1.1 Background to the Study

The private education sector comprises of a great diversity of schools whose unifying feature is that all depend almost exclusively on school fees and private contribution to defray both recurrent and capital costs. History of education shows that to a large degree private schools have contributed to the common good of Nigeria society. The Nigerian economy cannot provide secondary school education to all of its qualified children/people. Without private schools there would be a heavy financial burden on tax payers to provide ample schools for all students (Davis 1999). There are different conditions of enrolling for government secondary schools and private secondary schools in Nigeria, some parents decline the chance and instead register their children with private secondary schools. The academic performance of public secondary school varies very much i.e. some schools perform very well, some in the middle while others perform very poorly. Regulations for joining private secondary schools vary although most demand the completion of Primary School education. Some of the schools use self-made tests and/or interviews as a mechanism of selecting students. The quality of the tests varies. Some schools have high quality tests that are intentionally geared towards identifying students with high mental ability and academic performance, thus selecting only the best students among those who attempted the test. The other condition that applies in most of these schools is the parents’ ability for payment required by school owners. Some schools owned by religious organization accept only students of their respective faiths while others accept students from other faiths. Some private schools are established for making profit while the vast majority of them are not – profit institutions (Davis 1999). So, we can say that for most private secondary schools in Nigeria the main conditions for a student to be accepted are his/her academic ability and parents’ economic power.

Academic performance of private schools and that of public schools is measured by West African Examination Council, The National Examination Council Ordinary/Advanced Level. Normally “O” Level examinations are attempted aer three years of senior secondary school education and “A” Level examinations two years aer “O” Level education. Parents have chance of selecting private secondary school that is appropriate to their children. Rational choice theory which is also known as choice theory or rational action theory is a frame work for understanding and oen formally, modeling, social and economic behavior. Rational choice theory informs most school choice plans. This theory suggests that parents are Utility maximizer who make decisions from clear value preferences based on calculations of the costs, benefits and probabilities of success of various options, that they are able to demand action eectively from local schools and teachers, and that they can be relied upon to pursue the best interests of their children (Fuller, 1996.,& Hatcher, 1998) The reasons for parents selecting a particular private school for their respective children are numerous. However one can conclude that most parents want their children to perform well at the end of respective level i.e. “O” Level or “A” Level. This being the case and the fact that secondary school overall examination performance is public knowledge one is perplexed on why parents send their children to very poorly performing private secondary schools, therefore this study intends to study the reasons why parents send their children to the lowest performing secondary.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

Parents choose to send their children to private schools for a variety of reasons, including the quality of education anticipated and their children’s preparation for the future (CAPE, 2008). While several quantitative researchers have noted the parents’ desire for a well-rounded education, to include academics, sports and social life, what has not yet been investigated are the reasons given by parents in qualitative studies (Kennedy, 2008). Private schools are fulfilling this desire by making every eort to ensure that their student population is racially, ethnically, and economically diverse (Kennedy, 2008). Although the financial requirements can be burdensome, private school parents make the commitment and sacrifices to provide the best possible education for their children. Researchers have noted that it was fairly common for families to make holiday and other luxury sacrifices to afford a private school education (Kennedy, 2008). There are numerous studies that cited parent satisfaction for choosing a private school education (CAPE, 2008). However, the research is less clear on detailing how and why parents chose private schools. Research has shown that parents want the opportunity to choose the schools that their children attend (Moe, 2001). This investigation explained why parents chose private schools and also understand the reasons parents chose to send their children to the lowest performing private schools.