The causes of low academic performances in secondary schools

The Kabale district in Uganda

Research Paper (postgraduate), 2017

27 Pages, Grade: A




1. Introduction

2. Methodology
2.1.Research design
2.2.Factors affecting academic performance
2.3.Environmental factors contribute to low performance in secondary schools

3. National statistical variables.
3.1.Secondary School Education
3.2.Other factors causing poor academic achievement

4. Recommendations

5. References


Dedicated to my children; Agatha, Daisy and Esther.


Great thanks to God for good health and for all the blessings onto my life.

Special thanks go to my wife Akampurira Kate, my father and my mother Mr.&Mrs. Kururagire for their invaluable support to complete this piece of work.


1. Introduction

Learning is a product not only for formal schooling, but also families, countries and peers, social, economic and cultural forces affect learning and thus school achievement (Rothstein, 2000).

Academic performance is undoubtedly a research drive at the heart of educators, teachers, psychologists, policy makers, parents and guardians, social workers etc. in their attempts to investigate what determines academic outcomes of learners, they have come up with more questions than answers. In recent, prior literature has shown that learning outcomes (academic achievement and academic performance) have been determined by such variables as family, schools, society and motivational factors.(Aremu and Jokan 2003).National governments have tried to invest heavily in education in order to improve accessibility and quality of education both the secondary and primary schools. They have however not taken university education as a priority. The upper secondary education however has received little attention by governments and donor agencies a factor that could have contributed to the poor academic performance in secondary schools. The quality of education at primary section depends on the quality of teachers and their competence, their capacity the teaching and learning process and is widely recognized that the quality of teachers and teaching lies at the heart of all schooling systems intending to offer quality education.

Masha, (2004), observed that the teaching force is the foundation of quality education at all levels of education. Secondary schools are managed and operated by government, the foundation bodies and the local community initiatives. All these culminate into inefficiencies that are manifested in terms of teacher deployment, repetitions, school drop-outs, repetitions, juvenile delinquency among other challenges.

Several scholars have earmarked several factors that affect student academic achievement in Secondary education level. A great deal of research on the determinants on school achievement has mainly centered on relative effects of home and school related factors such as family background ; a factor that is important determinant of school outcomes, where a school is seen to have minimal effects (Brooks-Gunn &Duncan, 1977).

It has been observed that the falling academic standards and the influencing factors include the socio-economic background of the parent. Owing to the present economic situation in the country, many poor parents are forced by circumstances to saddle the young ones with chores like hawking wares, clearing the house and doing other menial jobs around the house before going to school and after school hours. Domestic chores like these no doubt help to train the children and make them realize that they can and should contribute their own quota to the general upkeep of the family. However, when parents and guardians burden their children with work excessively, leaving little or no study time for their children, their school work is bound to suffer (Akanle 2007).

Danesty and Otediran (2002) lamented that street hawking among the young pupils has psychologically imposed other problems like sex networking behavior, juvenile delinquent behavior, which takes the pupil school time that necessitated the poor academic performance and drop out syndrome noticed among the young school pupils. Nevertheless they also lamented that the maternal and paternal deprivation of the essential needs of the young pupils have prompted their poor academic performance in public examinations such as Junior Secondary School Certificate (JSSC), West African Examination Council (WAEC) and National Examination Council (NECO).

School sector (public or private) and class size are two important structural components of schools which the socio-economic background of the parent would determine the one they could afford. Private schools tend to have both better funding and smaller class sizes than public schools. The additional funding of private schools leads to better academic performance and more access to resources such as computer which have shown to enhance academic achievement (Eamon 2005). Smaller class sizes create more inmate settings and therefore can increase teacher pupil bonding which has also been shown to have a positive effect on pupils’ success.

Pupils from low economic background who attend poorly funded schools do not perform as well as pupils from higher economic classes (Eamon 2005). This trend is posing huge problems to parents, government, political parties and stakeholders in education.

In most African countries and Western world, socio-economic background of the family is usually linked to the family’s income, parents’ educational level, parents’ occupation and social status among the kith and kin at the global level. Ford and Harris (1997) followed this logic while examining parental influences on African American pupils’ school environment by focusing on specific socio-demographic factors, including parents’ level of education, marital status and family income.

