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In any educational system, the learners are the focal point. The behaviour, and in fact, the entire personality of the individual learner plays a major role in the whole system. It is very important, therefore, to understand the learners’ needs, share their visions, their hopes and aspirations, and their fears so as to help them in their journey of building a worthy and an enduring life (Zahra, 2010). The targeted goal of all educational programmes is to ensure that the learners (students) achieve a desired outcome. Emphasis is always placed on performance and of sound scholarship. The main duty of the school system therefore is to work towards achieving academic excellence by the students. One major variable that measures an individual’s success or failure in school activities is academic performance (Dramanu & Balarabe, 2011).
Academic performance is the outcome of a course of study to show that learning has taken place. Academic performance is the chief variable that measures an individual’s success or failure in school activities or in academic processes. Academic performance according to Cambridge University, Reporter (2003) is frequently defined in terms of examination performance. It tells how well a student is doing in the subjects or skills being learned. The descriptive assessment information will usually be translated through grading system such as Grade Point Average (GPA). Academic performance is measured by the test or examination results and is one of the main features in a school system.
Academic performance refers to how well or how badly a student is doing in the various subjects when his ability or knowledge in his course of study is tested. Academic performance ought to reveal how much a learner knows from the teacher or instructor. Nowadays however, academic performance is not what it should be as it has over the years taken downward turn which has resulted to falling/dwindling standard of academic performance in Nigeria. The problem of poor academic performance stems from the fact that many students have no self-confidence as well as self-beliefs. For example, the fear of mathematics is a learned behaviour of self-defeat. The poor performance in mathematics reveals the way that students react to it in their minds. Mathematics as a subject sends out such a negative feelings, which induces fear that no other subject does. Usually, this begins in early childhood due to negative or unpleasant experiences in the subject or it’s teacher.
The level of students’ academic performance in mathematics in Edo State would be regarded as low. From observation, the level of participation in academic exercise, the passion that was suppose to be the hallmark of students’ academic pursuit seem to have lost it’s heat. One of the reasons for this is the students’ lack of the knowledge of self-concept, self-efficacy and self-esteem. A learner has to be involved with keen interest mind, body and soul for knowledge to take place. Hence, an individual can only perform well academically when his mind, his “self”- is wholly involved. Well meaning educationists have expressed great concern on the falling or dwindling standard of education in Nigeria. This means academic performance, which should be the centre of educational process, is no longer what it should be. Among the numbers of reasons for the poor academic performance is lack of interest on the part of the students ( Aluede, Okhiku & Udele, 2009).
Every educational process or program is expected to ensure that the students achieve a satisfactory outcome (Onyeizugbo 2010). Various variables (such as self-awareness, self-concept, self-efficacy, locus of control, self-esteem) are known to influence academic performance (Kaunda, 2010; Zahra, 2010; Redmond, 2013). These variables are therefore of great importance to educational researchers and other related disciplines. Currently, the focus of some educational researchers is on the student’s sense of self as a major component as well as a major determinant of academic performance.
Many of the successes and/or failures that people experience in many areas of life are closely related to the ways that they have learned to view themselves and their relationships with others. For example, an individual performs better in any field if he believes in himself (self-concept), if he believes in his ability to perform a specific task (self-efficacy), and believes he is worthy of such task (self-esteem). This can possibly apply to school setting as well. It is likely that a student who has a high self-concept, self-efficacy and self-esteem will perform better in academics than his counterpart with low self-concept, low self-efficacy and low self-esteem. Since these three psychological variables have been known to influence performance, how much can academic performance depend on them? Although there are obviously other factors that can, and do affect the performance of students academically, many psychologists and educationists believe that these psychological constructs under study, if properly harnessed, will help to turn things around for students.
Some theorists (for example Erikson, Bandura) have posited that identity development is a lifelong process that involves the interaction of psychological, interpersonal, and socio-cultural factors (Bandura, 1999; Miller. 2002). Given that self-perceptions tend to be more amenable to change in children and adolescents, it may be beneficial to examine these beliefs in primary and junior secondary school students in order to amend inaccurate and potentially harmful perceptions (Bandura 1999). It is difficult to find ways of helping students to do better in school without also exploring ways of helping them feel better about themselves as learners. At the same time it is almost impossible to help students improve their self-concept as well as their internal locus of control without assisting them in finding ways to improve their school performance (Hamachek, 1995; Zahra, 2010)
In Nigeria, the policy that established the junior secondary school came into being in May 2004 as part of the Universal Basic Education in the 6-3-3-4 system. At present, in Nigeria, junior secondary school education is free and compulsory for all children, from the primary school level to the junior secondary school three (JSS111).
