PRE-SCHOOL TEACHERS’ PERCEPTIONS OF THE INFLUENCE OF SELECTED INSTRUCTIONAL FACTORS ON PUPILS COMPETENCY SKILLS IN PUBLIC PRE-SCHOOL CENTRES IN KEIYO SOUTH SUB COUNTY, KENYA

ABSTRACT
Statistics shows that majority of learners are unable to cope with the primary school demands in Keiyo South Sub County due to challenges related to literacy and numeracy skills. The purpose of this study was to investigate perceptions of pre-school teachers of the influence of selected instructional factors on pupils‟ acquisition of competency skills in public pre-school centres in Keiyo South Sub County in Elgeyo-Marakwet County. This study was guided by Piaget cognitive development and functionalism theory of learningwhich proposed for the use of instructional materials in facilitating acquisition of skills by pupils. The research design for the study was descriptive survey. The target population for the study comprises of all 60 pre- primary schools in the Sub Countywith a total of 144pre-school teachers. The accessible population for the study were 93 pre-school teachers and the sample size involved 75 respondents. The study respondents were selected using proportionate stratified sampling technique based on the zones they came from. Questionnaire wasused as instrument of data collection in this study. Prior to administration of research instrument to the field, validation was done by experts from department of curriculum instruction and education management.Pilotingwas conducted to establish the reliability of research instruments. Cronbach alpha reliability coefficient was used to calculate the reliability. The study obtained a reliability index of 0.8076. Quantitative data was analysed with the assistance of computer software Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS). Data wasanalysed using descriptive statistics (percentages, frequencies, means and standard deviation). The results of the study showed that the selected school instructional factors affected learners‟ acquisition of competency skills in numeracy, literacy and oral skills. The teachers perceived that when adequate and appropriate instructional learning resources were provided, learners reading, writing and numeracy skills improved. Secondly, teachers perceived that the level of training was a factor influencing the acquisition of competency by pre-school learners. Low pupil: teacher ratio was mentioned to influence acquisition of competency by pre-school learners. Teacher workload was also found to influence learners‟ acquisition of competencies by pre- school pupils. The study concluded that instructional resources are critical to pre-school pupils‟ acquisition of critical competencies required for their learning. The study recommends that pre-school centres should be adequately equipped with instructional resources and need to be provided for opportunities for in-service training.More classrooms to be constructed support staff to be hired and the government should hire pre-school teachers. The study findings are of significance to the schools and government towards improving the status of early childhood education. In addition, the study findings show the importance of instructional factors towards learners‟ acquisition of competency skills in reading, writing and counting in pre-schools.

CHAPTER ONE
INTRODUCTION
Background Information
Early childhood is a crucial stage of life in terms of a child‟s physical, intellectual, emotional and social development (Du Plessis & Naude, 2003). Education and care of young children is of crucial importance for their development (O‟Connor & Geiger, 2009). It ensures that children grow up into strong and healthy adults mentally, physically, emotionally and intellectually (United Nations Education Scientific & Cultural Organisation [UNESCO], 2007). Psychologists generally agree that the period below five years is critical in the development of a human being (Kamau, 2010). Theories of intellectual development suggest that intellectual development takes place in stages (Piaget, 1964 in O‟Connor & Geiger, 2009) and the focus of this study is on operational stage. It follows therefore that certain concepts must be developed at particular periods in a child, failing which such concepts can be stunted or missed completely (Rotumoi& Too, 2012).

Studies from several nations across the world (Blakemore & Frith, 2005; Shonkoff & Phillips, 2000; Sylva & Pugh, 2005), demonstrates that pre –school education has multiple benefits on child development. These benefits are thought to include the development of higher order cognitive skills such as: problem solving, thinking, improved social adjustment and family functioning (Ou & Reynolds 2004; UNESCO, 2007). Development of competency skills for pre-school children is important to academic achievement (Washington, 2001). Literacy is fundamental to all areas of learning as it unlocks access to the wider curriculum. Being literate increases opportunities for the learner in all aspects of life, lays the foundations for lifelong learning and work, and contributes strongly to the development of all four capacities of curriculum for excellence (Bunyi, Wangia, Magoma & Limboro, 2011). The process of children‟s competency development is influenced by many factors that involve socio-cultural and ecological perspectives of learning (Hammer & Miccio, 2004; Martinez-Rodan & Malave, 2004).

