The U.S. Bureau of Census in 2000 (2001) defines a family as two or more persons related by birth, marriage or adoption who reside in the same household. This is a legal definition, relying solely on relationships determined by blood or contract. Families are important to provide safe, nurturing environments in which children can learn to function in society. While families in the past worked hard to ensure their children's health and physical survival, today's parents include in their concerns the children's emotional health as well.
David Olson (1983) discusses the findings of numerous research studies on the characteristics of functional families. Members of good families show unity and loyalty, are cooperative and deal problems in positive ways. They also provide love and understanding to their members. Healthy families are flexible and are able to compromise and communicate well. The parents become role models in the family to demonstrate good values.
Student achievement is measured using grades. Grades are standardized measurements of varying levels of comprehension within a subject area. Grades can be assigned in letters (for example, A, B, C, D, E or F), as a range (for example 1.0-4.0), as descriptors (excellent, great, satisfactory, needs improvement), in percentages, or, as is common in some post-secondary institutions in some countries, as a Grade Point Average (Wikipedia the Free Encyclopedia).
The home process variables that have been found to be the best predictors of school learning were classified by Kellaghan et.al. (1993) as follows:
Work habits of the family: The degree of routine in the management of the home, the emphasis on regularity in the use of space and time, and the priority given to schoolwork over other pleasure activities.
Academic guidance and support: The availability and quality of the help and encouragement that parents give their children in their schoolwork and the conditions they provide to support schoolwork.
Stimulation to explore and discuss ideas and events: Opportunities provided by the home to explore ideas, events and larger environment.
Language environment: Opportunities in the home for the development of the correct and efficient use of language.
Academic aspirations and expectations: Parents' aspirations for their children, the standards they set for children's school achievement and their interest in and knowledge of children's school experiences.
Children bring their family experiences with them to school, so teachers need to have a better understanding of their students' families and how they function. Teachers' putting more effort in understanding their students' problems will lead to a good academic achievement of students. Henderson's research (1987) provides the rationale of this need. First, because educator's efforts at school correspond with those of the parents in the students' home, educators need to know about their students' families to be maximally effective. Second, by understanding those responsible for children at home, educators can work with parents to help children to be safe and move comfortably into society. Thirdly, this understanding will help to produce better teachers.
Many researches began to look at home process variables, such as behaviors and conditions in the house, irrespective of social status, that are related to academic achievement. They include such factors as parents' expectations for the child's success in school, availability in the home of books and other reading material and the amount of attention the family gives to the child's schoolwork (Chall et.al., 1990).
1.2 Problem Statement
It is known that language problem limits children's learning on key subjects areas. As the language of assessments and instruction is different from the language that is spoken at home, children hardly improve their new language skills. The language barriers persist over Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan (Cina) Yuk Tse for years. This problem is inherent as the students come from a community in which the majority of them are Thais and Malays and the language spoken at home is their mother tongues. Even the Chinese in this community mostly speak in these languages.
Parental involvement is considered an important influence on academic progress. Parental involvement has been positively linked to indicators of student achievement, including teacher ratings of student competence, student grades and achievement test scores (Deslandes et.al., 1999). Parent involvement has also been associated with other indicators of school success, including lower rates of retention in grades, lower dropout rates, higher on-time high school graduation rates, and higher rates of participation in advanced courses (Barnard, 2004). Families with many children will have limited time to supervise each and every child's homework. In cases where both parents work, the responsibility is passed on to the grandparents.
A local study on early primary school children showed a weak but significant association between poor nutritional intake and academic achievement (Zalilah MS et.al., 2000). These children were from low socioeconomic areas and of a single ethnic origin. As single parents need to work hard to earn more money, their children are left at home by themselves or with their grandparents. As a result, some students come to school with dirty uniform and without breakfast, while some have disciplinary problems at school.
Students' academic achievement in Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan (Cina) Yuk Tse has long been a concern of the local community because of their poor academic performance. School achievement in the nation is classified into two categories: "Sekolah Berprestasi Tinggi (SPT)" and "Sekolah Berprestasi Rendah (SPR)". Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan (Cina) Yuk Tse is classified as "Sekolah Berprestasi Rendah (SPR)" because the percentages of passing in all subjects of "Ujian Penilaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR)" do not achieve 50% continuously in the last 7 years from 2003-2009, so there is a need to study the factors such as family structure, family's socioeconomic status, parental expectation, home environment and home language that are affecting the students' academic achievement.
1.3 Research Questions
The main purpose of the study is to examine the effect of family background to students' academic achievement. The research questions of this study are as follows:
What are the demographic profiles of the students in this school?
What is the academic achievement among students in Chinese Comprehension, Malay Comprehension and English?
Is there any significance different between students' academic achievement and family backgrounds such as family structure, family's socioeconomic status, parent's attitude and expectation, home environment and home language?
