Gender differences in the schooling experiences of adolescents in low-income countries: the case of Kenya

B S Mensch, C B Lloyd
Studies in Family Planning 1998, 29 (2): 167-84
Although a growing proportion of young people is spending some time in school between puberty and marriage, little research on education in developing countries has been focused on adolescent issues. This article examines the school environment in Kenya and the ways it can help or hinder adolescents. Gender differences are considered with a view toward illuminating some factors that may present particular obstacles or opportunities for girls. Using both qualitative and quantitative data, 36 primary schools in rural areas in three districts of Kenya are studied. These schools are chosen to reflect the spectrum of school quality in the country. The focus in this study is on primary schools because the majority of adolescents in school attend primary school. In these schools, where considerable variation in performance and parental educational status is found, disorganization coexists with strict punishment, minimal comforts are lacking, learning materials are scare, learning is by rote, and sex education is not provided. In the primary-school-leaving exam, girls' performance is poorer than that of boys. Teachers' attitudes and behavior reveal lower expectations for adolescent girls, traditional assumptions about gender roles, and a double standard about sexual activity.

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