Vygotsky‟s socio-cultural theory (1978) and Bronfenbrenner‟s ecological theory (1986) emphasize that interactions between people, as well as interactions between people and their environments, influence learning. Mweru (2013) observes that a greater number of children are being enrolled for pre-school education and are therefore spending a great percent of their childhood years under the care of pre-school teachers. The teachers act as role models and tend to pass on the attitudes and views they hold to children (Ebelle, 2013). Teachers play a major role in the pre-school children‟s lives and any prejudices they hold can, when communicated to young children, leave an indelible mark in young children‟s minds. Considering the various perspectives explaining learning amongst children, this study determinedteachers perceptions on how selected instructional factors; teacher qualification, adequacy of learning resources and teacher workload influence acquisition of numeracy and literacy competencies among pre-school children in Keiyo SouthSub County.

Byamugisha and Ssenabulya (2005)research confirmed that poor quality of pupils learning correlates strongly with poor quality of teachers‟methods of teaching. Effective pupils learning and achievement is hampered by weaknesses in teachers‟ pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) and classroom practice (Pontefract & Hardman 2005; Akyeampong, Pryor & Ampiah 2006, Moon et al, 2005; Byamugisha & Ssenabulya, 2005). According to statistics from UNESCO (2007),in many developing countries the delivery of early childhood care and education programmes is weakened by a predominance of teachers with low qualifications and low pupil enrolment. Teacher education had been identified as both part of the problem and the solution as per UNESCO (2007).

Increase in pupil enrolment in ECDE has meant a huge demand for more teachers and the priority has been to find ways of increasing the numbers appointed either by recruiting more trainees into established courses, by creating new routes into teaching or by a combination of both strategies (UNESCO, 2005).Another instructional factor is pre-school teacher qualification and level of training. According to Alexander (2002), pre-school teacher level training is a key need to support the proper implementation of the language-in-education policy in a multilingual approach to education in classroom.

In Pakistan, Malik, Mansoor and Jumani (2016) informs that in education setting, the issue of instructional factors has been analysed from multiple perspectives because instructional competence becomes an issue of pivotal concern in an environment where the education system has been exposed to rigorous experimentation from the time they gained independence from Britain. Moreover, inadequate resources, negligence and political manipulation became the primary obstacles in the strengthening early childhood education. The victims of this scenario remained the teachers who were sandwiched between disgruntled pupils and indifferent Ministry of Education. In such an environment, instructional factors and its influence on pupils‟ acquisition of necessary competencies added dimensions for exploration.

In South Africa, O‟Connor and Geiger (2009) found out that pre-school teachers felt frustrated working with pupils, because of heavy workloads. As they first had to teach the language and vocabulary for specific content, they found it impossible to complete the syllabus for an academic year (O‟Connor & Geiger, 2009). Also having learners in the class with better English abilities, pre-school teachers reported having to teach on diverse language and academic levels (Du Plessis & Naude, 2003). In the South African context, pre-school teachers need training in bilingual, second language acquisition and learning in a second language (O‟Connor, 2003; Du Plessis & Louw, 2008). The researchers however found out that there was training gap by pre-school teachers and therefore required language awareness and sensitivity about how different environmental contexts: home, community and school- affect the learner to ensure learners develop literacy competencies.Pre-school teachers are being required to give extra attention to learners who were not keeping up, as well as adequately challenging stronger learners, in order to ensure that all learners in their class had an equally effective education. Large numbers of learners in their classes increased the workload in all teaching areas such as marking and preparation of lessons, leaving educators feeling over-worked and resentful (O‟Connor & Geiger, 2009). This research determined how teacher workload under pupil: teacher ratio and number of lessons influenced learner acquisition of competency skills in school.

