An Investigation into the Relationship between Educational Inputs and Rates of Achievement at the Basic Education Level in the

South Western Educational Division in Malawi
Demis Kunje
University of Malawi

In Malawi, at the basic education level, teacher-pupil ratios, pupil performance, dropout rates and other educational indicators remain at unacceptable levels. This study investigated how much school, classroom and pupil level factors influence pupil performance in mathematics, English and Chichewa in standards 5 and 7. Tests in the three subjects were given to a random sample of sixty pupils per school in a stratified sample of 100 urban and rural schools in one education division. In the pilot, urban schools performed better than rural schools in mathematics and English. Pupils had problems writing compositions in both English and Chichewa. In the study the main challenge was little time to administer tests to all the schools. Variances in performance in the three subjects due to school and classroom level factors will be calculated. Pupil factors will be correlated to performance. Multi level analysis will also be done using MLwiN package. 1. Introduction In Malawi, Free Primary Education was introduced in 1994 soon after attaining a democratic government. Enrollments soared from 1.2 million in 1994 to 3.0 million in 1997. This rapid increase in enrollment brought about an unprecedented stress on the existing resources in the sector. Pupil-teacher ratios, pupil-classroom ratios, pupil-text book ratios and most other educational indicators reached unacceptable levels. The quality of education was thus seen as having plummeted while increased access seemed to have been the only gain. In an effort to address the problem MoE recruited about 20,000 temporary teachers and gave them a two week orientation course before sending them into schools. Development partners were sympathetic to the situation and they assisted the government in various ways. GTZ and others helped to set up a teacher training programme designed to produce teachers as quickly as possible. CIDA produced text books for the whole curriculum. The EU and the World Bank constructed schools. DFID trained Primary Education Advisors and constructed Teacher Development Centres and classroom blocks. Others such as JICA, DANIDA assisted in various and significant ways. Policy documents such as the Policy Investment Framework, the Malawi Poverty Reduction Strategic Paper, the HIV/AIDS in Education Policy and others have been crafted to direct and support the Free Primary Education effort and the eventual attainment of EFA goals. In 2004, a decade later gains such as a decrease in the number of untrained teachers, decreasing disparities between boys and girls, increased access and provision of text books are noteworthy. However drop-out rates (15%), completion rates (30%), attendance rates (88%) and pass rates (30%) seem to have remained at unacceptable levels (Ministry of Education, 2005). The system seems little able to keep children in school and the children are not able to reach acceptable levels of literacy and numeracy even when they stay on in school. With efforts by various players to improve the quality of education it is imperative that these are directed in a manner which brings about positive changes. This requires deep insights into how the various efforts or inputs into education sector are being integrated at the school level and how, among various variables, achievement are being affected. In this study inputs to schools are categorized as infrastructure, availability of teachers, availability of