A child goes through the secondary school in his or her formative years of life. From experience, this is the most important and appropriate time to inculcate discipline and the importance of hard work in the children. The axiom of “you can do it, if you put more efforts” (reinforcement) encourages them a lot. Considering the fact that the educational sector is set up for the student for the sake of his future and the future of the nation, attention has to be drawn to his all round personality development especially his “SELF” and his control. His self- concept, self- awareness, self- assessment, self- esteem, self- determination, self- efficacy, locus of control and so on have to be explored by him with the help of the parents, teachers, psychologists and guidance counselors. The student’s perceptions and beliefs about himself help a great deal in seeing himself as one capable of thinking and not just a receptor to environmental force. Self-confidence naturally leads to self-realisation, good performance and successful achievement. The importance of self-concept, self-efficacy and self-esteem have to do with a special kind of mental attitude that helps the individual to believe in himself and release an inner power. According to Shinn (1995), Napoleon Hill (1977) made a famous philosophical statement that ‘what the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve’. It is like developing a creative faith in oneself –a faith that works, that is justified.
Self-concept is refered to as the image or perceptions that students hold about themselves; which include feelings, attitudes and knowledge about their abilities, skills and acceptance. The perception that every student has of himself between his self-concept and academic demands is important for learning outcomes. Self-concept refers to the set of perceptions or reference points that the subject has about himself. This connotes the set of characteristics, attributes, qualities and deficiencies, capacities and limits, values and relationships that the subject knows to be descriptive of himself and which he perceives as data concerning his identity. It is a set of knowledge and attitude that we have about ourselves, the perception that the individual assigns to himself and characteristics or attributes that we use to describe ourselves. It is understood to be fundamentally a descriptive assessment (Sanchez & Roda, 2007).
Self-concept is also a set of beliefs about the self and the relationships between these beliefs that may mediate behaviour in certain situations. It is regarded as a key factor in the integration of personality in motivating behaviour and achieving academic performance. If a student develops a strong academic self-concept, such student looks inwards and then performs excellently in any academic challenge. Self-concept, however, may be affected directly or indirectly by variables such as gender, age and academic level or class of study.
Self-efficacy is another construct which roughly corresponds with a person’s belief in his own competence. It refers to the belief that one is capable of performing in a certain manner to attain a certain set of goals. In academic setting, self-efficacy refers to a student’s belief that he can successfully enter into and complete a course of study. It is an individual’s confidence in his ability to organize, execute, and regulate performance in order to solve a problem or accomplish a task at a designated level of skill and ability. It deals with the belief system of the student; that he is capable of entering into an academic task and accomplish the course outcome (Redmond, 2013). It therefore refers to a person’s conviction that he can successfully achieve at a designated level in a specific academic subject area. The student believes that he has the competence needed in any academic exercise like completing assignments, reading hard and passing the course examinations and even meeting the requirements for going or moving to higher levels.
Self-esteem is an opinion of what value or worth an individual places on himself (Beck, 2008). The importance of self-esteem lies in the fact that it concerns us ourselves; the way we are, the way we feel and the sense of our personal value or personal worth. A student with a high self-esteem views himself worthy enough to tackle any academic challenge while the one with low self-esteem is likely to have a self-defeating attitude thereby refraining from academic challenges.
Thus, self-perception seems to have a lot of influence on every activity of an individual including academic performance in mathematics. The study and understanding of these self-constructs (that is, self-concept, self-efficacy and self-esteem) under discussion bring this out in its clear terms. The way we view ourselves and feel about ourselves have a profound effect on what we do and how we live our lives. Self-concept, self-efficacy and self-esteem are of vital importance in directing an individual’s life towards a more productive and happy one. The premise of this study is that student’s self-perception and beliefs in his self-concept, self-efficacy and self-esteem regarding academic competency could have important implication for improving students’ performance (Aldridge & Fresser, 2008). It is therefore important to investigate the relationship between self-concept, self-efficacy, self-esteem and academic performance in mathematics in order to rescue those students who may have fallen victims of their own negative self-beliefs.
Students’ academic behaviours are believed to be a function of the beliefs that they hold about themselves and their academic potentialities. Students with low self-beliefs seem to experience great adjustment problems in school. Increasing occurrences of low academic performance seem to point to lack of self-confidence, fear and inferiority complex. Students’ difficulties, therefore, in basic academic skills are most often directly related to their beliefs – that they cannot read, write, handle numbers, solve Mathematics problems or think well, that they cannot learn – even when such things are not objectively true. This explains why many students have difficulties in school not because they are incapable of performing successfully in their academics but because they believe that they cannot perform successfully. These problems become a serious concern for students who may have learned to see themselves as incapable of learning or of handling academic work, as well as their teachers, parents, educational institutions and even the government.
