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“I failed, no matter how hard I tried”: A mixed-methods study of the role of achievement in primary school dropout in rural Kenya


  • Zuilkowski, Stephanie Simmons
  • Jukes, Matthew C.H.
  • Dubeck, Margaret M.


Initial access to school is nearly universal in Kenya, but many children who enroll drop out before completing primary school. In this mixed-methods study, we use quantitative data from a randomized control trial involving 2666 upper primary-grade students, as well as qualitative data from interviews with 41 schoolchildren, dropouts, and parents, to examine dropout. Poorer baseline performance on literacy and numeracy assessments predicted a higher risk of dropout. Interviews revealed that children are the primary decision-makers rather than parents. Together, these findings suggest that school quality interventions may be an effective means of reducing primary school dropout in this region.

Suggested Citation

  • Zuilkowski, Stephanie Simmons & Jukes, Matthew C.H. & Dubeck, Margaret M., 2016. "“I failed, no matter how hard I tried”: A mixed-methods study of the role of achievement in primary school dropout in rural Kenya," International Journal of Educational Development, Elsevier, vol. 50(C), pages 100-107.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:injoed:v:50:y:2016:i:c:p:100-107
    DOI: 10.1016/j.ijedudev.2016.07.002

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Nicola Branson & Clare Hofmeyr & David Lam, 2014. "Progress through school and the determinants of school dropout in South Africa," Development Southern Africa, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 31(1), pages 106-126, January.
    2. Eric A. Hanushek & Victor Lavy & Kohtaro Hitomi, 2008. "Do Students Care about School Quality? Determinants of Dropout Behavior in Developing Countries," Journal of Human Capital, University of Chicago Press, vol. 2(1), pages 69-105.
    3. Mathias Kuépié & David Shapiro & Michel Tenikue, 2015. "Access to Schooling and Staying in School in Selected Sub-Saharan African Countries," African Development Review, African Development Bank, vol. 27(4), pages 403-414, December.
    4. Geeta Kingdon & Nicolas Theopold, 2006. "Do returns to education matter to schooling participation?," Economics Series Working Papers GPRG-WPS-052, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    5. Skovdal, Morten, 2011. "Examining the trajectories of children providing care for adults in rural Kenya: Implications for service delivery," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 33(7), pages 1262-1269, July.
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    Cited by:

    1. Zuilkowski, Stephanie Simmons & Henning, Margaret & Zulu, Joseph & Matafwali, Beatrice, 2019. "Zambia’s school re-entry policy for adolescent mothers: Examining impacts beyond re-enrollment," International Journal of Educational Development, Elsevier, vol. 64(C), pages 1-7.
    2. Mizunoya, Suguru & Zaw, Htet Thiha, 2017. "Measuring the holes of the ship: Global cost estimations of internal inefficiency in primary education," International Journal of Educational Development, Elsevier, vol. 54(C), pages 8-17.


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