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Education has played an important role in developing countries because it helps to enhance human resources and boost the economic growth. Thus, seeing the importance of education, many developing nations have decided to offer free education to people. For example, in Cambodia, basic education is provided free of charge from grade one to grade nine (The Law on Education, Chapter VII, Article 31, 2007, p.11).
Concerning the importance of education, in April 2000 in Dakar, governments from 164 different countries and their partner institutions approved a Framework for Action aiming at achieving six Education for All goals. One of which is to enhance and maintain the quality of education. Contributing to the importance of good quality of education, private sectors in education have risen. Tooley et al. (2008, p. 450) showed that private sector in education is now widely recognized and mushroomed, particularly in developing countries. In addition to the lack of the public school management in providing good and satisfied services, more parents begin to send their children to private schools, particularly, private primary schools. Harold et al. (2001, p.1) identified some major problems happening in the public schools whose budgets spent on education services are not very effective because the school location is not convenience, and teachers at public are not very qualified or perform poorly in their jobs; moreover, the shortage of school materials also causes parents to lose confidence in public schools. Consequently, parents begin to send their children to private schools rather than to public ones.
With their efforts, private schools have become more and more popular and reliable among parents. Similarly, Cambodian parents in Phnom Penh also send their children to private schools rather than to public ones although public schools provide free basic education. Many private schools in Phnom Penh, especially Private Primary ones have become popular among parents in the city. According to the statistics from Phnom Penh Municipality Department of Education, Youth and Sport, the number of private primary schools in Phnom Penh, classes and students have increased every year from 21 schools with 6122 students in academic year 2005-2006 (MoEYS, 2005) to 38 schools with 12198 students in academic year 2008-2009 (MoEYS, 2008).
According to UNESCO (2007, p. 8), one of the EFA goals is to better the quality of education for all children. However, not all students have opportunities to attend private schools to receive quality of education. Some research in India, for example, indicates that private schools are considered as places for the rich or superiors, especially those who live in the city because they are able to pay for the high school fees that few lower and middle class families can pay (Kingdon, year? p. 2). EFA goals will not be successfully achieved, especially good quality of education for everyone because only the high income households can afford the private school fees in order to provide their children with good education. In this paper, we will identify factors that influence parents to send their children to private primary schools and the consequences which will affect the quality of education in public primary schools.
Selecting qualified schools for children is very significant for parents; thus, this study needs to be conducted because when the majority of parents decide to send their children to private primary schools, then, public schools would face difficulties to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) in 2010 (MoEYS, 2005a, p.10) This is because rich families or high income parents will send their children to private schools to receive good quality of education, and it is certain that only children who come from poor families or low income families will go to public ones The EFA goal which focuses on free basic education of good quality. Cambodia is also one of the countries who signed to fulfill the goal. Thus, Cambodia needs to work on the quality part of EFA because all children, not only those in the private sectors, have the right to receive good quality of education which is free of charge.
According to Asian Development Bank (ADB) (2003, p. 1), responding to the shortage supply in education of many developing member countries (DMCs), the private sector in education including both fee-charging and free of charge schools have mushroomed in order to meet the demands for good quality of education in primary level. It is generally assumed that private schools have a higher efficiency of education than the public ones because they charge higher school fees, thus, they provide better services and quality to wealthy groups of people. Then, only the rich can get good quality of education since they are able to pay for high school fees. This problem causes inequity in access to education, which requires the public schools to improve the quality of education so that the inequality will be reduced between the rich and the poor.
"Regardless of whether or not non-profit private schools perform better than public schools, they are likely to complement public schools in extending outreach to the poor." (ADB, 2003. p. 1)
Purpose of the study
The purpose of the study is to find out why parents decide to send their children to private institutions which can help to improve the public sector to achieve the quality of education which is stated in the EFA by 2015, and to promote equity to access quality of education. Moreover, it is also used to discover the consequences of quality of education in public schools when more children are sent to private ones. Thus, the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sport will reinforce public school management systems so that the quality of education in public schools will be achieved. Then both students in public and private schools will have equal opportunities to acquire knowledge without the discrimination between the rich and the poor. The results of the study can give some recommendations regarding the improvements of the public sector.
Concerning the importance of education, in April 2000 in Dakar, governments from 164 different countries and their partner institutions approved a Framework for Action aiming at achieving six Education for All goals. One of them is to enhancing the quality of education relating to "the expansion of early childhood care and education, achievement of universal primary education (UPE), development of learning opportunities for youth and adults, spread of literacy, gender parity and gender equality in education, and improvements in education quality." (UNESCO, 2007, p. 8). Similarly, according to Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2009, quality of education was raised again by the conference following the World Education Forum in April 2000 in Dakar, Senegal (Shoraku, 2008, pp.1-2). The conference emphasized "the importance of a good quality of education. In the same year, leaders from every country in the United Nations agreed on a vision of a future with better-educated children, and they set the goals of ensuring that all boys and girls complete a full course of primary schooling by 2015, eliminating gender disparity in primary and lower secondary education, preferably by 2005, and at all levels by 2015."
