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Title: Implementing educational innovations : a study of free primary education in Malawi.
Author: Chimombo, Joseph Patrick Goodson.
ISNI:       0000 0001 3544 4195
Awarding Body: University of Sussex
Current Institution: University of Sussex
Date of Award: 1999
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The new democratic government of Malawi introduced free primary education (FPE) in the 1994/95 academic year. This major policy intervention included the removal of tuition and other school fees, and children were no longer required to wear a uniform to attend school. The main objectives ofFPE were to increase access to primary education and to eliminate inequalities in participation through reducing the direct costs, and to improve retention rates and thus reduce illiteracy. FPE is the most significant educational policy ever introduced in Malawi. Its development invited a detailed study of how participation has changed, what mechanisms were employed to improve retention and promotion, and what strategies were used to meet the need for additional human and physical resources. There are four main concerns which shaped this study: 1) The genesis of the policy- how was the policy initiated and for what reasons? 2) The policy itself- i.e. what did the policy consist of and what did the ministry of education do? 3) What happened after the introduction of FPE and how did enrolment, access and retention change over time? 4) Why did things happen the way they did and what are the reasons which help explain the effect of implementing FPE? Data were collected through grounded case studies of ten schools undertaken in different parts of Malawi. The literature indicates that judgements on the effectiveness of policy implementation require insights that can only be obtained from case study work at the local level. Those involved in the development of policy were interviewed and national level data were also analysed. Systems theory was used to examine the relationships between system components, between the system and its environment and between one system and another, and the major concepts of this theory of interdependence, integration and cohesion were used to analyse and interpret the findings of this thesis. At the macro level, the study also drew on functionalist theory. In order to examine how educational institutions perceive, manipulate and act within the structural constraints within which they find themselves, the socio-politico-cultural frameworks within which, and through which these institutions have shaped schooling under FPE were elaborated. The analysis has shown that the immediate goal of ensuring universal access to primary education has been largely achieved. Most children in Malawi have set foot inside a school of some kind. But when the implementation of FPE policy was examined within the Jomtien aspirations which included improving educational quality, ensuring greater equity in the distribution of educational resources, and improving retention and attendance, the thesis concludes that Malawi lacks the administrative and fiscal capacity to deliver primary education of minimum quality to all. This deficiency leads to system fragmentation and low cohesion in the implementation process which partly explains the limitations of FPE policy identified. The study established that schooling problems might have worsened since the introduction of FPE and that despite increased efforts towards girls education, gender disparities still remain one of the main problems. Further, the rhetorical association of schooling with economic opportunity is questionable, at least for those where the demand for schooling is weak and the benefits not apparent. A simulation modelling costs also indicates that achieving EFA is financially unsustainable in the short and medium term. The findings provide pointers about what needs to be done or strengthened in order to ensure a more effective implementation of an ambitious and worthwhile educational policy reform in Malawi, as well as the lessons that can be learned for the implementation of similar reforms.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Girls' education; School participation