It is generally believed that children from high and middle socio-economic background parents are better exposed to a learning environment at the home because of provision and availability of extra learning facilities.

Low socio- economic background children are often left home to fend for themselves and their young siblings, while their caregivers work long hours; compared with their well off peers, they spend less time playing outdoors and more time watching television and are less likely to participate in after school activities (US Census Bureau, 2000). Unfortunately children would not get the model for how to develop proper emotions or respond appropriately to others from watching cartons; they need warm, person-to-person interactions. The failure to form positive relationships with peers inflicts long term socio-emotional consequences.

Previous studies have established that other factors in spite of socio-economic background can boost academic success among pupils. Studies which examined African American parents who maintained positive views about the value of education and who hold high academic expectations have children who often experience higher levels of academic achievement (Ford and Harris, 1997).

Children coming from poverty environment are not provided the same tools as the wealthy; they are entering schools already behind those not living in similar conditions. According to Li-Grining (2007), research suggests that the problem starts with the parents and their lack of education and understanding of the needs of children. Many individuals who might have done this nation proud in different fields have been forced into uninspired careers due to unavailability of finance resources. Such individuals are forced out of school and made to engage in hawking, selling packaged drinking water and the like so as to save money for their school expenses. Most of the time, they cannot afford instructional materials, and are always at the mercy of examiners during the examination period. The persistence of this in life of an individual pupil may spell doom for his academic success.


2. Methodology

2.1.Research design

The basic design used was both qualitative and quantitative, using research questionnaires and interviews in collecting data. Cross-sectional survey design was used to get the necessary data and facts and opinions of the participants about the subject in Kabale Secondary schools.

2.2.Factors affecting academic performance

Learning as a process is determined is determined by factors such as readiness and commitment of both the facilitator and the learner and if one of them loses his/her focus, automatically the whole process is distorted. Learning is a product of not only formal schooling, but also of families, communities, and peers, social, economic, and cultural forces affect learning and thus school achievement (Rothstein, 2000). Various studies show that both home and school environment have a big influence on the performance of children especially at the primary school level (Carron & Chau,1996; Griffin, 1999; Mancebon & Molinero,2000). In addition to influences related to home and school factors, academic performance is also related to students pre-existing human capital which includes their unique way of interacting with each type of education institution such as school, family, community, peer group, the economy and the culture.(Rothstein,2000). Individual characteristics such as attitude and perceptions towards school environment, involvement in class activity and the level of motivation have also been found to have a paramount impact on academic achievement (Connoly, et al,1998; Veenstra and Kuyper,2004). This shows amalgamation of different factors on a child’s academic performance that need to be taken care of by all the stakeholders for good academic achievement.

According to Abagi (2007) the indicators of academic performance in education include good examination results, possible exhibition of knowledge, skills and attitudes. There’re several factors that affect performance in primary schools such as poverty levels, parents’ level of income, parents’ level of education, household’s chores and child labor and family structure and stability.

There are studies that give evidence that parents occupation level relates to educational achievement of the child. A study conducted on 400 Aberdeen school children aged between 12.5 and 13.5 years old found out that the father’s occupation to be significantly related to the child’s success (Fraser, 1959). The study revealed that children of parents of high income occupation are most advantaged over those of parents of low income occupations. Cullen (1969) found that parents’ occupation indirectly reflects their intellectual ability which is inherited by the child.

In a study conducted in 6 sub counties of Kenya, it was noted that patterns of failing or dropping in the KCPE standards, closely followed variations in economic development of each study area site (Bali, 1970). Initial academic skills are correlated with the home environments and chronic stress negatively affects a child’s pre-academic skills and thus poor academic progress and hence failing examinations. This is in agreement with researchers such as Hara and Burke, 1998; Hill & Craft, 2003; Marcon, 1999; Stevenson & Baker, 1987), who assert that parents’ involvement in a child’s early education is consistently found to be associated positively with a child’s academic performance. Therefore it is believed with little doubt that children whose parents are actively involved perform better than children whose parents are less involved. The effect of parent participation on academic success has been emphasized by researchers as well as policy makers who have integrated efforts to increase parent involvement into broader educational policy initiatives coupled with such findings of the importance of eraly academic success, a child’s academic success has been found to be relatively stable (Entwisele & Hayduk,1988; Pederson, Faucher & Eaton, 1978).

