest that the focus need to go beyond exam results and consider how other students’ learning out comes relate to ‘reality of students’ lives outside schools (Rettalick, 2009).This could include a consideration of learners acquisition of relevant societal skills, values and attitude. Achievements in co curricular activities should also be considered. Furthermore, the emphasis should not be on the score obtained per see but should be on the ‘value added’ by the school because as Mortimore (1991) posit effective schools add value to students outcome in comparison with other schools serving similar intake.
b) Strong and Professional Leadership
Retallic (2009) study on effective schools in Pakistan advises appropriately on leadership: ‘the world need to pay attention to personal qualities of the people who would be the principals of schools’ (p.210). He suggests qualities such as commitment, caring, openness, tolerance, vision, and broad education as some of the requirement of a good leader. Perhaps this could be the reason why Kenyans consider good leadership as an indicator of an effective school. Schools with strong and firm principals who appear to be in charge: are able to manage well school’s human and non human resources are considered as ES. The head is expected to work cooperatively with staff and students. He is also supposed to create good working relationship between the school and the community and encourage parents’ participation in school activities.
It is appropriate to consider leadership as a characteristic of an effective school because both...