Pupil Background Characteristics and Academic performance in grade nine: A case of selected schools in Lufwanyama District in the Copperbelt Provice of Zambia
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This study investigated the effect of pupil background characteristics on academic performance among upper basic school pupils in Lufwanyama district in the Copper belt Province of Zambia. The main concern that prompted this study in this district was the poor pass-rate recorded among grade nine pupils since its formation as a district in 1997. The study was also prompted by the need for improved pupil performance at grade nine level in Lufwanyama district. Given increasing pressures on the Government of the Republic of Zambia's spending on education, there was need to implement strategies focusing on improving pupil learning. The contribution of the household learning environment was often ignored in studies of pupil performance in Sub-Saharan Africa. Pupils spent significant time at home doing homework, preparing for class and studying for tests so their experiences at home should be related to their performance in school. Although much research has been done in industrialised societies such as the United States of America, Europe and Asia to determine how pupil background characteristics affect academic achievement, few researchers have directly studied developing countries such as Zambia. In addition, researchers have shown variations in findings of the effect of pupil background characteristics on academic performance. Thus, it is not easy to generalize these findings to the Zambian situations due to differences in social, historical, cultural and economic settings. The study used the 2008 Examinations Council of Zambia (ECZ) public examination data collected from Lufwanyama District Education Board Secretary (DEBS). A representative sample of seventy-six grade nine pupils from four upper basic schools was used. The main instruments used to collect data in the study were the pupils' questionnaire and the teachers' questionnaire. A survey method was used with seventy-six pupil respondents comprising forty males and thirty-six females. These were drawn from two peri- urban basic schools and two rural basic schools making a total of four randomly selected upper basic schools. Data analysis was done using two methods. These were Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS). The information collected through interviews was analysed by coding it into themes, while the information from the questionnaires was analysed through the SPSS- generated tables, diagrams and percentages. The findings of the study suggest considerable variation in pupil performance. The study revealed that there were positive relationships between number of books at home, the language spoken at home (combination of English and Vernacular) and pupil's performance. Further, the analysis of the quantitative data revealed that there was a negative relationship between pupil's age, distance of pupil's home from school, and family size and pupils' teachers' rating scores. The study also revealed that other pupil background characteristics associated with higher pupils' academic performance were the presence of electricity or reliable lighting at home, regular school attendance, and parental interest. These characteristics were found to lead to the extension of learning time in one way or the other a factor somewhat associated with higher pupil performance. In view of the research findings, the researcher made recommendations among which were in tandem with enforcement of automatic promotion, it may be necessary to administer regular tests and homework that would identify pupils' weaknesses, and address them through remedial teaching to ensure acquisition of the desired levels of competency. The government decision to have books and supplementary reading materials in the hands of pupils is a move in the right direction. The challenge is the need to train teachers on effective use of textbooks. Furthermore, parents and educators need to be equipped with skills that would enable them appreciate the values of learning through Parent-Teacher Association- initiated workshops and seminars.
- Education