Objectives of the study
The objectives of this study are specifically:
To determine the demographic profiles of students in terms of age, gender and ethnic group, number of siblings, marital status, parents' income, parents' highest level of education and parents' monthly income.
To determine students' achievement in Chinese Comprehension, Malay Comprehension and English.
To determine the relationship between students' academic achievement and family backgrounds such as family structure, family's socioeconomic status, parent's attitude and expectation, home environment and home language.
To validate previous research.
Scope of research
This study is conducted at Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan (Cina) Yuk Tse in Tumpat, Kelantan. The respondents in this study are chosen from all the students from year 1 till year 6 and the study is based on the Mid Term Examination's results for Chinese Comprehension, Malay Comprehension and English in year 2010. These three subjects are chosen because their average scores for the last ten years (2000-2009) are below 70%. The average scores of each other subjects such as Chinese Essay, Malay Essay, Mathematics and Science is above 70%.
In addition, this study only focuses on five family background variables which are family structure, family's socioeconomic status, parent's attitude and expectation, home environment and home language.
This chapter describes and gives an overview on the problem statement, research questions, objectives and scope of research in this study.
The next chapter contains a review of the literature on relationship between family background and students' academic achievement. Finally, Chapter 3 will describe the theory used and the ways in conducting this study.
CHAPTER 2 LITERATURE REVIEW
There are many works in the literature which deal with the effects of family background in students' academic achievement. In the view of Ajila and Olutola (2007), the state of the home affects the individual since the parents are the first socializing agents in an individual's life. This is because the family background and context of a child affect his reaction to life situations and his level of performance. Although, the school is responsible for the experiences that make up the individual's life during school periods, yet parents and the individual's experiences at home play tremendous roles in building the personality of the child and making the child what he is. Researchers have shown that students and family characteristics affect levels of parental involvement. Different factors of family background are capable of influencing the academic performance of the students. The factors are such as parental occupation status, parents' educational attainment, family structure and home language. Coleman (1966) concluded in his report "schools don't matter", and stated that students' achievement is more strongly associated to their families' social class than a function of the schools they attend.
2.2 Family Structure
Analyses of the relations between families and academic achievement also need to consider children's family structures. The absence of one parent in the students' life, because of divorce, separation, abandonment can affect student's achievement levels (Dronkers, 2003). Nzewunwah (1995) said that there is a significant difference between students from single parent families and those from two-parent families in terms of attitude to examination malpractices, attitude to studies and academic performance. This finding could be explained by the fact that life in a single-parent family can be traumatic and children brought up in such family structure often suffer some emotional problems such as lack of warmth, love and disciplinary problems, which may hinder their academic performance. On the other hand, children raised in two-parent family structure are often stable emotionally and they suffer less emotional problems thereby making them less anxious in the pursuit of their academic work.
Furthermore, siblings' variables are related to the quality and quantity of parent-child interaction in families. Taubman and Behrman (1986) found that differences in children with many siblings and those with fewer siblings may be a result of the amount of monetary and temporal resources available to each child decreasing with each successive child. The greater the numbers of children in a family, the more those children have to share family resources. As a result, children have lower scores on those academic outcomes affected by the diluted family influences.
2.3 Family's Socioeconomic Status
Parents' socioeconomic status is an international educational indicator. It is a very important factor in students' adjustment to and performance in school. In the literature of education policy research and social science research in general indicators of socioeconomic status typically represent any or all of three constructs: education attainment, occupation status, and income or wealth (Buchmann, 2002; Powers, 1982). The income can be measured indirectly through home possessions items. Students from lower income, lower educated families are less likely to succeed academically in high school (Chubb and Moe, 1990; Honan, 1996; Noble et al., 1992; Noble, et al., 1999; Noble and McNabb, 1989). Some of the researches also show that families with high socioeconomic status have more success in preparing their children for schools. They are able to provide their children with books, stationeries, tuitions and others.
2.4 Parent's Attitude and Expectation
Parents' involvement is highly related to their children success in education. Students whose parents are more involved with their schooling are more likely to be motivated and have good achievement in school. Parents' attitudes towards the education of their children are such as frequency of helping with homework, frequency of supervision children's homework; times spent interacting with children, frequency of praising with children and provide enough stationary. Parents have high educational expectation also tends to motivate their children in their academic achievement. They take good care of their children either both in or out of schools (reward or punish due the children's behavior). Pandey (1985) concluded that if proper system of reward and punishment is followed, children shall certainly perform well in school.
2.5 Home Environment
"Even though family background does have a strong relationship to achievement, it may be how parents bring up their childrenâ€¦and not the parents' occupation, income or education that really make the difference" (K.R.White, 1982, p.471). Families influence is very important in socializing children. Children need their family's support and psychological stimulation of the children's academic development by parents and other persons in the home environment. Students' home environments such as reading materials are available in their house and place for doing homework. Some researchers suggest that home environment influences not only academic readiness for school, but also the level of achievement throughout students' careers (Cooper et.al., 1998).
