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Figures from MoEYS (Education Statistics & Indicator, 2009) reveal that of the 121 637 students enrolled in the school year 2009-2008 in grade 10, 44% were females. With ongoing concerns about female student retention in the Cambodian education sector, especially beyond the level of basic education (grades 1- 9), there is a growing interest in factors that influence the decision to pursue study by female students (ADB, 2007; Zhu www.aare.edu.au/08pap/zhu08544.pdf). Further exploration of the factors that contribute to female students continuing beyond basic education level have great value and can contribute to the growing body of literature that will inform policy development.
Whilst there are many factors that encourage female students to continue attending school beyond grade 9 the school environment has been identified to be one such important factor (Rahani, 2006; UNICEF, 2006; ADB 2008).
The environment is very important for individuals and groups everywhere, whether work or home and this includes the school context. The international literature has reported that the positive school environments contribute to increasing the rate of students' enrollments and retention (UNICEF, 2006). The school environment is important because it impacts directly on the students, for example, the playground, toilets, running water, classrooms, size and type of seats, teacher behaviors, the interaction between students and students, the interaction between teachers and students, school security and school policies.
Issues of building layout, play ground and toilet facilities as well as school policies and practices have all been included by authors writing about the role of the school environment in assisting female students continue their formal education in grade 10 and beyond (Rahani, 2006; Chimombo, 2000; UNICEF, 2004).
There is little available research of the impact of the school environment on Cambodian female students' retention in high school.
1.2. Problem Statement
The researcher is interested in how Cambodian female students experience their school environment and what the elements are of their school environment that affects their decision to continue their education.
1.3. Research Purpose:
1- To identify features of a school's environment which contribute to female
students' retention in grade 10 and beyond.
2- To compare female and male students' views on important features of their school
3- To make some recommendations designed to assist the school increase female
student enrollments and retention in grade 10 and beyond.
The study will be valuable in identifying features of Cambodian secondary schools' environments which encourage female students to continue their grade 10 studies.
The research will also contribute to the growing body of research currently exploring the comparison of school environments between female and male students at grade 10. With features identified recommendations can be made to create change to positively assist female student retention.
Finally, the research will contribute to female students continuing their education beyond basic education level thereby offering them more opportunity to pursue higher grades of education and benefit their family and society. As expressed by Levin (2008) "girls' schooling and social inclusion prepare young women to participate actively in civic life, a key component of improved governance and it is argued that the changing agency of women is one of the major mediators of economic and social change" (p.18). Educating girls can have benefits not only for the nation but also for the whole world, "more productive agricultural output, leads to smaller, more sustainable families, saves children's lives, less likely to contract HIV, foster democracy and women's political participation" (Blagbourgh, 2009, p.158).
1.5. Research question
In view of the statistics on female student retention in Cambodian secondary schools the researcher proposes to explore the following questions.
What specific features of a school's environment contribute to Cambodian female students continuing their studies in grade 10 and beyond?
What, if any, difference in experience of school environment are there for grade 10 male students?
There are three elements of a school's environment: physical, social and emotional environment.
1.5.1. The physical environment included all areas of the learning institution's buildings and classrooms, educators' rooms and houses, dormitory facilities, lavatories, and playgrounds. It also includes routes to and from the learning institution, bus stops and taxi stands, and woods or bushes near the learning institution. Policies regarding weapons, drugs, and gender-based violence are also included in this section (Pulizzi, 2007, p. 21).
1.5.2. The social environment is also considered to be friendly to contribute to students, especially female students' retention because it make the students feel happy although they are from different background "The school environment is made up of interaction among students and between adults and studentsâ€¦the desired outcome is a social environment where all students are welcome and supported and where friendly and respectfully interactions are the norms" (Price, 2007, p.90)
1.5.3. the emotional environment is something which affects the students' feeling positively and negatively, particularly female students, "the area focuses on the activities and assignments use to ensure that no one is inadvertently made to feel embarrassed or abnormalâ€¦the desired outcome is an emotional environment that is sensitive to all students and families, where all are considered as you plan activities and assignment" (Price, 2007. p.91).
1.5.4. Retention: According to Schwab, 1999 "Retention is a term used to describe the progress of a cohort of full-time students through secondary school in a particular year" (p.3).
1.5.5. A female friendly environment is included safe environment, welcoming environment, child and baby care facilities, policies, comfortable environment
The study will be using both international and national literature reviews to collect the secondary data. The researcher will explore key features of school's environment which has been identified to be friendly to contribute to female students to continuing in grade 10 and beyond.
Text book: "the girl expressed their difficulty in keeping up with the courses due to lack of textbooksâ€¦since this could negatively impact on their studies and their scholastic performance" (ADB, 2008, p. 15)
5.1. Separate: "another infrastructure issue is the frequency of functional,
clean, and the separate toilet or latrines for girls and female to use
through out the school day, particularly during menstruation, this
becomes a significant deterrent to girls attendance at school as well as
leading to female teachers.(Rahani, 2006, p.67).
