How parents of kindergarten students make a school choice for their children?

Illustration: photo of a preschool classroom, Burkina Faso

The issue

As Joseph Ki Zerbo, Burkinabè historian, politician and writer said in his book Educate or Perish, “Education is the software of the mainframe that programs the future of societies.” It is “a function of reproduction and social overcoming which is essential to the progress of any country”. According to the Larousse dictionary, to educate is to “train someone by developing and fulfilling their personality”. But it is also “to make someone acquire the uses of society”.

To sum up, we can therefore say that educating has two functions: to allow someone to develop their personality and flourish; but also to promote the development of society as a whole. It is a value which allows man to realize himself and which determines his development in society.

However, this value has gradually shifted for some reason, plunging many parents into concern and uncertainty about the quality of education received by their children. Among others, we can list the predominance of technology and digital technology which shape minds, the phenomenon of globalization with the consequences of a loss of traditional values, societal modernization which imposes a new order in lifestyles (reconstituted family, work and money in family education, etc.).

In the case of Burkina Faso, parents’ concern is shown by the revaluation of local schools and universities to the detriment of the West and other Maghreb countries now perceived as, “uncertain”, “expensive”, “risky”, even “dangerous” because of racism for instance.

We are then witnessing a kind of “crisis” of education in its conception, its current and future place in society. Faced with this situation, our curiosity as a young father and project promoter has led us to ask ourselves the question “how do parents choose schools, especially nursery schools for their children?”.

In other words, what are the main criteria for the selection of schools by parents in Burkina Faso? What are the determining factors in the choice of preschools in Burkina Faso?

General information on the organization of the preschool education system in Burkina Faso

In Burkina Faso, the education system begins with preschool and concerns children aged 3 to 5. It lasts three (3) years and is made up of different levels called Small section, Middle section and Large. In Burkina Faso, Kindergartens are also called CEEP, which stands for Center for Awakening and Preschool Education. There are grouped within 3 types known as the followings: The formerly called ″ popular day nurseries ″ under the revolution which numbered 170 in 2019, Private CEEPs of which counted around 1348 and finally, the community centers called Bissongo which counts around 350. Additionally, there are some interesting disparities with regards to the geographic location. It should be added that there are great regional disparities pertaining to that. Big concentrations of CEEPs can be found in large centers such as Ouagadougou and Bobo-Dioulasso, and community centers are scattered mainly in rural areas. These education institutions run the following programs, awakening, expression, creative, motor and social activities and are placed under the supervision of the Ministry of National Education, Literacy and the Promotion of National Languages. (MENAPLN).

The determining factors in the choice of schools by parents.

When asked about their choices, most parents report that the more the facility is closed to their home, the more they lean towards choosing that particular school. In fact, it makes it easier for parents to provide transportation to their children with limited risks and cost. The second recurring criteria is the tuitions which usually go as follow:

  • CEEP public= Between 15,000 CFA and 50,000 CFA (23 EUR and 76 EUR)
  • CEEP private= Between 25,000 CFA and 300,000 CFA (39 EUR and 458 EUR)
  • Bissongo= Between 4,500 CFA and 9,000 CFA (7 EUR and 14 EUR)

The information above shows that private CEEPs are quite expensive as opposed to the others. The third criteria however pertains to the environmental aspect of the facility. This is a proven fact that parents are extremely concerned about the cleanness and the safety of the premises. Moreover, the school should be able to provide snacks for the kids. Most parents also make their choice based upon recommendation from other parents through word of mouth. Very interestingly, our survey exposed that parents are less concerned by the curriculum, the quality of the teaching, and even the qualification of the teachers. Besides, they also care less about the safety protocol of the school as to whether or not they have insurance. Yet these are very important criteria for the harmonious development of the child.

Some internal challenges of the system

The report also reveals that most instructors in the public kindergartens are trained by the National Institute for Training in Social Work (INFTS), unlike the private sector where in most cases, the instructors do not hold professional qualifications or diplomas with regard to this job. With the Bissongo, the case is even worse as most instructors, supervisors and parent educators are chosen by the management committee (COGES) and only go through a three (3) week training. This, combined with the diversity of the staff profiles creates a lack of uniformity, often violating the in-country educational standards. Besides, lack of funding and finances drastically hit the quality of the education provided to the toddlers. Nonetheless, the number of operating preschools is way below capacity required to meet the demand. In 2017, according to the MENAPLN the preschool rate was 3.5%.

Advice

The challenge at the preschool level is to increase the educational offer so that it is no longer seen as a privilege. The training mechanisms for the main players (monitors and supervisors) at the INFTS level should be reviewed for improvement so that it could generate qualified personnel and subsequently, better the quality of the education provided to the kids. In sum, the government should be involved in providing frameworks and making preschool education mandatory for all children. This way, the futute generation can benefit from a full and efficient training that will develop their full potential as they enjoy their early ages. Indeed, it is a proven fact that most kids easily succeed in primary school when they have already received a preschool education. This will require tremendous effort with regards to awareness, especially in rural areas.

By Jean Franck Ouedraogo & Achille Sawadogo

Mandela Washington Fellow, for Young African Leaders — Civic engagement — Development Cooperation, Economist, Project Management skills, Free learner