In Kenya, the program is largely constitutive of the developmental experiences of young children zero to six years and has primarily focused on the custodial care and cognitive development of children in preparation for formal schooling (Ngaruiya, 2004). The government of Kenya has endeavoured to implement a holistic Early Childhood Development (ECD) program for children zero to eight years over the last seven years (Master Plan for Education and Training, 1997) to fulfill its commitment to the recommendations of the Jomtien World Conference on Education For All (EFA) and the 2001 Dakar Framework for Action. This is achieved through ensuring pre-school learners develop competencies in reading, counting, and ability to write correctly specified words and names.

The early childhood education syllabus developed by the Kenyan Ministry of Education places an emphasis on the importance of instructional factors during learning in pre-schools (Kenya Institute of Education [KIE], 2008). However, Ngaruiya (2004) argues that public and private ECD models in Kenya have wide disparities not only in terms of curriculum but also in facilities and quality of services offered. Rotumoi and Too (2012) indicates that the public pre-schools in poor urban neighbourhoods are often characterized by inadequate play learning materials, shortage of trained pre-school teachers and lack of health and nutrition services. According to Ngaruiya(2004), majority of pre-schools follow a traditional teacher- centred teaching methodology with emphasis on recitation and memorization. On the other hand, most of the private pre-schools are well equipped and responsive to children‟s needs.

Majority of the public ECD centres (pre-schools) in Kenya do not provide holistic services and are faced with numerous problems, including inadequate government support, inadequate childcare and the absence of health and nutrition services (Ngaruiya, 2004). The statistics are appalling knowing that pre-school is the foundation stage of child social-cognitive development. A study by Rotumoi and Too (2012) found out that there was a tendency by pre-school teachers to make use of other teaching strategies which were not necessarily effective in schools and it was mostly occasioned by other factors that were prevalent in different pre-school centres.

Ngaruiya (2004) asserted that pupils are admitted into primary school after attaining five or six years without any consideration for their readiness to learn. This forced majority of pupils to drop out of primary school while others repeated nursery school. Obunga (2016) while quoting Uwezo Report (2014) found out that Kenyan pupils reading competency across counties has a small percentage of the standard three pupils who have acquired basic reading skills (Uwezo, 2014). According to the report, 2.8% of standard three pupils could not even identify letter sounds, 15.7% were able to read letters only, 28.5% could not read beyond single words, 25.8% could not read paragraphs and only 27.5% could read and understand a standard two level story. Furthermore, information from Keiyo South Sub County Education report (2016) report shows that the number of pupils who are not able to read, write and count is significant higher. For instance, out of 65 pupils from Kamosong primary school, only 40 of them were able to read and write (25 were unable to read), 20 were able to write (45 being unable to write) and only 22 pupils were able to count (43 were unable to count). This situation was found to be similar in majority of pre-school centres in the entire sub county to name a few; Kamelil, Lelboinet, Cherota, Kamwago among others. From the studies reviewed, it is clear that competency skills that involve numeracy, literacy and reading cannot be achieved without provision of instructional resources, competent and qualified teachers and lessening teacher workload and responsibilities in pre-school.This situation in Keiyo South Sub County motivated the researcher to determine the perceptions of pre-school teachers on how selected instructional factors influence acquisition of competency skills by learners in pre-school centres in Keiyo South Sub County.

Statement of the Problem
Competency skills in reading, writing and numeracy among pre-school pupils in public schools inKenya have been noted to be generally low and Keiyo South is not an exception. Various factors have been noted to be contributing to poor competency skills among pre- school children. These include; pre-school learning resources, teacher qualifications and competencies and pre-school teacher workload. However, the extent to which each of the selected instructional factors influence pre-school pupils‟ competency has not been documented in Keiyo South and especially by looking at teacher perceptions on the same. Teachers‟ perceptions can be a viable tool on devising planning and teaching methods since they can provide insights on how pre-school pupils‟ acquisition of competence can be enhanced for them to benefit more. This study investigatedpre-school teachers‟ perceptions of the influence of selected factors, namely; adequacy of learning resources, appropriateness of learning resources, teacher training level, teacherworkload and teacher to pupil ratio on pre- school pupils‟ competency in Keiyo South Sub-County.

Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this study was to investigate pre-school teachers‟perceptions on the influence of selected instructional factors on pupils‟ competency skills in public pre-school centres in Keiyo South Sub County.

Objectives of the Study
The following objectives guided the study:

i) To determine pre-school teachers perceptions of the influence ofadequacy of learning resourceson pupils competency skills, in Keiyo South Sub County

ii) To establish pre-school teachers perceptions of theinfluence of appropriateness of learning resources on pupils competency skills, in Keiyo South Sub County

iii) To investigateperceptions of pre-school teachers of the influence of teacher training level on pupils competency skills, in Keiyo South Sub County.

iv) To assess pre-school teachers‟perceptions of the influence ofpupil: teacher ratio on pupils competency skills, in Keiyo South Sub County

v) To determine pre-school teachers perceptions on the influence of teacher workload on pupils competency skills, in Keiyo South Sub County

Research Questions
(i) What is the perception of pre-school teachers on the influence ofadequacy of learning resources on pupils‟ competency skills in Keiyo South Sub County?

(ii) What is the perception of pre-schoolteachers on the appropriateness of learning resources in influencing competencies by pupils in Keiyo Sub County?

(iii) What are the perceptions of pre-schoolteachers on the influence of training levelon acquisition of competencies by pupils in Keiyo Sub County?

(iv) What are the perceptions of pre-school teachers on the influence of learner: teacher ratio on pupils‟ competency skills in Keiyo South Sub County?

(v) What are the perceptions of pre-school teachers on the influence of workload on acquisition of competency skills by pupilsin Keiyo South Sub County?

Significance of the Study
The findings of this study may benefit all the education stakeholders in the following ways:The County government department of early childhood education may use the findings of this study to formulate clear policies and guidelines that address school factors that influence competency skills among learners in pre-schools.The pre-school pupils may also benefit from the study findings in that; when their instructional needs are met, they are more likely to gain improved critical thinking skills, self-confidence, problem-solving abilities and cooperative and association skills. This in turn may determine the children‟s overall performance in school and change their developmental competencies in reading, writing and numeracy. The study findings will provide empirical data for continued advocacy for support to pre-school programme and hence more community and government commitment in the pre-school sub-sector. Researchers and scholars may also benefit from the findings as a basis for their further studies.The knowledge to be generated from this research could initiate further research leading to possible policy changes to meet pre-school teacher needs.

Scope of the Study
The study was carried out inpublic pre-school centres in Keiyo South Sub County; Elgeyo Marakwet County. The study sought to investigateteachers‟perceptions of the influence of selected instructionalfactors on adequacy of learning resources, teachers‟ qualifications andteacher workload. The information was collected frompre-school teachers in the 60 pre- school centres in the Sub County by getting teachers perceptions through use of questionnaires.

Assumptions of the Study
The following were the assumptions of the study:

i) The study assumed that the respondents were honest in providing the relevant information for the study.

ii) All the respondents sampled agreed to participate in the study

iii) That the research results reflected teachers‟ perceptions on how selected instructional factors influencedpre-school children acquisition of competency skills.

Limitations of the Study
The study focused on teachers‟ perceptions on selectedfactors that influenceacquisition of necessary competencies by pre-school pupils, it was not possible to analyze all the variables that influence pupils acquisition of competency skills, to limit this and to make the study viable, the researcher analyzed five selected factors that influenced acquisition of reading, writing and numeracy skills by pre-school pupils. Other variables were held constant. To do this, the researcher identified these variables and minimized their effects through randomization of the subjects in the study. Another limitation of the study is that the research covered public pre-school centres and therefore this research does not present the perceptions of teachers from private pre-school centres. This study was conducted in only one Sub-county

in Kenya. The results cannot be generalized to the entire country but can be restricted to only those areas that have similar characteristics to the study Sub-county.

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