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Parents’ decision-making of primary school choice for their children in KwaZulu-Natal.

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This study is located within the post-apartheid context of South Africa focusing on the shifting deliberations of parents as they make primary school choice decisions for their children. The exploration is based on interconnecting factors of a systemic, institutional and personal level that influence decision-making; set against a theoretical framework of Bourdieu’s cultural reproduction theory; his concept of field; and a history of the life course which predispose parent’s own interpretations of their choices. The study adopts a mixed methodology approach firstly with a survey questionnaire conducted with parents of Grade 3 learners from three schools in the Durban North region; leading sequentially on to case-study qualitative interviews. The narratives of 9 parents (3 from each school) are presented to capture the complexity of the intersecting time related factors that influence their decision-making, and their interpretations of these choices. The quantitative data was analysed through a descriptive, statistical analysis. The construction of narratives detailing school choice life stories and chronological cross-case analysis resulted from a grounded, inductive approach to the qualitative analysis. Quantitative data was nested in the qualitative data to provide for a mixed-method analysis. The findings offer insight into the different migratory patterns set up by working and middle-class parents across race and gender to access different types of schooling. Parent’s own background, upbringing, and schooling strongly influence their expectations of what schools should be providing for their children. These expectations are further elaborated on during the course of their engagement whilst their children are ‘in school;’ the process of homework activities providing insight into school curricular matters. Parents have aspirational expectations of their present chosen school, which are partially met or remain unfulfilled. They do not seem to prioritise early education or pedagogic matters when choosing schools, and reflect wholly on the sociological and economic value of schooling choices. School choice in post-apartheid South Africa has brought differentiations of familial migratory patterns.


Doctor of Philosophy in Education. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban 2016.