School Choice between Public and Private Primary Schools under the Free
The elimination of school fees from public primary education under the Free Primary Education (FPE) Policy in Kenya in 2003 has increased enrollment by 22 percent in the first year alone. Some experts, however, suggest that the FPE has reduced the quality of education in public schools and increased the number of students who transfer from public to private schools. To obtain a better understanding of the school choice in Kenya, we estimate the school choice between public and private primary schools and track primary school children over a period of three years to identify the factors associated with school transfers. We find that the proportion of children attending private schools indeed increased from 4.8 to 12.2 percent, especially among children in relatively wealthy households, from 2004 to 2007. We also find that the school quality, measured by the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education exam score at the school level, has a positive impact on the choice of private schools. Regarding school transfers, we not only find transfers from public to private schools but also between public schools. The children in relatively wealthy households have a higher probability of transferring to private schools than children in poorer households. Maintaining the quality of education among public primary schools under the FPE Policy is an urgent policy agenda for the Kenyan government as well as other governments that have adopted free primary education policies in order to enhance the equity of the entire education system.
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