8 February 2013

Namibia: Improving Academic Achievements of Learners


DURING the past three academic years we have noted with great concern how learners in Grade 10 and 12 performed poorly in their year-end examinations.

On average over 35 000 learners sit for the Grade 10 final examination. From this figure approximately 52 percent of those who sat for the year-end examination are promoted to Grade 11. This trend is similar for learners who sit for the Grade 12 final year examinations. Quoting the words of the Deputy Minister of Education, David Namwandi, there is really a need for Namibians to interrogate themselves to improve on this rather poor academic achievement.

In the past, the blame for such poor academic performance has been placed on our education system. A question that I always asked myself is whether the academic performance of learners should be vested only with the state or whether parents also have a role to play in promoting the academic performance of learners in our education system.

In the past couple of years, much has been written about the poor academic performance of learners in our education system. The point has always been that the quality of education is poor; some schools do not have proper management structures in place; there's a lack of facilities; undisciplined learners; teachers who are ill-prepared to assume their responsibilities of teaching; the mushrooming shebeens in our townships and villages particularly those near schools, and many other concerns. Other causes of poor academic achievement in schools were cited as lack of motivation amongst learners, environment, overcrowded classrooms, poor learning habits, low teaching standards, poor diet (too much junk food, not enough healthy food) as well as economic status of parents. While we have looked at some causes that contribute to poor academic achievements in some of our schools, a question that we have never addressed is whether we as parents are doing enough to support our children to ensure a higher academic achievement.

Parents also have a responsibility to ensure a high academic achievement of learners in our education system. A number of studies have shown a strong and positive correlation between parent involvement in the child's education and higher academic achievement of learners. There is no doubt that parental involvement in the education of children can foster higher academic achievement.

A number of factors such as cognitive socialisation and academic socialisation have been identified to foster academic achievement of learners. Cognitive socialisation refers to how parents influence the basic intellectual development of children, while academic socialisation refers to how parents influence the development of attitudes and motives that are essential for school learning. The way in which parents, especially the mother, interacts with a child can inhibit cognitive development of children. The assumption here is that parents act in the same manner as a teacher during the instructional process although the teaching/learning situation takes place in unstructured manner. Parental teaching is embedded in daily life and occurs in many subtle and indirect ways. Thus higher academic achievement can be promoted by parents who promote an active approach towards learning. It was found in some studies that parents' attitudes, expectations and beliefs about schooling and learning guide their behaviour with their children and have a causal influence on the children's development of achievement attitudes and behaviours.

For us to improve the poor academic achievement of our leaners we should consider the following techniques as suggested by the literature which ranges from parent-school contact (parent-teacher conferences); parent involvement in school policy formulation; supervision and reviewing of children's homework; fostering parents' tutoring techniques; frequent, clear communication from teachers to parents about learners' progress; the use of parents as resources in school; teachers' assistance with educational activities at home; parents' involvement in school governance as well as contracts between parents and teachers concerning rewards and punishment. There is very good evidence that shows that parental involvement in school activities has a positive spin-off on children's academic achievements. Parents who frequently interact with the schools have higher-achieving children than parents who do not frequently interact with schools attended by their children.

In order for us as parents to see an improvement in the academic achievements of our children, we need to be retrospective regarding our involvement with the educational activities of our children. The manifestation of strong family-school linkages is increasingly and widely viewed as an essential component of strategies to improve learners' educational outcomes. Parents, let us get closer to our schools if we are to see an improvement in the academic achievements of our children.

* The author of this article has a PhD from Stellenbosch University, and is currently employed as Senior Manager: Human Resources Development at Telecom Namibia.

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