According to UNICEF (2004), children of educated parents are much likely to go to school and the more schooling the parents have received the more probable it is that they would benefit their children. The proposal said that if educated girls became mothers they are more likely to send their children to school thereby passing on and multiplying benefits for themselves and society in a positive integrated manner.

Some factors responsible for poor academic performance are internal such as a learning disability that can be an obstacle to attain a certain academic achievement. Also a student may have a full potential of getting high grades but may simply not care about hard work or not care about education leading to low academic achievement.

Teachers have been found to have a profound effect on students’ academic performance for instance when a teacher has little interest or lacks experience in teaching, he will lack the required competence to create effective teaching-learning process thus low academic achievement.

School environment is an important contributing factor to poor academic performance. This entails issues like school culture that promotes hard work, school funding to enable hiring of qualified teachers, putting up school infrastructure. Poor infrastructure and congested classrooms are negative factors to academic progress. Schools that cannot afford to buy the required equipment and facilities end up offering less than the desired quality of education.

Family related factors are important to consider while tackling academic performance of the learners. The extent of the parent care and involvement contribute greatly towards the academic progress of the learner. Poverty ridden families tend to produce children whose academic focus is low. These children at times lack role models from whom to derive courage and inspiration. Parents do not have adequate skill to guide their children and this leads to low achievement in learning.

Lack of proper teaching materials, poor teaching methods, lack of evaluation instruments especially those used for international purposes creates a gap between learning achievement and what is required by society.

There is a negative relationship between sexual activities and academic performance. Further research shows that dating has a negative effect on academic performance . Quatman et al (2001) found out that there is a negative correlation between dating frequency and academic achievement in high school students. This assertion can apply to the case under study for pupils who go to school at an old age especially the teens who can easily fall in love with the opposite sex.

It has also been found that there is an effect of physical activity on academic performance. Over the years research has shown that vigorous physical activity by the learners regularly creates an improvement on their academic performance.

Table.1. Pupils and teachers from selected schools.

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37.86% of the respondents said that it was inadequate trained teachers had caused low academic performance. Muwonge S.W et al (1997) stated that most of the teachers handling learners were untrained.

30% of the respondents revealed that lack of planning had caused low academic performance in school.

This was supported by Nduhukire E.B, et al (1996) who stated that teaching and learning involved a lot of planning.

32.14% (n=45/140) of the respondents said that lack of motivation during teaching and learning process had caused low performance in primary schools. This was supplemented by Millins (1990) who stated that “ if a person’s motivational force is blocked before reaching the desired goal, there was unconstructive behavior or frustration”.

Table. 2. Head teachers and Deputy head teachers in sampled schools.

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62.5% (n=5/8) of the respondents revealed that poor teaching methods in teaching had caused low academic performance. This was affirmed by Geofrey P.(1998) who stated that “ failure to use active teaching methods had affected pupils’ performance.

37.5% (n=3/8) of the respondents revealed that administration had caused low performance in primary schools. This was in line with Onek S.S.B (1990), who stated that administration creates an environment which can affect academic standards either positively or negatively in primary schools.

2.3.Environmental factors contribute to low performance in secondary schools

Table.3. Pupils and teachers.

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37% of the respondents said that domestic chores had been one of the environmental contributions of low performance in primary schools. This was with Kagaba, P.(2008) who stated that most of the parents engage their children in domestic chores during school hours.

42% ( n=42/100) of the respondents stated that inadequate scholastic materials from parents had been one of the environmental contributions of the causes of low academic performance in primary schools. 21% (n=21/100) of the respondents expressed that pupils’ negative attitudes has contributed to poor performance in academics. This was observed by Elizabeth et al, (1998) who commented on the negative attitudes of pupils towards education. He said that “ one of the most important factors discouraging the performance was the way society viewed on education.


3. National statistical variables.

3.1 Secondary School Education

Key Indicators Universal Secondary Education was introduced in Uganda in 2007.

It has registered great achievements in the level of enrolment. Table 3.1 shows a general increase in the decrease in the secondary school enrolment (about 8 percent was registered between 2014 and 2015). The table further indicates that the Student Teacher Ratio (STR) has remained at 22 over a three years period (2013-2015).

See details in Statistical Appendix showing district specific ratios).