it is seen as a right for every child. Some inputs seem to be brought into schools without the benefit of prior testing or verification. Thus the study will help in the understanding of the usage of school inputs which can be linked to quality improvements. in trickles and in an uncoordinated manner. The study will thus show the appropriateness of the educational inputs to our situation. In addition. Notebook without textbooks and teachers does not seem to be the best way to assist a school. Fourthly. (3) improving the availability of teaching and learning materials and (4) promoting effective monitoring and evaluation of education quality. The study also investigates the contribution which pupil characteristics make towards educational growth or performance. What combinations of inputs and pupil background are associated with pupil achievement in mathematics. The issue of quality is being addressed in a piecemeal way. Chichewa and English in std 5 and in std 7? 2. The study will provide thick descriptions of how the teaching and learning environment is managed in relation to the improvement of quality of education. it is hoped that this study will give a clear picture of the minimum levels of resources required by different school settings. this study complements the efforts made so far to find effective schools in Malawi by using rigorous statistical techniques which have not been extensively used in previous studies. 4. Limitations of the study This study has several limitations which may affect the generalisability of the results. A class room block constructed without teacher’s house and latrines leaves a lot to be desired. These are all in consonance with the national strategic objectives of EFA goals 5 and 6 which aim at (1) creating a conducive learning environment for both boys and girls. Most of these inputs are mere stop gap measures which address one problem while other problems still exist. 5. Statement of the problem Basic education is seen as a necessary condition for development. Research Questions This study is going to be guided by the following research questions: 1. constructing a classroom block without a holistic approach to school improvement attracts even more problems in the teaching and learning process. First. through the in-depth interviews the study hopes to uncover salient features of schooling that matter in improving achievements. In Malawi the introduction of free primary education in 1994 resulted in increased enrollments without accompanying improvements in quality. Chichewa and English in std 5 and std 7? 3. Thus it is not known which inputs or combinations of inputs have impact on the quality of education in general and on achievement in particular in different locations in the country.textbooks and availability of desks. Secondly. What are the relationships between the school level. 3. As indicated before. For example. classroom level and pupil level factors and pupil achievement in mathematics. Desks without black boards and chalk do little to alleviate problems in the teaching and learning processes. Thirdly. (2) promoting higher achievement levels especially for girls. teachers who went on specific in-service may not be using the training because they are not given opportunity to use 2 . 2. some of the inputs may have aged as they may not be usable in some situations. it will provide an understanding of the relationships that exist between educational inputs and achievements levels. Significance of the study This study is significant for several reasons. How are the inputs in schools utilized to improve the quality of basic education? This means that the study will take both a quantitative and a qualitative approach to address the problem. To study how these interact to affect achievement both quantitative and qualitative approaches will be used. First.

Therefore this study merely identifies factors that constitute basic educational inputs in the Malawian context. Of particular interest to this study is research that has focused on school effectiveness. 6. textbooks. This study gains from the literature replete with effective schools research which were heralded in the 1980s. time and student girls’ education. private provision of education. desks. a choice of a given range of outcomes. Therefore MoE has witnessed changes in recent times meant to improve its effectiveness mainly through such recommendations. 2004) investigated pupil. Therefore cause – effect relationships need adequate control of other factors. HIV/AIDS and education. Notable outcomes of these are the various sector documents which out line new policies and strategies. exercise book. toilets. A similar study by MIE   (2005) in 12 districts showed that learner achievement in four subjects at the primary school level was below expected levels and that less than 10% of the learners were adequately prepared for the next higher class they were to move into. evaluations of education programmes. 2001. Studying what really affects performance is intrinsically complex as there are arrays of factors which contribute to educational growth. The claim is that these interventions/inputs will help improve the quality of basic education. Judgements about school performance and relative effectiveness require careful analyses. This ignited interest in the Malawi context as the country witnesses a multitude of interventions by development partners through NGOs in the form of classroom blocks. policy analyses. black boards and other basic requirements. Several initiatives have been undertaken to measure the levels of literacy and numeracy of pupils at different levels both in primary school and in secondary schools. Theoretical Framework The causal status of relationships between school characteristics and effects is small because of the correlative nature of research. The main findings were that the majority of the pupils in Malawi primary schools are performing below minimum and desirable levels of reading and mathematical skills. 7. classroom practice and decentralization. Thirdly. Methods employed in research have a bearing on how much we can judge school performance and policy concerns. This study intends to explore the effects of some basic school inputs and pupil characteristics on achievement through both quantitative and qualitative analyses. In 2001 and 2004. NIPDEP  (2003) showed that there were slight increases in performance in mathematics and English after JICA introduced some interventions such as infrastructure. However the achievement levels 3 . For example school effectiveness need to be specific as to what outcomes we are searching for. Studies such as that conducted by Ifelunni(1997) on correlates of academic achievement are now appropriate in the Malawian context. teacher and school factors and how they related to the achievement of minimum levels of literacy and numeracy. Furthermore the curriculum has been undergoing review in response to similar findings. The Ministry of Education (MoE) has been able to reorganize itself mainly because of recommendations from such research studies. conditions of schooling. So school effectiveness may be seen as being relative to outcomes. lack of theory and flaws in conceptualizations. Review of literature 7. careful sampling and recognition of the processes that are involved. SACMEQ (Milner et al. pupils’ achievement in Malawi has always been at the bottom of the list. some activities which occur at specific periods of the school calendar may not be captured during the short period of visit by the research team. teacher in – service and teacher support in schools. These and other confounding circumstances may limit our understanding of the results but these are generally overwhelmed and controlled by the research design. Chimombo et al. When compared to pupils at similar levels in the Southern African Region.1 Past research A multitude of research studies have been conducted so far in areas of teacher education. what time period and in whose eyes. A conceptual frame work offered by Heneveld and Ward (1996) offers a wide rage of possibilities that need to be studied.

