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Unpublished Paper
What can parents do? Parents' aspirations and choices of early childhood education and care in Kenya. A constructivist grounded theory
PhD - James Cook University (2013)
  • Mary Kimani, ACER
This thesis offers a grounded explanation of how a small group of educated Kenyan parents working as professionals in urban Nairobi define and attempt to choose high quality early childhood education and care (ECEC) services for their children. Being an educator and a mother working in Nairobi, the author was amazed at the age at which parents were enrolling their children to preschool. These well-educated parents were sending their children to 'school' well before the mandatory starting age. These parents want the best for their children but the ECEC services they choose are often more like formal schooling than the play-based ECEC widely accepted as optimal for early learning and development. Motivated by a concern that these children are being robbed of their childhoods the author wanted to find out what was going on, and understand the process as well as the social contexts in which parents make their choices. Endorsing parents as primary caregivers and partners in ECEC service development and delivery, the Kenyan National Early Childhood Development Policy Framework follows a global trend. However, despite this policy endorsement, there is a scarcity of research focusing on what parents believe to be important when choosing ECEC services. This scarcity of research, in Kenya and elsewhere, means that what parents want for their children, their choices and their experiences are poorly understood and accounted for in the development and delivery of 'quality' ECEC services. Constructivist grounded theory, was adapted and adopted to collect and analyse data. Twenty- three professional, educated Kenyan parents with direct experience of enrolling their young children in ECEC services in Nairobi were purposively and theoretically selected and interviewed. The data were collected and analysed simultaneously creating a to and fro movement between data collection and emerging codes and themes. Constant comparison, memoing and using in-vivo codes ensured that analysis stayed close to the data. Coding of the data entailed two stage process of initial coding and focused coding. Verbatim interview transcripts were coded using QSR Nvivo software. The study revealed incongruence between parents' ideals and their choices of ECEC services. Using constructivist grounded theory approach brought to the fore, the social processes that enable or impede parents to choose choices that matched their ideal. The study revealed that although choosing ECEC services may appear straight forward from the face value, it is complex, involving interplay of different systems. Both individual circumstances as well as systemic factors mediate parents' choices. Thus, faced with the prevailing competitive education system, a privatised preschool market, social pressures and the limited choices, these parents are aware that what their children finally get is 'a balancing act between their ideals and the realities'. Three key issues emerged from data that offer grounded explanation to parents' behaviour in defining and choosing ECEC services. These key issues included: Good Understanding versus Pragmatic Reasons: Parents have a good understanding of quality ECEC (including the value of play in learning) which aligns with the literature, yet they make their choices for pragmatic, rather than quality reasons, such as academic stature, affordability, proximity and similar values with home. Balancing Ideals and Realities: Parents claim to be acting in the best interests of the child, yet in balancing ideals and realities their children are getting less than the best; Effective Partnerships: Parents understand and value partnerships with teachers; indeed they wanted partnerships with the teachers. Yet from their reports, they took a back seat and gave teachers the main responsibility for their children's learning. The study findings highlight the importance of understanding parents' social contexts and a more proactive role by the government to create an enabling environment for parents to choose services that matched their ideals. Moreover the study champions parents' individual and collective voice in advocating for children's issues honouring early childhood as a political space worthy to be defended. [Author abstract, ed]
  • Early childhood education,
  • Educational quality,
  • Parents,
  • Play,
  • Preschool children,
  • School entrance age,
  • Kenya,
  • Aspriations
Publication Date
Citation Information
Mary Kimani. "What can parents do? Parents' aspirations and choices of early childhood education and care in Kenya. A constructivist grounded theory" PhD - James Cook University (2013)
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