Academic success has been found to be strongly associated with financial success, social mobility, higher educational attainment and even higher job positions (Goldhaber, 1996). This would mean that educational experiences should collectively prepare the student for the academic demands of higher education in order to insure positive academic performance that would lead to academic success. Academic success is more than just getting high grades and performing excellently in course requirements and exams, it is a positive manifestation of the students' ability to learn from their classes and to take what they have learned into a working knowledge of their chosen field (Walberg & Bast, 2004).
Academic success in college however has not been the focus of high school curriculums; the main purpose of high schools is to graduate students and to be able to qualify them for admission to colleges. In effect, it was found that the relationship between high school programs and college curriculum is inconsistent at best (Gradstein & Justman, 2005). High schools have given more focus on getting their graduates into college, without much thought about how their students would perform in college. It is commonly assumed that the years spent in previous educational levels would ultimately prepare the student for college. However, the link between high school and college performance remain to be weak and the association seems to be mediated by other factors such as socioeconomic status, type of school (Bedi & Garg, 2000), personality and curriculum.
College performance has been found to be influenced by high school grades; however, the influence was minimal and was only true at the start of freshman year. High school grades were not able to predict college performance in the higher college years. This would also support the findings that high school education does not focus on the teaching of skills and knowledge that would ensure academic success in college (Waters & Marzano, 2006). The weak link between high school grades and college however was pointed out to be due to the fact that during the third and fourth year in college, courses become more specialized and geared towards the students major. It has been argued that high school grades predicted academic performance during freshman year where students need it most. On the other hand, some argue that college performance is more important in that it teaches the student the skills and knowledge necessary for the practice of a career or profession.
Aside from high school grades, previous researches on college success had identified the importance of the students' attitudes towards their learning and experiences in the university. Attitudes have been found to be strongly related to one's behavior, thus, it would follow that the more positive the attitude is, the more positive the behavior will be (Petty & Krosnick, 1995). Consequently, negative attitudes had been found to be associated with negative and destructive behavior (Eason, Giannangelo & Franceschini III, 2009). It would also follow that the more pleasant and positive the attitudes towards learning, then, the better the performance in one's courses. Positive attitudes had not been consistently associated with higher motivation or better performance, but the relationship of negative attitudes to behavior has been well documented. Negative attitudes almost always led to poor performance, poor grades and less involvement in the school. Moreover, less than positive attitudes towards the school or the university in general had been found to be predictive of dropouts and attrition rate (Spillane, 2010). It is therefore important for colleges and universities to assess their student's attitudes and experiences in the university in order to provide programs and institute policies that would encourage positive attitudes and better learning.
College performance has been traditionally measured using college grades such as GPA and admission test scores. College admission tests not only screen and place students into different courses, but it measure prior learning, which high schools provide (Greene & Kang, 2004). However, since high school grades cannot entirely predict college success, other pertinent variables that had been associated with college success has to be investigated in order to identify which factors impact college performance and success. One of the most researched factors is that of school type (Quah, Lim & Brook, 2010).
The debate on private versus public education had spurned numerous discourse and studies on how type of school might influence academic performance, especially high school education and how it affects college performance (Epple, Figlio & Romano, 2004). Like high school grades, the difference between private and public school education as it pertains to college academic performance had been inconclusive (Sandy, 1989). The difference in the performance of students from private high schools compared to students from public schools were minimal, and decreased even more when the students reached higher year levels in college (Jimenez & Sawada,2001). Nevertheless, what was a consistent finding from these researches was the observation that private school graduates tend to perform better academically, tend to have higher scores in admission tests and achievement tests.
Educators and educational researchers have accepted the idea that private school students do better when compared to public school students even when all confounding variables had been controlled such as socioeconomic status and intelligence (Frey, 1992). With this argument; the question of what is the difference between private and public schools and why is it that private schools tend to produce better learners and performers than public schools need to be answered. At first educators often cited the difference in the kind of students catered to by the private schools from the public schools and pointed out that the difference in performance cannot entirely be accounted to the type of school (Buddin, Cordes & Kirby, 1998). Factors such as previous learning, curriculum, socioeconomic status, family background and culture influenced academic performance (Coleman & Hoffer, 1987). Recently, the consistent findings that indicate that private school students perform better academically have made educational researchers and theorists rethink their assumptions. Research conducted in Europe and Asia (Cox & Jimenez, 1990; Psacharopoulos, 1987) has reported that private school students do perform better in academic related tasks than their public school counterparts( Ridell, 1993).