text book pupil ratios and staffing levels.1 Sample of Pilot Schools District Blantyre Urban Blantyre Rural Mwanza Chikwawa Nsanje 8.2 Instruments Teachers and primary school Advisors were invited to design tests in mathematics. This study intends to isolate pupil. The main aim of the pilot was to pilot test the instruments in order to produce reliable tests and questionnaires. The table below shows the schools their location and teacher-pupil ratio. School Chichiri Likulu Mphande Dyeratu Divide Location Urban Rural Rural Rural Rural Teacher/pupil Ratio 70 48 50 86 120 4 . Such an analysis will go a long way in helping to prioritorise school inputs in the quest for improved quality of education. What is deficient in these studies is that they fall short of identifying how much each of the interventions is influencing the changes. Chichewa and English at the Std 5 and Std 7 levels. PLAN   (2005) also report of some increases in the percentages of pupils gaining mastery in Chichewa after teachers in two districts had undergone some specific training. 8. Researchers scrutinized the tests to ensure that the items were covering reading. The major focus was to select both urban and rural schools as well as a wide range of school characteristics especially teacher-pupil ratio. writing and numeracy in the curriculum. The same study showed that class teachers had problems getting right all tasks set for the pupils. The school profile questionnaire sought to capture school characteristics such as teacher qualification. Pilot study A pilot study was conducted in five districts in September. Researchers designed the school profile questionnaire and the pupil back ground questionnaire. classroom and school factors and determine the extent to which these factors influence achievement in primary schools in Malawi. In addition the pilot was aimed at determining the best way to arrange the logistics of the administration of the instruments on a wide scale. 8.remained disturbingly low. A sample of five schools was selected to represent the five districts in the South Western Education Division. 2005. classroom-pupil ratio.

age. English and Chichewa School Chichiri Dinde Dyeratu Mphande Urban/ Rural Urban Rural Rural Rural T/pu pil 70 120 86 50 Maths 28 Boys Girls 11.2 English Girls 30 24.3 4.7 23.4 6.4 25.5 Boys 30 24.7 2.1 1.7 22.1 8.7 6.6 14.5 18. 8.9 13.1 16.4 11.3 21.8 16.3 13.5 10.5 4.2 Maths Girls 30 19.3 4.4 2. 10 Boys Girls 4.8 Chichewa 29 Boys Girls 18 13.1 22.3 24. Chichewa Boys Girls 30 30 24.2 English comp.6 12. 10 Boys Girls 4.7 5 .9 2.5 11.3 4.2 21.7 12.5 15. English and Chichewa School Chichiri Dinde Dyeratu Mphande Likulu Location Urban Rural Rural Rural Rural Teacher/ pupil 70 120 86 50 48 Boys 30 16 13.1 12.6 13.6 14. 8.4.3 14.1 15.8 5. An item analysis was done on each test to remove items which seemed too difficult for the pupils and those which proved too easy for the pupils.8 18.5 15.3 Chichewa comp.6 13.8 7. Table 2: Std 5 means in Maths.3 Procedure Two researchers administered tests and questionnaires in each school.8 Table 3: Std 7 mean scores in Maths.5 8.1 2.8 11.7 2.8 14. parents’ education and socioeconomic status of their families.9 7.5 24. School teachers were asked to mark the test scripts and the means of the results were compared to give preliminary indications of effects of location and sex on achievement.5 7.The pupil background questionnaire sought to capture sex.8 English 30 Boys Girls 24.9 11.1 9. The focus was on the difference between boys and girls and between rural schools and urban schools.7 11.8 13.3 15.4 Preliminary Results The class means for each test were tabulated to show comparisons of performance in each standard.6 5.9 5 5. The lengths of the tests were also modified to reflect the amount of time pupils took to complete the tests during the piloting.9 24.9 13.

