ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUTH AFRICA

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Chapter 2 Literature Review

INTRODUCTION

In this chapter, I first present a literature review on the contextual background of the present study, including an overview of academic performance levels of South African learners, reasons for academic underachievement and why some learners are academically resilient. I then give an overview of motivational theories as well as SDT and meaningful commitment theory. Lastly, I discuss my conceptual framework, in which I try to explain how meaningful commitment and SDT constructs relate to each other within a self-regulatory context, to facilitate academic achievement.

ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUTH AFRICA

THE IMPORTANCE OF ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT FOR HIGH SCHOOL LEARNERS IN SOUTH AFRICA

South Africa’s history of segregation of white and black citizens imposed by the apartheid regime had, and still has, far-reaching implications for economic, social, and educational prosperity in South Africa (Barbarin & Richter, 2001; Clark & Worger, 2013). In the education sector, specifically, disproportional distribution of resources during apartheid effected the quality of education delivery to black learners. For instance, the black educational sector received a tenth of the per capita government spending that was given to white schools in the 1970s (Byrnes, 1996). Black learners were furthermore forced to follow a different curriculum to white learners, and the Bantu Education Act of 1953 prohibited their teachers from commenting on educational practices imposed by the apartheid government (Christie & Collins, 1982).
One could argue that a lack of equal educational for all citizens, had a negative impact on South Africa, for authors have shown a positive association between the educational level of citizens and social and economic prosperity of a country (Gradstein & Justman, 2002; Lutz, Cuaresma & Sanderson, 2008). To elaborate, with regards to economic prosperity, literature shows that citizen educational level, are associated with gross domestic product (GDP), economic growth (Barro, 1991), technological advancement and international competitiveness (Levy & Murnane, 2004). On a social level, educational attainment is associated with social cohesion and civic values (Gradstein & Justman, 2002), physical well-being (Groot & van den Brink, 2004) and lower levels of crime or incarceration (Lochner & Moretti, 2004).
Segregation and sanctions by international governments against South Africa, however, ended in the 1990s, which enabled global economic participation and necessitated the development of scares skills. Adequate education provision became essential, not only to allow for economic and social advancement of the country, but also for all people and their children who have been discriminated against in the past to benefit from new opportunities.
South Africa is, however, presently a developing country, and the South African government prioritised the development of scarce-skilled workers in their Millennium Development Goals (Republic of South Africa, 2010). The current South African government’s commitment to education is evident from how much they spend on education. The South African government, for instance, allocated R203 billion (approximately2 $14.7 billion, €14.05 billion) in their 2015 budget for basic education (Republic of South Africa, 2014). More learners consequently have access to education in South Africa than ever before. Modisaotsile (2012), for example, reports that 98% of children in South Africa had access to basic education in 2012. The Minister of Education, moreover, implemented new regulations for minimum uniform norms and standards for public schools in the Schools Act, which indicates that all schools should have access to basic infrastructure including electricity and sanitation (Department of Education, 2009).

ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE BY SOUTH AFRICAN LEARNERS

Several local and international investigations, however, show that South African learners underachieve academically in mathematics, science and language subjects. Locally, the 2014 Annual National Assessment (ANAS) steered by the Department of Education, including 7.3 million learners, showed that Gr. 9 learners achieved an average of 11% in mathematics and 48% in home language (Department of Basic Education, 2014). Internationally, the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), completed in 2011 including 42 countries, found that South African academic achievement in Mathematics and Science was comparable to the six poorest performing countries (Human Sciences Research Counsel, 2012). Finding from the TIMSS study furthermore indicated that 76% of Gr. 9 learners in South Africa had not yet acquired a basic understanding of mathematical concepts such as whole numbers and decimals (Spaull, 2013). The SACMEQ III study by the Southern and East African Consortium for Monitoring Educational Quality, moreover, investigated academic achievement levels of ten African countries and included a sample of 9 083 South African learners. This study reported that 27% of Gr. 6 learners were illiterate, because they were not able understand a simple reading passage (Spaull, 2013). The PIRLS (Progress in International Reading Literacy Study) in 2011, furthermore, showed that 43% of South African fifth grade learners had not yet acquired basic skills needed for reading at an international fourth grade level (Howie, van Staden, Tshele, Dowse & Zimmerman, 2012).
Academic underachievement by South African learners in younger grades, seem to influence their eventual academic achievement levels later in the National Senior Certificate in Education examination (NSCE) (i.e., the national Gr. 12 examination). Results released by the Department of Basic Education, show an increase of 13.2% in the amount of Gr. 12 learners who were able to pass the NSCE in 2014 in comparison to 2008, but that only 28.3% received high enough marks to receive university exemption (Department of Basic Education, 2014). In addition, only 53.5% of the Gr. 12 candidates in 2014 could obtain more than 30% for Mathematics (Department of Basic Education, 2014). Many high school learners also leave the school system. The Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit,for instance, reported an attrition rate of 15% in their Gr. 12 learner sample (Branson et al., 2013). Spaull (2013) states that for every 100 learners who were in Gr. 1 in 1999, 50 had left the school system (mostly occurring in Gr. 10–Gr. 12), 40 passed the NSCE in 2011 and only 12 received University Exemption.
In the following section, I give a concise overview of some of the factors that influence academic achievement levels by South African learners, as have been reported by researchers in the past. It is important to note, that I only give a brief overview of these factors, with the intention of giving background information for the present study. The purpose of present study is, however, to investigate the association between meaningful commitment and SDT. Additional information on each factor, as well as how it influences academic achievement levels, can however be found by directly consulting each study referred to in this section.

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FACTORS INFLUENCING ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUTH AFRICA

Broader systemic influences on academic achievement in South Africa

Prior investigations highlight several potential systemic or context-specific influences on academic achievement in South Africa. Fleisch (2008) and Sirin (2005) for instance, report that the socio-economic status of school communities or home environments have an impact on academic achievement. Van den Berg (2008) reports a bimodal tendency in the achievement levels of learners in the SAMEC II sample, where most learners achieved either lower-end or higher-end scores. Spaull (2012), furthermore, proposes that the socio-economic status of learners have an effect on these bimodal tendencies in academic achievement. Only 10% of the South African learners who took part in the TIMSS study had parents with a tertiary qualification, and only 30% of the participants’ parents had no more than primary school education (Reddy, 2006). In other words, South Africa’s apartheid legacy has arguably, left discrepancies in resource distribution that still influence the academic achievement levels of learners today.
Some additional systemic influences in South Africa on learner academic functioning noted in prior investigations include: the influence of violence within the school community (Zulu, Urbani, Van der Merwe & Van der Walt, 2004); the influence of teenage pregnancy (Branson et al., 2013; Grant & Hallman, 2008); learners caring for other individuals who have been diagnosed with HIV (Cluver et al., 2011); the level of parental involvement in education (Singh, Mbokodi & Msila, 2004); residential and school mobility (Ginsburg, Richter, Fleisch & Norris, 2011); household and parental income (Anderson, Case & Lam, 2001); the death of a parent (Case & Ardington, 2006); and having access to learning material at home (Spaull, 2012).

School-related factors

Unequal distribution of resources in schools still ensues. The 2011 National Education Infrastructure Management Report showed that that 79% of South African schools in 2011 did not have libraries and that 85% did not have access to laboratories. Even more alarming is that 3544 schools did not have access to electricity and 2 402 schools did not have access to water (Department of Basic Education, 2011). Spaull (2011) reported on the SAMEQ III results, and reported that 36.8% of the poorest learners (lowest 20% percentile) in the South Africa sample did not have access to reading textbooks. The effect of the socio-economic status of schools on academic achievement levels by learners is shown by Visser, Juan and Feza (2015), who mention that South African learners of a higher socio-economic status perform poorly in under-resourced schools, while poor learners’ marks improve when they attend resourced schools.
Other school-related factors that may be associated with poorer scholastic functioning by South African learners are: the lack of subject knowledge of teachers, with teachers included in the small sample of Mabogoane and Pereira (2008) obtaining an average of 32.5% in a Gr. 4–7 mathematics test; ineffective time management practices by teachers, when they only spend half of their working hours teaching (Taylor, 2008); teacher absenteeism, with between 10–12% of all educators being absent on any one day (Prinsloo & Reddy, 2012); teaching strategies (Taylor, 2008); school management practices (Bush et al., 2009); ineffective assessment practices (Reyneke, Meyer & Nel, 2010); teacher job satisfaction (Iwu, Gwija, Benedict & Tengeh, 2013); school violence (Burton & Leoschut, 2012); and curriculum change (Engelbrecht & Harding, 2008).