A critical review of the state of education in Nigeria today reveals the need for serious and urgent reforms especially in the area of academic performance in mathematics. We live in a society where a student has to struggle between his interests in relation to parents and parental background, parental pressure and expectations as well as peers and societal expectations. This could bring about fear, anxiety, psychological trauma, physical and mental breakdown. Therefore, the child either finds a way of cheating or drops out of school completely. In a bid to provide solution to these crimes, the study of self-concept, self-efficacy and self-esteem are considered to be of great importance. Psychologists have proven that negative thoughts destroy morale, creativity and zest for living as well as limit one’s potentials for development. For no one but you can make you to believe in yourself. Belief in one’s self is the very basic of a successful academic life.
In Nigeria, some principles have been put in place in the educational sector to enhance performance of students. For example, some subjects have recently been introduced and made compulsory (Civics, Information and Communication Technology (ICT), and Marketing) to help students know their rights and improve in their studies. But the students’ self-beliefs, appears to be largely ignored. If solutions to poor academic performance are to be found, the student as a person, with his self-regulating system has to be taken very seriously. Students’ self-perceptions of their capabilities form an important part of their adjustment and performance in school. Self-concept, self-efficacy and self-esteem play a very significant role in directing students’ efforts toward their academic work (Kauder, 2009).
Since performance in examination determines how well students capture the essence of their educational pursuit, they are always worried about its outcome. Factors such as fear of failure, unpleasant experiences, laziness, bad company coupled with lack of good learning environment, shortage of qualified and dedicated teachers, poor infrastructure and poverty, cause this worry on the students since these lead to failure. Consequently, poor academic performance could lead to social vices such as cultism, vandalism, drug abuse, child trafficking and others, which are prevalent among Nigerian youths. This will make parents, teachers and friends to often criticize them. The individual student always demonstrates no satisfaction, unhappiness, easily displeased and full of self-pity. These negative and self-defeating beliefs, if not exposed, dealt with and conquered at the junior secondary school level can always lead to failure. The only remedy for the student is to develop positive academic self-concept, self-efficacy and self-esteem.
These self-constructs refer to specific beliefs, attitudes, feelings and perceptions about the students’ intellectual and/or academic abilities. Students’ academic behaviours are believed to be a function of the beliefs that they have learnt to hold about themselves and their academic potentialities. Once these beliefs are formed, they affect the students’ academic performance through their influence on students’ choice of activities, the amount of efforts applied, the level of persistence, and the kind of meta-cognitive learning strategies involved (Williams & Williams, 2010).
Guay, Ratelle, Soy and Litalien (2010) in a study indicated that students who perceived themselves as academically competent obtained higher grades because their academic self-concept led them to be more autonomously motivated at school. In contrast, students with negative perceptions about their academic capabilities, according to Williams and Williams (2010), shy away from academic tasks because (a) they view academic tasks as personal threats, (b) have low aspirations and weak commitments to task-related goals and (c) dwell on their personal deficiencies and adverse outcomes. It therefore appeared that there is a positive and significant relationship between self-construct and academic performance in mathematics and that change in one seemed to be associated with change in the other.
However, some other studies (Afuwape, 2011, Trusty, Watts and House, 1996), found negative or low relationship between these self-beliefs and academic performance. Therefore, it appears that the situation regarding the relationship between self-concept, self-efficacy and self-esteem and academic performance in mathematics is not quite clear. There is need for further investigation. This gap needs to be filled.
Most of the studies known to the researcher on the relationship among self-concept, self-efficacy, self-esteem and academic performance that were reviewed were carried out in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Few studies on these variables have been reported in Nigeria. This again is another important gap, which this study intends to fill. The study, therefore, examines the relationship between self-concept, self-efficacy, self-esteem and academic performance in mathematics among junior secondary school students in Edo State, Nigeria.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship among self-concept, self-efficacy, self-esteem and academic performance in mathematics.
Specifically, the objectives are:
To guide this study, five research questions were raised.
This study sought to find out from our own setting, the relationship between these self-regulating constructs (self-concept, self-efficacy and self-esteem) and academic performance in mathematics especially among junior secondary school students in Edo State. Therefore, the results may generate useful information, knowledge and understanding of self-concept, self-efficacy and self-esteem as well as their relationships with academic performance in mathematics. The findings will be beneficial to students, psychologists, counsellors, educators/teachers, parents and even the society at large.