Altogether there were 6000 pupils taking three tests each. 9. The following instruments will be used to collect this data:9. of Schools Low Urban Medium High Low Rural Medium High 29 17 4 4 4 42 Achievement tests were administered to 30 pupils per standard per school giving 60 pupils per school. In all there were 9000 scripts in Std 5 and 9000 scripts in Std 7.3 3.Likulu Rural 48 8. Low teacher-pupil ratios were those in the range 1: 71 and above.1 Pupil Socio-economic Background (SEB) 6 .7 The main results that can be glimpsed from the findings are that urban schools performed better than rural schools in Mathematics and English.7 18. medium teacher pupil ratios and high teacher pupil ratios. Chichewa seemed to elude urban schools especially girls where rural schools performed better than the urban school. 9.8 12. Medium teacher-pupil ratios were taken to be those in the range 1:50 to 1:70 and high pupil –teacher ratios were from 1:50 and below. (South Western Division has the largest proportion of urban schools compared to the other five Divisions. Main Study 9. From this division a random sample of 100 schools was selected.8 11. Table 4: Sampling Design and number of schools Location Teacher/Pupil ratio No. Noteworthy was the poor performance in writing compositions in both English and Chichewa. There were 544 rural schools and 70 urban schools in 2005 giving a ratio of 8:1) 9. school characteristics and pupils’ achievement. This came to 3000 pupils writing each subject in each of the two standards.3. On the other hand rural schools are much worse in Std 7 compared to urban schools while Std 5 seem to be maintain some competitive edge.1 The Sample Firstly. The sample from each category reflected the proportion of the schools in the categories. The schools were further selected to fit low teacher pupil ratios.2 Sampling We selected 100 schools to reflect the population of urban schools and rural school which are in the ratio of 1: 8 approximating a sample of 12 urban schools to 88 rural schools.2 7 8. The sampling design is shown in Table 4 below. Girls in the urban seemed to be doing better than boys in mathematics and English.4 2.3 Instruments The data to be collected will be teacher and pupil bio data. one out the six education divisions which has a large urban school prevalence was used in order to compare with the large rural school population.

