The Effects of Family Background on Children’s Academic Performance

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THE EFFECTS OF FAMILY BACKGROUND ON CHILDREN’S ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE CHAPTER ONE
INTRODUCTION
1.1 Background of the Study
In African society, education is important and highly valued. Through education children learn specific skills, such as literacy and quantitative abilities, that aid in their development into functional adults. Furthermore, adequately acquiring these skills during childhood and adolescence can lead to a successful future as adults. Strong reading and mathematics skills are essential for occupational success in contemporary Africa and for that matter Ghana. According to Meece, Eccles, and Wigfield (1990), due to society’s rapid technological advances, employers are seeking applicants with strong skills which are acquired through successful academic achievement. Sadly, these skills are not fully developed in all children. For example, differences have been found between males and females, and children from poor families and those from affluent families. Studies have searched for possible reasons as to why children living in poverty suffer academically, such as neighbourhood dynamics, teachers, and school characteristics (McLoyd, 1998). To date, there is not a full explanation for the association between family background and academic achievement among children. It is widely recognized that if pupils are to maximize their potential from schooling they will need the full support of their family. Attempts to enhance family involvement in education occupy governments, administrators, educators and parents’ organizations across Africa and especially Ghana. It is anticipated that the family should play a role not only in the promotion of their own children’s achievements but more broadly in school improvement and the democratization of school governance. The European Commission, for example, holds that the degree of parental (family) participation is a significant indicator of the quality of schooling. In England, the Government’s strategy for securing family involvement was first set out in the 1997 White Paper, ‘Excellence in Schools’. The strategy described here included three elements (a) providing parents with information, (b) giving parents a voice and (c) encouraging parental partnerships with schools (Windsfield, 2005). In view of government policies, some families have always been actively involved in enhancing their children’s development and educational progress. This spontaneous activity has taken a number of forms including ‘good parenting’ in the home (pre-school which provides a good foundation of skills, values, attitudes and self concept); visits to school to gather relevant information and establish good relationship with teachers; discussions with teachers to keep abreast of the child’s progress or to discuss emergent problems; and assisting more broadly in the practical activities and governance of the school (Gyimah, 2001). This spontaneous activity of many families has been seen as a valuable contribution to children’s educational progress and attempts to enhance the involvement of all families are now widespread.

1.2 Problem Statement
In the competitive world of today, the acquisition of many occupations and social achievements is tied to the acquirement of higher levels of education; therefore, academic achievement and performance become particularly important. With regard to the issue of the effect of family background factors on children’s academic performance, there is no consensus among researchers in this area. While some studies show that family background variables have a strong effect on students’ school performance (Haveman, 1991), other studies have not reached such a conclusion (Kostakis, 1997). With regard to the influence of family background variables, most previous studies have focused on the effects of family economic and cultural capitals. Economic capital usually refers to family income or wealth, physical resources and facilities that enhance learning, while...
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