Accounting for Unequal Academic Performance: Government and Private Students in Dire Dawa, Ethiopia


  • Abdulfetah Mohammed
  • Mikyas Abera



Parental socioeconomic status, residence, gender, and type of school, among others, have been identified to affect students’ academic performance. This article aims at explaining the effects of cultural, economic, and social capital on the academic performance of students attending government and private preparatory schools in Dire Dawa city, Ethiopia. Employing Bourdieu’s analytical framework of cultural capital, it interprets and reports empirical data gathered through desk review, survey, key informant interview (KII), and focus group discussion (FGD), and draws conclusions between students’ inherited background and academic performance in government and private schools. The article reports that parents of private school students had significantly better cultural, economic, and social capitals that correspond with their children’s superior academic performances compared to parents of government school students. On the other hand, private schools reportedly had strong academic orientation, provided quality education, and actively involved parents in supervising and supporting children’s education. With better school organization and management that provides quality education, effective learning facilities, supervision, and support to students of well-to-do families, private-schools are not only ensuring better academic outcomes for these children but also arguably conceal the functional correspondence between inherited privileges and academic performance and play potent transliteration function for cultural reproduction of privileged groups.