. 9. enrollment by class and additional inputs such as infrastructure and teaching and learning resources. Nsanje and mwanza districts while 28 schools were selected from Blantyre Rural and 12 were selected from Blantyre Urban. Each team then visited the DEM to discuss the accessibility of the selected schools. desks. medium or high teacher-pupil rations.2 School profile The following data was collected: Number of classes.4 Procedure Data collection in school was done in towards the end of the third tem in October. The team explained the purpose of the research and trained them how to administer tests and questionnaires. The team discussed the logistics. Low teacher pupil ratio was where teacher-pupil ratio ranged from 1:49 to 1:20. At the school the headteacher was asked to collect Std 5 and Std 6 class registers in order for the researcher/assistant to randomly select 30 pupils who were to take the tests and respond to 7 . First District Education Managers (DEM) in Blantyre Urban. 9. radio and bicycle or other forms of transport. Five teams were formed each consisting of one researcher and one assistant. All together there were 100 schools. Schools closed in mid November. This was done in order to avoid getting lost in rural roads and pathways.3. It was then planned that each team would visit one district and administer tests to 20 schools in the district. The idea was to provide opportunity to the researcher to introduce the team and briefly explain the intention and the purpose of the study. classrooms. Each team was to visit two schools in each day and this was to take 10 days to complete the task. textbooks. Each team set out in one vehicle and the assistant was asked to invigilate the first school while the researcher went on to the second school. The study used std 5 and std 7 pupils because the std 5 pupils had shown some measure of perseverance where most pupils drop out and that they were about to enter senior classes where they would be required to engage in work which relies on a sound foundation in literacy and numeracy. teachers.Socio-economic back ground included parents’ education. The DEM was also asked to provide a guide to direct the team to the selected schools. They were also asked to provide lists of all schools with enrolments and staffing.3 School achievement tests Achievement of pupils who have had 5 and 7 years of schooling was measured through multiple choice tests in English. type of housing and availability of clean drinking water. In addition this ensured that the teams would get to schools in good time in order to be able to administer three tests before pupils knocked off at one o’clock. teachers’ qualifications.3. pupils. A team of five researchers selected 20 schools from Chikwawa. Chichewa and mathematics. 9. Blantyre Rural. High teacher-pupil ratio was taken as ranging from 1:71 to 1:300. The team selected five teachers to work as research assistants or invigilators during administration of tests and questionnaires. The sample frame is given in Table 4 above. The schools were selected based on either rural or urban location and whether they had low. toilets. Mwanza. Chikwawa and Nsanje districts were informed about the intention to visit schools and administer tests and questionnaires. availability of books. Standard 7 was selected because this represents part of the final phase of the primary school cycle and it is important to know what skills the graduates were equipped with as they move on with life. Medium teacher-pupil ratio was taken on 1:50 to 1:70. These subjects were chosen because they offer a direct opportunity to determine reading and mathematical competencies without confusing the understanding of concepts in various subjects.

Short breaks were allowed between tests meaning that the whole exercise took almost four hours. Many pupils took the tests sitting on the floor which was uncomfortable nearly one hour at a time. 3. 10. 7. The following tables show the analysis to be done for each characteristic. The headteacher was also asked to arrange rooms where the tests would be taken. 4. The English language as a medium of instruction was a major limitation to most pupils especially in Std 5 as this was their first year to learn other subjects in English. One class teacher was asked to invigilate either Std 5 or Std 7 while the researcher/assistant would invigilate the other standards. 3. 6. 1. Data Analysis The following were the characteristics being investigated: School level 1. 2. Below are the most prominent. Some schools were on religious holidays and arrangements had to be made to administer the tests on other days including weekends. Each pupil was provided with a pencil and an eraser to ensure that all the 60 pupils at a school were able to take the tests.questionnaires. Data from schools will be disaggregated according to standard. 4. 1. 5. Table 5 shows the characteristics. 8 . 9. The headteacher was asked to fill the school profile questionnaire. Pupil level characteristic will be correlated to performance in the three subjects. 5.5 Challenges Several challenges emerged during the field work which threatened the data collection process. 2. In large classes considerable time was spent randomly selecting pupils. Location Teacher/Pupil ratio Pupil/Classroom ratio Pupil/desk ratio Pupil/English textbook ratio Pupil/Math textbook ratio Pupil/Chichewa textbook ratio Pupil level 1. The pupils profile questionnaire was administered before the beginning of the tests. 2. 4. The sitting arrangement was such that pupils would not be able to confer or copy each others work. Each test was scheduled to last about one hour. 6. 3. A few schools had many absentees which reduced the pupil sample. Many school had few classrooms and this required evacuating other classrooms to provide space for the tests. Sex Age Mother’s Education Father’s Education Parents S E S Analysis of variance of mean scores for each school level characteristic will be performed. 5.

mathematics textbook – pupil ratio. Table 6: Teacher – pupil ratio and performance Location Urban Teacher/pupil Low Medium High Low Rural Medium High Classroom – pupil ratio. English textbook – pupil ratio and Chichewa textbook – pupil ratio will be treated in the same way.Table 5: Std 5 and Std7 data Location Teacher/P upil Low Urban Medium Pupil/Classroom Pupil/desk Pupil/Maths textbooks Pupils/ English Text Pupil/ Chichewa textbooks High Low Rural Medium High 10.1 Analysis Analysis of variance for location and teacher pupil ratio is shown in Table 6 below. Maths English Chichewa 9 . pupil – desk ratios.