5.2. Clean water: "A further example is the role of water and environment
sanitation in increasing access and retention as well as improving the
quality of education" (UNICEF, 2006, p.21)
5.3. Hygiene and sanitation promotion: " UNECEF supported initiatives on
sanitation and hygiene promotion in school have contributed to progress
in such countries as Nigeria, Uganda, and the United Republic of
Tanzania and are associated with significant increases in girls' enrollment
and retention rate" (UNICEF, 2006, p.21)
5.6. Scholarship program: As expressed by ADB(2008), providing
scholarships increases the enrollment and retention of girls in secondary
In this chapter the methods of sampling as well as data collection and analysis will be described. The ethical issues that arise through using these methods will be described with a description of the steps taken to address concerns identified.
In order to explore the features of a school's environment that contribute to female student remaining in grade 10 and transitioning to next grades, the researcher will follow the steps below in making the school selection:
Meet the secretary of District Office of Education (DOE) to inform her about the study's purpose and significance and ask the secretary to make an appointment with the chief of the District Office of Education.
Explain to the chief of the District Office of Education the study's purpose to gain their consent be involved in assisting in data collection and providing the number of student enrollments in all grade 10 in the district.
Determine the school which has highest female student retention rate for data collection methods.
Select a Higher Secondary School in the district, Takeo province on the basis of purposive sampling, the school will be de-identified and referred to as School X.
With the permission and cooperation of the school principal and the class teachers, the Consent Form and Information Form (see Appendix X) will be distributed to all female and male students in grade10.
2.2. Data Collection Strategies
The instruments (questionnaires and interview) will be researcher-designed for the collection of the data.
All the female and male students in grade 10 will be administered the questionnaire. It will be clearly stated that their participation is voluntary and anonymous. No student is required to complete the questionnaire and it will be clearly explained there is no penalty for not participating. The questionnaire will be originally developed in English, and then translated into Khmer, next it will be back translated into English to check for accuracy of translation. The pre-testing of the instrument will be with 4 female students and 4 male students. If the participants do not understand the questions or experience difficulties completing the instrument their feedback will be used to modify the instrument to ensure it is student friendly and appropriately worded.
On the questionnaire will be a brief explanation of the purpose of the research and an invitation to the student to participate. Check boxes will be used for collecting responses as well as two open ended questions designed to allow the respondent to freely formulate an answer and this can be important to allow the researcher to discover opinions or answers that had not thought about before.
At the bottom of the second page of the questionnaire will be a few sentences of invitation to join a short focus group discussion with other same gender students and the researcher to talk about their experiences at school. The focus group discussion will be conducted separately, female group discussion and male group discussion. In the space at the bottom of the second page of the questionnaire they will be asked to provide contact details for the researcher to arrange suitable times and places for the discussions.
The limitations of the data collection method include that the sample will be from only volunteer female and male students at grade 10. Female and male students in grades 11â€¦. are not represented in the findings. Also, the volunteer participants are fluent in reading Khmer because the data collected may not be of good quality if they do not understand what the question are about and which check boxes they will choose.
(ii). Focus group discussion
The data collection method of interviews is important to get clearer and richer information than can be collected through a questionnaire because an interview allows an opportunity for the researcher to ask the participants to expand on their responses.
The focus group discussion will use semi-structured questions designed for the students who volunteer to participate. Five steps will be used for setting up and conducting the focus group discussions:
Researcher contacts the interested female and male students from the data provided on the questionnaire.
The researcher arranges delivery of the Consent Form and Information Form to their parents.
The researcher conducts the focus group discussion at school during school hours.
The focus group discussion will be thirty minutes in length.
The focus group discussion will be recorded with de-identifiers (e.g. name, name of school etc.) when quoted in the final thesis.
The limitations of this data collection method is that the participant cannot be guaranteed confidentiality because it is a group discussion. Also, the topic of discussion will be focus on the school's environments. Any political bias discussion will not be accepted. In addition, only volunteer female and male students with approval from their parents will be invited to participate. Those who intend to join the focus group discussion but do not receive permission from their parents will not be allowed.
2.3. Ethical Considerations
The study will have been approved by the school principal and the teachers in the classes and also the agreement of both participants and their parents. Only female and male students from grade 10 will be invited to participate in the research and clear information will be provided to them.
To be easier to understand, the questionnaire and other forms involving to the research will be translated into Khmer. The data and other identifiers (code number, phone numberâ€¦) used in data analysis will be immediately destroyed after completing the research. All the participants will need to gain parental consent to participate in the discussionbecause they are under the legal age of consent. Participation in the study is not compulsory to any female and male student who is not agreed from her/his parents.
The name of the school, students and parents will be de-identified in data analysis to reduce any concerns of parents or students that their information may in some way have repercussions.
2.4. Scope and Limitation of the Study
The selected sample area represents a particular area of a district, Takeo province; its conclusion could be generalized only for the district, Takeo province and not for the whole country. This study will focus only on the "female student retention" of X Higher Secondary School in the district, Takeo province as its subject of research, may not ensure that its findings will apply to other places in the country.
2.5. Time and Place of the Study
This study will be conducted in the X higher Secondary School in a district, Takeo province Cambodia, on the planned timeâ€¦
Descriptive statistics will be generated for describing the data collected in the check boxes of the questionnaire. Analysis using NViVO for themes and patterns of responses will be used with the qualitative data gathered in both the questionnaire and the interview transcripts.