Characteristics of Home Environment of High and Low Achieving Grade Nine Pupils in Selected Basic Schools in Lusaka Urban District

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Mbewe, Nthembe
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This study was conducted in selected Basic Schools situated within the areas of Lusaka District. The main purpose was to investigate characteristics of home environment of both high and low-achieving grade nine pupils and assess which home characteristics had most positively and negatively impacted on their academic performance. In investigating these issues the study relied on life narratives of the respondents and empirical data. A sample of 138 grade nine pupils from five government basic schools was involved in the study in May 2007. The schools and pupils were selected, using the purposive and stratified sampling respectively. Of the 138 grade nine pupils were 50 interviewed, while 88 answered the questionnaire. Data from the pupils were collected through questionnaires and semi-structured interviews. The questionnaires and interviews sought respondents' opinions about the characteristics of home environment in general. The quantitative data from questionnaires were analysed by means of Chi- square which were generated on a computer, using Statistical Package for Social Science (SPPS) programme. The generated qualitative data from interviews were coded, and emerging themes were grouped into categories using constant comparative analysis technique. Data from the questionnaires and interviews showed that characteristics of home environment had an impact on the academic performance of grade nine pupils in selected basic schools of Lusaka Urban District. Using the Chi- square, the study found that there was a significant relationship between language, residential area, parents' perception of their children's academic performance, communication about school, parenting style, monitoring and controlling of behaviour to optimise academic performance, parent-children communication and time spent on viewing TV on one hand and academic achievement. While most of the high-achieving pupils commonly used English at home, most of the low-achieving pupils used local languages at home. Unlike low-achieving pupils, the majority of the high-achieving pupils came from homes where parents had high perception and expectation of their children's academic performance; pupils had favourable feeling about their home environment; parent and children regularly talked about school; parents regularly monitored and controlled children's behaviour to optimise academic achievement and were parent monitored TV viewing and after-school activities regularly. These home environment characteristics contributed to children achieving high academic performance. This study has established that characteristics of home environment have an impact on the academic performance of grade nine pupils in selected basic schools of Lusaka. The study found that monitoring and controlling of behaviour to optimise academic performance and high parents' expectation of the children's academic performance were the characteristics of home environment that had the most positive impact on the academic achievement of grade nine pupils. On the other hand, lack of monitoring and controlling of behaviour to optimise academic performance had the most negative impact on the academic performance of the pupils. Based on these findings, this study recommended that parents should see intelligence as ever changing to avoid bias about what students will be able to achieve. It also suggested that parents should monitor the after-school activities of their children and encourage those times spent on activities that would foster and encourage positive academic achievement. It was further recommended that parents should work with their children on homework, talk to their children on school related factors, monitor and control pupils' behaviour and check pupils' academic progress so as to optimize their academic performance. It was also recommended that schools should encourage parents' involvement in their children's education and provide family intervention programmes through parents' education. Furthermore, it was recommended that the Ministry of Education should develop programmes for teachers that would sensitize them about the impact of home environment factors on student academic achievement.