Arguably, type of school is related to college performance, being that private school graduates also perform better in college than public school graduates. Since, the observation is in the type of institution or organization, then factors that might explain why private school graduates are academically better lies in the organizational characteristics of the schools and not so much on the kind of students they produce (Walberg & Bast, 2004). It is also more appropriate to identify which organizational factors had been found to influence student outcomes more than any other factors (Dee, 1998). Literature on school choice and accountability have pointed out that school leadership heavily influences the total quality and performance of a school. Moreover, the school's curriculum was pointed out as a key determinant of the kind of training and instruction that the students receive (Wray, 2007). Also, the kind of teachers that schools employ to teach the students also play a huge role in the learning process of the students, schools differ in their teacher requirements, and it would seem that private schools have stricter guidelines when it comes to the selection and recruitment of teachers (Greene & Kang, 2004).
School leadership has been found to be a primary indicator of the quality of student and school outcomes (Bess & Goldman, 2001). Schools with a more involved and motivated leader have been found to be associated with better teacher-parent relationships, less school violence, higher achievement test scores and higher graduation rates. On the other hand, schools with poor leadership fail to reach expected school performance in terms of student achievement and are related to higher dropout rates, higher teacher attrition and school violence. School leadership has also been associated with better learning environments and the development of programs and measures that cultivate the academic and personal development of students (Bryman, 2004). School principals generally assume leadership roles and they manage, motivate, lead and sanction the teachers, personnel and students and build positive relationships with parents and stakeholders. Principals generally stay in one school for not less than 3 years so that they would be able to institute change and create a school culture for that school (Chance & Chance, 2002). Hence, it is of primary importance that school principals and the kind of leadership they practice would provide rich information on the difference between private and public schools.
The very essence of a school is found in its curriculum. The school's curriculum provides the learning topics, the instructional materials, the educational approaches and learning objectives as well as the school's subjects and course offerings (Bishop, 1995). There are different types of curriculum and it often reflects the culture and the mission and vision of the schools (Kelly, 2009). Schools differ in their curriculum offerings because schools tailor fit their topics and learning activities to the reality of the student population that they cater to (Deng, 2010). If the school mainly provide training in the arts, then the curriculum would be geared towards the teaching of the different art forms and provide the opportunity for the expression of said art forms. Alternatively, high schools that follow a more science and math-based curriculum would also design a curriculum focused on the teaching of more math and science subjects.
A closely related factor to curriculum is the quality and teaching skills of the school's faculty. Teachers have been trained in different subjects so that they could provide a holistic learning experience to their students. The act of teaching is however more than just giving discussions and quizzes. Teachers who effect change or motivate students to perform more; those who facilitate learning and the mastery of skills are the kind of teachers that provide quality education to the students (Murray & Male, 2005). Public schools generally have similar teacher requirements and often follow what the law mandates, while private schools may be more discriminating and have stringent teacher requirements. Thus, it would follow that better and more effective teacher are recruited and retained by private schools because they can offer them better pay and benefits and professional support (Murray & Male, 2005). If better teachers are in the private schools, then public school students are already at a disadvantage.
The present study will be examining and exploring the college performance and attitudes of college students and differentiate private and public schools in terms of school leadership, curriculum and teacher requirement. The college performance will be measured using the university database on the admission test scores and GPA in freshman year while the comparison and contrast of private and public schools will be discussed through an interview with school heads or administrators according to leadership, curriculum and teacher requirement in the state of Kuwait.
Statement of the Problem
The influence of previous learning experiences to future academic performance has been the subject of research in learning and school psychology as it has been established that there is an association between the types of previous experiences to the level of academic performance that students manifest. For example, students with prekindergarten education perform better in kindergarten than children who did not have any educational experience. In addition, students who take advance courses in math and science in high school, do better in math and science courses in college (Murray & Male, 2005). Moreover, evidences of such influence can also be found in the admission test scores and the general point average of high school students upon admission to college. Students who have high admission test scores and high school GPA have better grades in their college courses than students who have low scores and low average GPA.
As important as the previous learning experiences are to future academic performance, the type of school is also an equally important factor that influences future academic performance. Previous literature had reported that there is a difference in the college performance of students from private and public high schools (Schlesser & Finger, 1963). Being, that students from private high schools tend to do better academically than public school students in college. This underscores the research problem of the present study, which is to establish the difference in the college performance and attitudes towards university of college students from private and public high schools. Moreover, the supposed difference between private and public schools will be assessed in terms of school leadership, curriculum and teacher requirement. The problem that this study aims to resolve is why and how does private schools produce graduates who perform better academically in college.
