Capabilities Through Secondary Schooling: Tanzanian Students’ Voices

Viechtbauer, Herwig (2014). 'Capabilities Through Secondary Schooling: Tanzanian Students' Voices' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, 2-5 September 2014, Athens, Greece.

Abstract:Despite its improvement in recent years, public secondary schooling in Tanzania still lacks in qualitative and quantitative aspects. Moreover, research shows that the potential of its certification in terms of wage employment is close to non-existent. Most evaluations of schooling's quality, use and importance stop here. Nonetheless, parents and students opt for it.

            Hence, key questions remains answered: Do students consider secondary schooling worthwhile? What is its value regarding their needs as well as their intentions to sustain their well-being and exert agency? This qualitative case study conducted in Singida, Tanzania attempts to answer these questions through a capability assessment.

            Paying attention to students' voices enriches our understanding of secondary schooling in Tanzania and allows us to assess its role in students' agency exertion within their own empirical reality. As such, this study shifts the focus from outcome-centered or rights-based evaluations to an assessment based on experienced reality. This concerns the value of schooling in terms of realistic opportunities to exert agency.

            Students expect their secondary schooling to contribute to the evolvement of certain qualities and dispositions. These are valued according to their functional, intrinsic and social worth to realize opportunities within a contextualized sphere of applicability. This sphere is hereby demarcated as school propaedeutics and lifeworld propaedeutics, hence the progressing throughout formal schooling and its potential to meet developmental needs and strive for aspirations. Thus, through the eyes of students we can see how school reality matters in their living context; and to what extent it helps them to approach individual and shared development needs.

            Empirical data from Tanzania reveal that schooling is intrinsically valued - in school propaedeutics - for its own sake as a valued form of being as long as students can exploit opportunities within reach. Valuation derives from the extent to which they can deliberately exert their agency, sustain their well-being and maintain a sense of achievement. Moreover, valueing schooling accordingly is dependent on the ongoing nurturing of their capacities (dispositions and skills), whose functional application sustains students' agency fulfillment in school.

            Seen from the broader perspective of liveworld propaedeutics, this engagement is considered a valued part of the present if students sense its relevance for contemplated challenges and a preparation for future aspirations. In other words, when the skills and dispostions evolved by schooling depict being worthy - functional, intrinsic and social - for benefiting from actual opportunities and in regard to building up (personal) potentials that are considered a preparation for a future. S

            In exerting agency, students consider their deliberate commitment, effort and available means being decisive for dealing with circumstances in school and their lifeworld, balancing personal characterisics and widening their range of opportunities. The actual and preparational conditions in school and outside are potrayed as hindering students from fully benefiting, do deprive students of fulfilling their agency intentions and in some cases even of sifficiently sustaining their well-being. This contributes to the devaluation of schooling and leaving some with the impression of 'losing time' and being marked as 'failures'.

            In conclusion, students reflect on their performance, hence their development of capacities relevant to widening their sphere of action. Overall, preparing oneself for later on is essential for students' present endeavor in school. Besides

scroll to top