Table 7: Analysis of variance for Mathematics textbook pupil ratio and mean scores in mathematics Location Maths textbook Maths – pupil ratio Mean scores Low Urban Medium High Low Rural Medium High English textbook. Chichewa English Chichewa 10 . medium status and high status and will be correlated to performance as shown in Table 8 below. Here it suffices for sheer academic purposes. Table 9: Correlation of S E S and performance Status Math English Low Medium High It has been claimed that such treatment of data in a complex world with complex arrays of factors is simplistic. Table 8: Correlation of sex and performance Sex Math Male Female Socio-economic status will be indexed into low status. fathers’ education and socio economic status and performance will be made as shown in the following tables.pupil ratio and Chichewa – pupil ratio will be treated in the same way. Correlations Correlations between sex. mothers’ education. age. 11. However it is of some use where the education system is in its rudimentary stages where basic material inputs such as classrooms.

Chimombo J. Towards a more appropriate conceptualization of research on school effects: A three level hierarchical linear model. The effects at the school level. NIPDEP (2003). Milner G. However. World Bank Working Paper MIE (2005). and Bruns B (1990). classrooms and desks. These are factors that could have some effects on pupil performance. Three level Hierarchical modeling The characteristics of schools and pupils may be classified into three levels: at the school level we can classify school as rural school or urban schools. Ifelunni I (1997). The SACMEQ II project in Malawi: A study of the conditions of schooling and the quality of education. they offer starting points for further elaborate investigations and analysis 12. At pupil level we then have sex. EMIS.textbooks. mother’s education. C. age. classroom pupil ratio. KRI International Corp. Banda T and Mchikoma. Chimuzu T and Mchikoma C. age and SES could have significant effects on pupil performance. National implementation programme for district education plans. Education Statistics. World Bank Technical paper No. References Byrk A and Raudenbush S. (2004). Academy Science Publishers Lockheed M. Using correlations to see the effects of age on performance may be simplistic and possible result in spurious conclusions. A three – level. IIEP Chimombo J. Heneveld W. As indicated in many studies in Malawi and to a certain extent the pilot of this study. Schools count. The quality of education: some policy suggestions based on a survey of schools in Malawi. the classroom level and at the pupil level can be partitioned to give sources of variation on performance. This argument may be extended to the pupil level characteristics where differences in sex. father’s education and socio-economic status of parents. 11 . School effects on achievement in secondary mathematics and Portuguese in Brazil. 303. At the classroom level we identify teacher pupil ratio. PLAN (2005). It is typical that in the first year pupil will have ages ranging from 5 years to 14 years (Ministry of Education. (1989). trained teachers and desks are not available in adequate amounts and schools have large differences in resources. 2005). teachers. School and home factors as correlates of academic achievement of Nigerian female teenagers in mathematics. Pupils in classrooms in Malawi are at different ages because the official age for school entry is not enforced. PLAN – Malawi schools implementation programme: End of term evaluation.hierarchical linear model as identified by Bryk and Raudenbush (1989) can be used to combine the three levels in a multiplicative fashion where the results are summarized in a thick web of characteristics. This study will use MLwIN multilevel regression package to disentangle the effects of each variable or educational input and pupil characteristics on performance. and Craig H. there is a very noticeable difference between rural schools and urban schools in terms of resourcing basic educational inputs and pupil performance. (2001). National implementation program for district education plans in the republic of Malawi: Tests results. Ministry of Education (2005). Multilevel Analysis of Education Data. Kunje D. Therefore locations of schools do matter and this may be true of the availability of textbooks. (1995). textbook pupil ratio and desk pupil ratio.

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