Table.4. Key Secondary School Education Indicators (2010 –2015)

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Source: 2015, Annual School Census, Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Sports

Table 3.2.indicates that enrolment was generally higher in lower classes and this gradually reduced for higher classes

Findings show that as pupils grow older in age they tend to look for means of survival in terms of gainful employment, for the case of boys; and for girls they drop out of school for early marriage for bride price as well as attending to family cores.

Secondary School Enrolment by Class.

Table 3.2.

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Source: Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Sports

Table.3.3. Orphans

Table presents orphan hood status in secondary school and findings indicate that in 2015, 216,320 students were orphaned. Furthermore, the proportion of secondary school students who were orphaned declined from 19 percent in 2014 to 17 percent in 2015 : Orphans in Secondary School by Sex, 2011-2015

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Source: Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Sports

Findings show that many orphans lack parental care and therefore have to look for means of survival; thus little or no time to school works. This therefore tremendously affects their performance.

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Table.3.4. Students with Impairments

Table 3.4. Indicates that a total of about 7,751 secondary school students in 2015 had impairments. The majority of the students (about 48 percent) had visual impairment. Students with Impairments in Secondary School by Class and Sex, 2015

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Source: Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Sports

Findings show that

Teachers Majority of the secondary school teachers (half)

were graduates then 42 percent Grade V teachers. Of the teachers that responded, only four percent were licensed.

Table.3.5. Secondary teachers by level of qualification and sex, 2015

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Source. UBOS

UACE and UCE Performance

For academic transition from none level to another one needs to score a basic minimum of passes i.e, It is a requirement that students pass (with Division 1-IV); for the Uganda Certificate of Education (UCE) to transit from Ordinary to Advanced secondary level education. In addition, all students require to pass the Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education (UACE) with at least 2 principle passes in order to transit from Advanced secondary level education to University or any

higher level of education with in formal system of education.

Table 9. indicates that out of the 306, 727 students who sat for UCE exams in 2015, 91 percent passed with the majority (47 percent) passed with weak grades scoring division Four ( passing marginally with weak grades).

It is ideally important to note that the education system pass some and fail a quite significant number yet all are supposed to be beneficiaries. Some students up to a tune 9 % completely failed and therefore could not continue with higher education.

Table.3.6. Uganda Certificate of Education (UCE) results by grade and sex, 2015

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Source: Uganda National Examinations Board, Ministry of Education Science Technology and Sports

A new global monitoring report reveals that blame of failure of students should not only be put on teachers. It points out that all the stakeholders have a share of the blame. The government has its own clear roles and obligations and be accountable to the population. This however does not exonerate the parents and the community. Communities and parents are instrumental in taking care of the youth, as well as monitoring and inspecting schools. In fact in the past this form of parental responsibility formed a basis of progressive education system in Uganda. Reports from researchers indicate that parent-child interactions, specifically one that is stimulating and responsive parental responses, are important parameters for academic child development (Christian, Morrison & Bryant, 1988; Committee on Early Childhood Pedagogy,2000). Examining parental practices that are important for the child’s academic performance, it requires that the stakeholders develop operating mechanisms to involve the parents in running the affairs of the school system.

Today some parents and communities have negated and ignored the responsibility and leaving the responsibility to teachers and the government. This has undermined the quality and quantity of education in most societies in Uganda. Monitoring will ensure quality service delivery and this explains why private schools perform better than government schools in most cases.

A good academic performance of children in important for a progressive education system that is required to transform society. All this can be achieved when all parties are involved in dispensing the needed services towards the learning of students.

Some writers argue that the level of maturity or civilization is gauged by the kind of education availed to the citizens. They also believe that a community’s economic future will depend on its education.

The UNESCO report shows that government regulations are often too slow to catch up with the fast growth rate private schools and universities for instance in Lagos, Nigeria, only 26% private schools had been approved by the ministry of education in 2010/2011. In a bid to solve this problem by Uganda government by closing many unlicensed schools, it continues to leave a big gap in education provision since there are no adequate schools across the country.

Also noted are countries with a poor and weak accreditation where thousands of students graduate with unaccredited degrees, certificates and diplomas. More so in many parts of Uganda and Kenya, private schools operate with unqualified teachers, coupled with a poor state of infrastructure development set ups.