2.6 Home Language
Students' success in school depends upon their being proficient in academic language, the language of classroom instruction. The literature review suggested that students who use the school language at home achieve better at school than those who use another language (Moegiadi et al, 1979; Cooksey, 1981). The ways in which children communicate in their home cultures are critical to the development of written language models of reading and writing. The home language of students provides the foundation for the emergence of reading and writing behaviors. If there is a mismatch between the structures, values, and expectations of the home language and school language, children may be at a disadvantage for success in early reading tasks, and thus spend their entire school careers attempting to catch up (Gay, 1988; Snow, 1992). Research shows that language-minority students face many challenges in school. For example, they are 1.5 times more likely to drop out of school than native speakers (Cardenas, Robledo, & Waggoner, 1988) and received lower grade (Moss & Puma, 1995). The dominant language of a student at home can examine through the language speak most often by people at home and type of language most of the print material he/she receives at home.
The education system lays an important foundation for the future civil, social, and economic opportunities of citizens. Parents need to understand the implications and consequences of family background affect the students' academic achievement. As Ichado (1998) concluded that the environment in which the student comes from can greatly influence his or her performance at school. Family lay the psychosocial, moral and spiritual foundations in the overall development of the child. In conclusion, it is very important to enlighten all the family members to cooperate and ensure the total development of the children in a family.
CHAPTER 3 METHODOLOGY
All students in Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan (Cina) Yuk Tse will be recruited into this study. Their scores for Chinese Comprehension, Malay Comprehension and English in the Mid Term Examination year 2010 will be used to determine their academic performance. These three subjects are part of the main subjects in the UPSR for Primary Chinese School. A student was considered to be a poor achiever if he or she failed in these subjects, i.e. obtained a score of less that 40% in a subject. Student who did not sit for this examination or had moved to another school were excluded from the study.
In proposing a school-based research, a careful and through planning is important to meet the objectives and to make it successful. This chapter outlined the methodology employed in the research. The research design population and sampling, research instruments, data collections procedure and data analysis procedure are the factors that the researchers must consider during the research.
3.2 Research Design
In this exploratory research design, the researcher will follow a series of steps in order to determine family variables which affect the students' academic achievement. Firstly, the scores for the Mid Term Examination for year 2010 will be recorded, compiled and analyzed. Then, the students will be given the questionnaires to obtain the information about their background and their results. Descriptive statistics such as the mean, standard deviation, percentages, t-test, ANOVA, Mann-Whitney and Kruskal-Wallis will be used to describe and analyze the data in this study.
3.3.1 Sampling and sample
SJKC Yuk Tse, Tumpat, Kelantan is located in a rural area and it is the only Chinese primary school in Tumpat district. The sample for this study will comprise all students (n=377) from each level. Their ages range from 7 - 12 years old.
Academic achievement (Dependent Variables)
In this study, the researcher will use the students' scores (percentage) in three subjects (Chinese Comprehension, Malay Comprehension and English) of the Mid Term Examination to determine their academic achievement. Academic achievement is the dependent variable which is the sum of these three subjects.
Family background's variables (Independent Variables)
Family socioeconomic status
Parents' attitude and expectation
3.4 Research Instruments
The research instrument that will be used is the student questionnaire, which contains five sections and 23 items. Before answering the questions, students need to write out their personal details (age, gender, ethnic group) and their results (Chinese Comprehension, Malay Comprehension and English) in Mid Term Exam Year 2010. Section A contains 2 items and it asks about student's family structure; Section B contains 6 items and it asks about socioeconomic status of the students' families; and Section C contains 9 items and it asks about their parents' attitudes and expectation. The questions were graded using Likert 5-Scale as described below:
Table 1: Likert 5-Scale
Sections D contains 4 items and asks about the students' home environment. Lastly, Section E contains 3 items and asks about students' home language. The questions in Section E are adapted from Home Language Survey (Ortiz., Alta A., Special Project in Bilingual Special Education, Department of Special Education. College of Education, the University of Texas, Austin, 2008)
There are two types of questionnaires, one is the Malay version and the other is the English version. Three hundred seventy seven students are given the English Version and Malay version questionnaire. They can use either questionnaire and they are asked to complete it in the classroom during normal class hour. For those who do not understand the Malay language or English language, Chinese language is used orally by the researcher so that the students understand the items given.
3.5 Reporting Statistics
3.6 Investigating Relationships
This chapter explains the methodology used in the present research, which include the research design, research setting, research instruments and method of data analysis. The data were analyzed to examine the effect of family background on students' academic achievement.