Variables of the Study
This study on the college performance and attitudes of college students towards university experiences as a function of the difference between private and public schools in terms of school leadership, curriculum and teacher requirement will be exploring and studying a number of variables. The first variable is college performance; this would refer to the academic performance of college students in Kuwait University. This will be operationally measured as the college GPA of students in Kuwait University from the first to the fourth year level from 2006 to 2010. The college GPA has been chosen in this study, as it is a manifestation of the performance of the students in their individual classes. Teachers assign grades to students commensurate to their performance and mastery of the said course.
The second variable is the attitudes of the students towards their experiences in the university. This will be measured using an interview protocol designed to assess the thoughts, feelings and behavior of the students towards the different aspects of university life, such as learning experiences, teacher qualities, socialization, learning resources and support and learning environment. Selected students will be interviewed to draw a rich description of how students perceive the quality of their learning experiences. The third variable has to do with the assumption that private and public schools differ as an organization, and such factors include school leadership, curriculum and teacher requirement.
School leadership will be assessed in terms of how school administrators manage and lead the school as a single organization. Curriculum will refer to the educational framework and course offerings of the school while teacher requirement pertains to the required competencies, skills and educational training of teachers hired in the schools. These variables will be assessed through an interview of 10 school administrators, where each half heads a public and private high school respectively. It is hopes that the interviews will elucidate the difference in the organizational characteristics of private and public schools in the State of Kuwait.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this study is to determine the existence of the difference and advantage of private school graduates from public school graduates in relation to their academic performance in college. This difference will be identified using the college GPA of the students from first to the fourth year level. The students' GPA will be accessed through the university's records database and will be categorized into private and public school graduates. This objective is necessary to support and give evidence of the findings of the previous literature on type of high school and college success.
A second purpose of this study is to identify and describe the attitudes of college students towards university experience and to find out if the attitudes of private school graduates differ from their public school counterparts. This would enrich the first research aim, since it would provide a more accessible and human element in the study. Students are expected to differ in their perception of university experiences and it is interesting to find out whether such expectations will be proven correct or wrong in the light of their previous educational experiences.
A third purpose of the present study is to determine why and how private high schools produce graduates who perform academically better than public school graduates do. This will be explored using an interview of school administrators on their type of school leadership, curriculum and teacher requirement. The mentioned organizational factors had been found to strongly influence the quality of education that the school provides its students than any other factor. The learning experiences of students is often dependent on the kind of leadership that the school administrator has, it is also dependent on the curriculum of the school as it identifies which subjects are offered and what skills are mastered. Lastly, teacher requirements is also included since teachers facilitate and provide students with learning activities and their own mastery and skills in their subject and teaching impacts student learning.
Significance of the Study
The private versus public school debate is still a critical issue among parents, students, school administrators and educators since it places one type of school in competition with another school. Research on the differences of student outcomes between private and public schools have repeatedly shown that private school students do better in measures of academic performance such as achievement tests, diagnostic tests, admission tests and college GPA. This observation has also been found in other countries in Europe and Asia where private schools generally outperform public schools in terms of achievement test scores (Zembat, KoçyiÄŸit, TuÄŸluk & DoÄŸan, 2010). In the State of Kuwait, more students attend public than private schools and more Kuwaitis attend public school while foreigners who reside in Kuwait prefer to attend private schools.
The significance of this study to the educational system of the State of Kuwait is evident, as it will provide knowledge of the performance of private and public school graduates in college and know whether the difference in the performance of the said schools is true in the State of Kuwait. This study will also lead to a better understanding of how students perceive their experiences in the University of Kuwait and will help the university officials come up with programs that would improve and maintain the positive attitudes of students towards the university. Moreover, this study would also provide the educational sector of the State of Kuwait and the field of education in general information and understanding of the difference of between private and public high schools in terms of school leadership, curriculum and teacher requirements. This study is also expected to elucidate information that will explain why private schools produce better performing students in college and in other measures of academic performance. Lastly, this study would also enrich the literature on the private and public school debate in terms of its quantitative and qualitative approach to this study.
Research Questions and Hypotheses
This exploratory study on the college academic performance and attitudes of college students towards university experiences as a function of differences among private and public high schools in terms of school leadership, curriculum and teacher requirements in the State of Kuwait will provide answers to the following research questions.
What is the difference in the academic performance of college students in the University of Kuwait in terms of their GPA and type of high school?
What are the attitudes of college students towards their experiences in the University of Kuwait?
What are the differences between private high school graduates and public high school graduates in their experiences in the university?
What are the most prevalent leadership style, curriculum and teacher requirement among private and public high schools in the State of Kuwait?
How do private and public high schools differ in their organizational functions in terms of school leadership, curriculum and teacher requirement?
What are the implications of the differences in the leadership, curriculum and teacher requirement among private and public high schools to college academic performance?