Ministry of education report of 2015 indicates that 81% of secondary schools are poorly managed and therefore operate with unqualified staff, no standard classrooms, libraries, laboratories, and poor boarding facilities; all this attributed to lack of proper regulation policies within the education sector. Raised is the fact that the quality of management in a school greatly affects the quality of education. So most the schools in Uganda do not meet the required standards.

According to school supervisors, schools are gauged on five indicators, overall management, provision and management of structures, quality of staff supervision, quality of staff development, supervision of teaching and learning and quality management and organization of boarding schools. The study revealed that only 31% of the schools have the required management structures and expected facilities across the whole country. It also revealed that only 11% meet the required standards of management and boarding facilities. It takes the administration to construct the management structures for the proper governance of schools for better academic atmosphere.

Most of the schools in Uganda continue to operate without being authorized to do so. In this case both government and private schools are affected. The issue of staffing deserves a lot to be desired. Few teachers are shared among many sister schools and this affects the teacher’s competence especially teachers of science subjects and mathematics. They do their work hurriedly and most times do not attend to students work. This has widened the gap between the teacher and the learner.

The report emphasizes the importance of accountability in order to try to address the gaps and inequalities. Globally less than 20% of the countries legally grant citizens 12 years of free and compulsory education as basic education. There are 264 million children and youth out of school and 100 million young people unable to read.

Teachers are also paid a discouraging low salary and this affects their performance in regard to attending to the learners. They work under difficult conditions that affects their commitment to their jobs and this at times result into brain drain, lack of proper attention, inadequate preparations and work stations are mainly left to head teachers to man.

The SMCs (Senior Management Committees) as provided for in the education act 200) have a significant role to play to have schools prepare learners both socially and academically.

The UNESCO report shows that nearly a half of the teacher absenteeism in Indonesia in 2013/2014 is caused by going off duty for study for which replacements have been provided for. In Senegal , only 12 out of 80 missed school days in 2014 was caused by teachers trying to avoid their responsibilities. In Uganda the high rate of absenteeism is due to ineffective supervisory and monitoring system. Poor academic performance under Universal Primary Education is highly attributed to teacher absenteeism according to Dutch agency report.

3.2.Other factors causing poor academic achievement

Slowness is one of the factors that hinder academic performance ; and in this case students are not quick to catch up with the study environment, they tend to be lazy and therefore cannot complete homework in time, failure to prepare so early possibly due to lack of clear set goals. All is observed is insufficient work done on their class activities that ultimately lead to poor grades.

Failure to spare enough time to class work and investing this quantity of time in other things like business activity, agriculture (planting and harvesting seasons), betting especially sports, watching television, spending time on social media not necessarily not doing some research work, long distance of travel to schools, failure of teachers to use all the time available to prepare learners among other factors.

The learner’s improper time that doesn’t allow proper study is also a hindrance for a learner to achieve most of his/her educational goals. A timetable provides a clear direction for one to systematically achieve in school activity. Therefore learners with no timetable tend to lose focus and direction that will eventually lead to poor grades.

Lack of materials is another notable factor that affects learners to study well. These include notebooks, textbooks, pens, pencils, mathematical sets, rulers, school uniform, and other personal effects that facilitate the process of teaching and learning.

Financial constraints are another notable factor whereby there is hardly enough money to facilitate the learning process of students. This will hinder the leaning progress since all materials need money to be procured for the good of the good learning environment of the pupils.

Unstable homes which at times are not a source of inspiration such as the broken homes are also a hindrance to progressive academic performance. Unstable homes lead to unhappiness, depression and therefore pupils tend to be uncomfortable leading to loss of focus.


4. Recommendations

Use of classroom interaction, which will enable the students’ assertiveness and confidence, is necessary. This can be achieved through students’ full participation so that their learning experiences are properly exploited through class team work and group work.

Improved harmony, mutual respect among all stakeholders such as teachers, school administrators, management committees, curriculum developers, donors, religious bodies is an important aspect for improved academic performance. It is a combined effort through the Ministry of Education and sports and International organizations, parents and teachers that all education resources for instance infrastructure, instructional materials are properly put to use for the best of the learners for the good of society.


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The causes of low academic performances in secondary schools
The Kabale district in Uganda
( Atlantic International University )
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kabale, uganda
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Anonymous, 2017, The causes of low academic performances in secondary schools, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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