This study will help secondary school students develop self-consciousness to look inward for performance and excellence that could make teaching/learning situation effective, interesting and result oriented. It will help them develop independent thinking ability and to look inwards for solutions to academic problems. If they discover that they can tap from their innate potentials and that they can pass examinations without stress, study to them will be fun. Understanding of this study will make students admit psychological problems, if need be, and be able to ask for help.
Since this study was based on scientific research, it will give helpful information to psychologists and counselling consultants as well as educational planners and developers. These specialists could consider self-beliefs while planning essential skills, such as problem solving so as to help students boost their self-confidence and belief; thereby helping them to succeed in their studies, jobs and future relationships. With the help of this study, educators can also help students to enhance their self-beliefs by the use of peer model, planning relevant and affordable challenging tasks and teaching specific learning strategies.
The study will be of great benefit by providing useful information to parents who are always anxious about their children’s examination outcome and academic progress. Apart from school fees, enrolment fees and others, it perhaps falls on some of them to also pay for examination malpractices. The result of this study is likely to help parents to lead and direct their children on a better way of academic performance by helping to enhance self confidence (self-efficacy) in them at home.
The teachers will also benefit from the findings of this study since their task of teaching will be made easier and better. If students will pay undivided attention to instructions they can change their world. Teachers will enjoy seeing their students performing well and achieving academic success through self-learning. The results of the study are likely to increase the awareness of educators and counselors on ways of improving student’s academic performance in mathematics.
The society at large will benefit from this study because if students can change their thoughts, they will change their ways of life, which will invariably lead to an orderly society. People with high self-beliefs are more mutually independent and are likely to function more successfully in the society. Improved self-image can help students’ adjustment to do well in many diverse situations. The idea can equally be extended to other areas of life outside academics. It will encourage a positive change of attitude for better performance.
Finally it will contribute to existing body of literature in this area of study. The result of this study is likely to be helpful for future study to extend to new scheme and find other factors that may be related to students’ self-constructs and academic performance. The outcome is likely to contribute to understanding the importance of self-concept, self-efficacy and self-esteem among students in their school work.
The study was carried out among all students of junior public secondary schools in Edo State. Class three of the Junior Secondary School was used to represent them. JSS III was purposely sampled. The age range of these students varied from eleven to sixteen (11-16) years. Nevertheless, some of the students may have been slightly older or younger than this age range, but were included in the study because they were enlisted and enrolled into J.S.S. III that year and therefore met the inclusion criteria.
Specifically, it concentrated on three self-constructs – self-concept, self-efficacy, and self-esteem. Self-concept covers many areas of human functioning. Although, one can posses a general view about oneself, self-conceptions differ across differing domain of functionings. This study covered areas such as intellectual, or educational aspect that is referred to as academic self-concept. In this study, areas like social self-concept, physical self-concept and emotional self-concept are not covered. The reasons being that these other areas are not directly related to academic performance in mathematics.
Self-efficacy covers many areas of human functioning too. The study concentrated on academic self-efficacy, which centers on students’ thinking and beliefs; whether they are optimistic or pessimistic in their ability (I can do it) to learn and solve problems. Areas like physical self-efficacy, social self-efficacy and emotional self-efficacy are not covered. These areas are not also directly related to academic performance in mathematics.
In this study, self-esteem covered the students’ judgment of their self-worth, especially educationally and intellectually (academic self-esteem). Measurement of students’ academic performance was limited to performance in Mathematics.
The focus of this study is on self-concept, self-efficacy, and self-esteem as correlates of academic performance. The limitations of the study included: First, only public junior secondary schools in Edo State were used in the study while private secondary schools were excluded. This posed an obvious limitation, as the result of the study may not be generalized to include private school students. Secondly, the exclusion of all other classes was a serious limitation, as only JSS3 students were used in the study. Therefore, although the sample size of this study was relatively large, it still did not by any means represent the entire students in the state. JSS 1 and JSS 11 as well as the senior secondary school classes were omitted. The result will not likely be the same if all categories of secondary school students were used. Thirdly, the use of only one subject – Mathematics – and the exclusion of all other subjects, as the measurement of students’ academic performance was another limitation. A note of caution is therefore, needed to be exercised when generalizing the findings of the study. The results of the study may not be generalized to include JSS1, JSS11 and students of senior secondary schools as well as students’ performances in subjects other than Mathematics.
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