Aside from the research questions, a few research hypotheses will also be tested in this study in order to establish that there is an evident difference in the college performance of students from private and public high schools in the State of Kuwait. This study aims to test the following hypothesis:
Private high school graduates have higher admission test scores than public high school graduates in the admission tests of the University of Kuwait.
Students who graduated from private high schools have higher college GPA than students who graduated from public schools.
There is a significant difference in the admission test scores and college GPA between students from private and public schools.
Limitations of the Study
This study on the difference of college performance and attitudes towards university experiences as a function of the difference in the school leadership, curriculum and teacher requirement of private and public schools in the State of Kuwait have a number of limitations that are inherent to the study. The first limitation is in the use of admission test scores and college GPA as measures of college academic performance, since it does not take into account the possible effects of maturation and learning. Students' ability to answer tests and exams and complete papers and requirements are heavily influenced by their study habits, intelligence, and personality to name a few. However, admission test scores and college GPA are the most evident products of the students' learning and work in their previous school and in their subjects in college. Since this study involves the use of the entire college database, the sheer number of student scores and GPA in this study will answer the said limitation, as it will ensure a robust sample size that is closest to the true population.
A second limitation of this study is the use of one on one interview as a data collection method for the attitudes of college students towards university experiences and the difference in the school leadership, curriculum and teacher requirement of private and public schools. The interview is a subjective method and sometimes the researcher has no control over what the interviewee will find interesting and worth talking about, sometimes it is beyond the research aims of this study. Moreover, since the school administrators will be interviewed, there is no way of knowing whether the school administrators are being truthful or not. However, this study will be adopting an interview protocol, which will ensure that the same questions for each participant will be asked, thus maintaining standardization of the interview process.
Definitions of Terms
In order to describe and operationally define the variables of this study, the following definition of each variable and terms used in the present study is provided.
College academic performance refers to the general performance of the college student during his or her college education in the University of Kuwait. Academic performance is differentiated from performance only as it pertains to the performance of the student in his or her subjects, which is given corresponding grades. These grades are assumed to reflect the kind of effort and knowledge that the student brings to his or her college courses (Schlesser & Finger, 1963). In this study, college academic performance is measured in terms of the admission test score and the college GPA of the college students.
Admission test scores refer to the scores of the students in the admission test of the University of Kuwait. The test is given to graduating high school students and serves as a screening and placement measure for admission to college (Schlesser & Finger, 1963). The scores that will be used in this study will be the total percentile rank scores of the students.
College GPA or grade point average refers to the average grade of the student for a given year. Since all students from 2007 to 2010 will be included in the study, college GPA for each year level will be represented. The college GPA is computed according to the number of unit credits of a given subject and multiplying the number of units with the subject grade. All of the resulting subject grades will then be averaged to produce the GPA (Schlesser & Finger, 1963).
Attitudes refer to the psychological state of liking or disliking a certain object, event, organization, experience and social phenomena. Attitudes are usually cognitive and are manifested through one's behavior, emotions and ideas (Petty & Krosnick, 1995). In this study, attitudes towards university experience will be explored using individual interviews of college students.
Private schools refer to the type of school found in most societies. Private schools generally are run and owned by private groups and individuals. These types of schools are for or not for profit and students usually pay a certain fee to continue studying in the aid schools (Greene & Kang, 2004). In this study, private schools in the State of Kuwait will be identified according to the list of schools provided by the Ministry of Education of the State of Kuwait.
Public schools refer to the type of schools that are mostly operated and managed by the public and the government. Public schools provide access to education for most members of society and are often free of charge. These schools are subsidized by their government and are the bulk of the educational system of any country (Greene & Kang, 2004). In this study, public schools will be identified according to the list of schools provided by the Ministry of Education of the State of Kuwait.
School leadership refers to the kind of leader and the leadership style of a given school administrator (Spillane, 2010). In this study, school leadership is described by the school administrator in their response to the interview question of the present study.
Curriculum refers to the school's set of courses and subjects which predetermine the kind of knowledge and skills that will be taught to the students. Curriculum in formal education means a learning program from which the subjects, content, skills and materials for the teaching and learning of the students are based (Fraser, 1981). In this study, the school administrators will describe curriculum in terms of how it was designed, developed and implemented.
Teacher requirement refers to set of skills, knowledge, experience and training that a teacher should have before applying for a teaching job (Koster, Brekelmans, Korthagen & Wubbels, 2005). The Ministry of Education for the public schools often determines teacher requirements, but private schools have more room for recruiting and selecting teachers according to a more stringent teacher requirement. In this study, school administrators will also describe teacher requirement for both private and public schools in detail.