Contributing to Education for All goals and Millennium Development Goals (MoEYS, 2005a, p.10), private educational sectors have mushroomed in many countries, especially developing countries. Tooley et al. (2008, p. 450) showed that private sector in education is now widely recognized and mushroomed, particularly in developing countries.
It is now also widely accepted that a fee-paying private (or nonstate) education sector, albeit one charging very low fees, has 'mushroomed' in developing countries to meet the needs of the poor, in part because of the perceived (by parents) inadequacies of state education (e.g. Adelabu and Rose, 2004; Baurer et al., 2002; Rose, 2002; Tooley, 2004; Watkins, 2004). It is noted as a conundrum by some commentators that, even in countries where free public primary education has been introduced, such private schools continue to mushroom. (Tooley et al, 2008, p. 450)
Similarly, according to the statistics from Phnom Penh Municipality Department of Education, Youth and Sport, the number of private primary schools in Phnom Penh, classes and students have increased every year since 2005. As can be seen in Table 1, over the past four school years, enrollment has increased dramatically from (from 6122 students in acacemic year 2005-2006 to 12198 students in 2008-2009.
The increase of private primary students from 2005-2009
Source: Phnom Penh Municipality Department of Education, Youth and Sport, MoEYS, 2008
Moreover, according to some studies, it shows that students' performance in private schools is better than that of students in public schools in developing countries (Cox and Jimenez (1991), Jimenez, Lockheed and Paqueo (1991), Kingdon (1996b)). (Alderman et al., 2001, p. 2). Results normally show that students in private schools have higher performance than those in public schools (cf. McEwan & Carnoy, 2000; Neal, 1998; Whitty, 1997). (Sanders, 2002, p. 265) and (Bray, 2002, pp. 44-45). Alderman et al. (2001) shows that the better result of students of mathematics and language in private schools has increased the demand for private schools over public ones. In India, not many parents send their children to the public schools although they are free of charge (Aggarawal, 2000. p. 3). Similarly in India, Goval (2007, p. 3) finds that although public schools provide free education, the private schools keep increasing. They are autonomously organized and financed by private sectors. Asian Development Bank (ADB) (2003, p. 1), also indicates that because of the shortage supply of education in many developing member countries (DMCs), private schools have grown to meet the need for better quality of education in primary schools.
A number of recent studies have investigated private school quality of education, and also identified factors which encourage parents to send their children to those private ones, especially private primary schools. Bendi and Garg (2000, abstract) found that "in most developing countries, education is largely publicly provided". But according to the recent findings, the inefficiency of public school requires those countries' governments to take actions. Based on the existing literature on private school cognitive and cost advantages, much private sector contribution in education is needed. Alderman et al. (2001, p. 14-15) found that the normal class size of public schools is very crowded, approximately 42.5 students in one class. The research also indicates that when the class containing a lot of students; a teacher needs to make an effort to teach them. In contrast, the class size of 25 in private schools is more ideal for effective teaching. Moreover, in another research, it is ascertained that parents' educational background and the household wealth do play and important role in students' learning outcomes. (Goval, 2007, p. 5).
"There is typically no information about the reasons why a student's parents chose to send the student to a private school. Researchers can estimate the various factors that are correlated with attendance at private schools, such as family income or parental education" (Goldhaber & Eide, 2003, p. 218)
Figlo and Stone (1997, pp. 33-34) found that most parents who send their children to private schools are satisfied with the schools' discipline policies. Other factors also contribute to the parents' decisions. For example, they discovered that 28 percent of students in private schools were involved with "extracurricular sports, cheerleading, schools government, school yearbook or newspaper, or school-sponsored musical or dramatic activities." Relating to time spent on these activities, they found that 48 percent of students devote their time approximately five hours per week. Because of these factors, many parents decide to send their children to the private ones. For example, according to a school handbook, academic year 2008-2009, of one private school in Phnom Penh, school rule are categorized into 23 sections which mainly focus on students' learning habits, activities, and morality. Moreover, those parents also see the good quality of education in private schools will not only make their children to become more potential, but also more benefits after the finish schools. Parents tend to send their children to private schools because they expect the satisfied returns of education for their. (Calónico & Ñopo, 2007, abstract)
However, Geeta Gandhi Kingdn (year?) points out that private schools in India are considered as schools for children who come from rich or high-income families, or superiors whose families can afford high-fee schools. Responding to this study, Bray (2002, p.45), indicates that some studies suggest that the achievement at private schools can be obtained without spending higher costs, and more effective than those spent at public schools. If this problem cannot be solved, the inequality to access education for the poor will not be reduced.
"If education is viewed as a normal good, higher-income parents will purchase more education for their children. Without public intervention, inequality may be passed on to each successive generation." (Bendi & Garg, 2000, p. 464)
Significance of Study
The study will provide strategies to retain students in public schools. Public schools' management teams, especially school administrators, need to know what factors influence parents' decision making. When they are aware of the need of parents, they will be able to enhance their services and promote the good quality of education. Then, most students will stay in public schools with as good quality of education as the one in the private schools; thus, there will be no inequity to access good quality of education. Then the EFA goal which Cambodia also signed will be accomplished.