Learner factors

Taylor and Coetzee (2013) argue that language of assessment may have a negative effect on academic achievement. They say that all Gr. 12 learners are expected to write the NSCE in either Afrikaans or English, but only 23% of all South African citizens speak these languages as their first language (Statistics South Africa, 2012; Taylor & Coetzee, 2013). The South African government does not prescribe which of the 11 official languages should be used in schools. Most learners in South Africa, however, are taught in English from Gr. 1 onwards because the teacher displays a preference for teaching in that language (Nel & MÜller, 2010), or even perhaps due to resource constraints or parental demand. Taylor and Coetzee (2013) investigated longitudinal data forming part of the Annual Survey of Schools in South Africa, and report that learners who received education in their first language during their first three grades displayed higher English proficiency in later grades. Many South African learners therefore have to follow a pattern of language immersion (Wayne & Collier, 2002), where they receive education in English from a very young age, which may influence their academic achievement levels.
Additional learner-related factors that may influence learner academic functioning include: chronic diseases (e.g. HIV) (Fleisch, 2008); lack of self-knowledge or learning goals (Monteith, 1998); motivation and interest in subjects (Makgato & Mji, 2006); the prevalence of special needs (Adnam, 2010); severe disability (Unicef, 2012); mental disability (Kleintjies, Flisher, Fick, Railoun, Lund, Molteno & Robertson, 2006); and teachers’ feelings of inadequacy in implementing inclusive education (Ntombela, 2011).

Dedication
Acknowledgements 
Declaration of Originality 
Ethics Statement 
Ethics Clearance Certificate 
Summary 
Keywords 
Table of Content 
List of Tables 
List of Figures
Chapter 1 Introduction 
1.1 INTRODUCTION
1.2 BACKGROUND
1.3 PROBLEM STATEMENT AND RATIONALE
1.4 PURPOSE STATEMENT
1.5 DELINEATING FACTORS IN THE PRESENT STUDY
1.6 HYPOTHESES AND RESEARCH QUESTIONS
1.7 CONCEPTUALISED PREDICTOR MODELS
1.8 METHODOLOGICAL CONSIDERATIONS
1.9 DEFINITIONS OF TERMS
1.10 POTENTIAL CONTRIBUTION OF THE PRESENT STUDY
1.11 CHAPTER OUTLINE
Chapter 2 Literature Review 
2.1 INTRODUCTION
2.2 ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUTH AFRICA
2.3 ACADEMIC RESILIENCE
2.4 MOTIVATION
2.5 ACADEMIC MOTIVATION IN SOUTH AFRICA
2.6 SELF-DETERMINATION THEORY
2.7 MEANINGFUL COMMITMENT
2.8 CONCEPTUAL DIFFERENCES AND SIMILARITIES BETWEEN SDT AND MEANINGFUL COMMITMENT
2.9 CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK
2.10 CONCLUSION
Chapter 3 Research Design and Methodology
3.1 INTRODUCTION
3.2 RESEARCH PARADIGM
3.3 CONSTRUCTS INVESTIGATED AND OPERATIONALISED IN THE  PRESENT STUDY
3.4 RESEARCH OBJECTIVES OF THE PRESENT STUDY
3.5 HYPOTHESES AND RESEARCH QUESTIONS
3.6 OPERATIONALISED PREDICTOR MODELS
3.7 RESEARCH DESIGN
3.8 DATA ANALYSIS
3.9 CONCLUSION
Chapter 4 Results 
4.1 INTRODUCTION
4.2 DESCRIPTIVE ANALYSIS
4.3 INFERENTIAL ANALYSIS
4.4 SUMMARY OF FINDINGS
Chapter 5 Interpretations of Results and Conclusions 
5.1 INTRODUCTION
5.2 INTERPRETATION OF FINDINGS
5.3 CONTRIBUTIONS OF THE PRESENT STUDY AND RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FUTURE RESEARCH
5.4 LIMITATIONS OF THE PRESENT STUDY
List of References 
Appendices
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