What are the reasons parents send their children to this private primary school in Phnom Penh?
What are the demographic characteristics of the families who choose private schools?
What needs to be done to develop better quality of education in public schools?
This study is a mixture of qualitative and quantitative research because both questionnaire and interviews will be used in the study.
The study will be conducted in one of the private primary schools in Phnom Penh. This school is a new school which was established in May 5, 2008. Because of good services and quality of education provided to children, it has become popular and reliable among parents in Phnom Penh. The school vision is focused on the principles of quality, virtue, and humanitarian concerns. Moreover, the school brochure claims that students will grow intellectually, morally, culturally, and physically after they are sent to the school. They will also develop respect and tolerance for others, and they will not discriminate against other people's religion, race, class, prejudice. This means that the school will grow students to be independent individuals who receive good quality of education which leads them to not only for the present time, but also for the future.
There are 450 students in this school, and 186 students study at primary level. Thus, the sample size of this study is 186 primary students who come from different classes ranging from grades 1-6.
30 students will be randomly selected for the study. These students will represent the 30 different families. 5 students from each grade will be chosen by assigning all students in each class on the list with a consecutive number. Then, an arbitrary starting point from a table of random numbers will be selected. If the chosen number corresponds to a number assigned to a student in each class, that student is in the sample. (In case, some participants from each grade do not agree to participate, we will redo the random selection until we can get the ones who are willing to participate.)
Parents of the 30 selected students will be invited to participate in the study (only Cambodian parents are invited and given the questionnaire because non-Cambodian ones might have some different educational background and income generation). I will ask permission from the school to deliver those parents a letter of participation in the study. In the letter, I will explain the purpose of the study, and invite them to participate. I will meet them face to face during a convenient time, and I will also contact them by phone if possible before I deliver a questionnaire to them.
A questionnaire will be given to them in order to find out about their school choices. We would like to know why parents decide to send their children to the private school rather than to public one, and how to improve the services in public schools so that good quality of education can be achieved. The questionnaire can be completed by either a father or mother who is the breadwinner of the family because we would like to know their educational background and income generation.
In the questionnaire I will include some questions asking for relating information such as their educational background, monthly salary because I would like to find out parents' education and incomes and how they influence their school choices. And what public schools need to do to build confidence among parents. We will do some pilot testing of our instrument and we will also find any questionnaires that have been used in other studies which we can adapt for our use.
A questionnaire will be given to parents of the 30 students who study in grades 1-6. The information from the questionnaire will be used to discover factors for parents to send their children to the private primary school. Moreover, some questions concerning quality of education in public schools will be included in order to provide recommendations for public sectors to better their services and quality. In the questionnaire, there will be a combination of both open-ended and closed-ended questions. That way, it is possible to find out why parents send their children to private primary schools rather than send them to free of charge public schools. This questionnaire will begin with a series of closed-ended questions, with boxes to tick or scales to rank, and then finish with a section of open-ended questions for more detailed response.
Moreover, six primary teachers who teach in the selected class will also be invited to participate in the research. Structured interviews will be conducted with them face-to-face or over the telephone.
The school principal will also be interviewed for teachers' educational background, experience, qualification, and the school's in-service training. Moreover, the school principal will also be asked about what the school does to attract parents to send their children to this school, or what public relations and mastery efforts are used to make parents aware of this school in order to convince them to send their children to the school.
After the questionnaire is completed, we will collect them from students' parents. We will record the interviews with the six teachers. and then coding and open-ended parts of the questionnaire, and the interviews will be recorded and transcribe into categories so that the data will be used to discover decisions made by parents who send their children to the private primary school and the how to improve the quality of education in public schools. Various computer programs such as Microsoft Excel and SPSS will be used to analyze.
Limitation of study
This school is quite a new school which was founded in May 5, 2008 with about 100 teaching staff and 11 primary teachers, and with a small number of primary schools students. According to Phnom Penh Municipality Department of Education, Youth and Sport, MoEYS (2008), there were only 186 students at primary level. Therefore, it is hard to generalize the results of the findings. The population of this school is very small compared to the whole population in Phnom Penh. For example, there are 12198 students who attended private primary schools in Phnom Penh in academic year 2008-2009.
This study is conducted with parents. Therefore, some questions in the questionnaire must not be sensitive; for example, direct questions about their salaries and educational background should be carefully asked. Moreover, I must be much more patient because some them may be very busy, thus, they may not be able to fill in the questionnaire unless I make it as convenient as possible. As a researcher, I need to explain to them clearly about the purpose of the study which will benefit the whole community. I will guarantee that all the information they provide will be kept safely because some information might be against the public schools' quality of education. In addition, both the privacy of the parents and the school will not be identified by their real names.