1.1 Background to the Study
Peer groups are among the most influential social forces affecting adolescent behavior from mundane decisions concerning clothing, hairstyle, music, and entertainment, to more significant decisions concerning short and long-term education plans. Variables of peer influence include the ethnicity of the students, the socio-economic background of the students, family relationships and group interests. During the adolescent years, peers are even considered more important than parents, guardians and teachers and the peer-influenced decisions of adolescents can have long-lasting consequences. Parents recognize the importance of peer groups and through their choice of neighborhoods, schools, and activities.
Peer effects in education are generally accepted to be of importance. Despite this assertion, there is no agreement on the direction of the effect peers have on one another. Different theories attempt to explain this and according to some of them the average ability of classmates has detrimental effect on one’s schooling outcomes while others imply that it enhances ones achievements (Marsh, 2005). Students could also be indirectly affected by their peers. This usually comes about through the way teachers react to different groups of students. One possible effect is that if students are sorted into classes based on their potential this might allow teachers to match instructions more closely to students needs because of more homogenous group, which would benefit all students. However, my primary purpose with this paper is to establish empirically the existence and direction of peer effects but not to distinguish the channels by which peer effects operate.
Aware of the importance of peer influence, both families and policy makers have included peer quality as a prominent element in educational decision making. For example, parents tend to seek for better companions for their children through residential choices and other school choice options. Many controversial education policies, such as vouchers, school desegregation, and ability tracking, intend to improve student performance through changing the composition of peers. Nevertheless, trying to identify peer effects is not an easy task. The most problematic issue is that families and students usually choose schools and peer groups where they share similar attributes with other members. Consequently, measures of peer features may just signal other unobservable individual factors that as well affect the outcomes, such as student willingness to work and parental ambition and resources. This endogenous choice leads to a selection bias problem. This creates a standard simultaneity bias problem, also termed as reflection problem by Manski (1993).
A great body of research advocates the positive peer impact represented in learning community, few studies were conducted to reveal a negative dimension of peer effect on academic performance (krik. A. Johnson, 2000). Communities are believed to absorb individual’s sense of responsibility that is believed to contribute to effective learning (J. Scott Armstrong, 2012). In social psychology, such a diffusion of responsibility among the members of the community results in social loafing making individuals exert less effort to achieve a common goal than if they would do individually (Karau. Steven J & Williams Kipling D, 1993, and Gilovich, T; Keltner, D & Nisbett R. E, 2006). Such a failure of belonging and irresponsibility have profound impact on students’ performance and continuous assessment. Negative peer pressure has been found to be associated with lower levels of school achievement nearly as much as they are with a Hispanic or African-American minority group in the US (krik. A Johnson, 2000). Consistent exposure to unhealthy company (e.g. bad roommate) can likewise have a negative influence on academic achievement. A study on peer effects and alcohol use among college students has shown that males who were assigned a roommate who drank alcohol prior to college obtained on average a lower GPA.
This contradiction in attribution as to whether peers have positive or negative impact has been resolved in Karau and Williams Collective Effort Model (1993, 2001). The model suggests that highly motivated individuals generate social facilitation (i.e. increasing one’s effort in the presence of others) whereas the less motivated individuals are likely to engage in social loafing (Forsyth, D. R, 2010). Moreover, Karau and Williams found that motivation correlates with the complexity and value of the goal (Forsyth, D. R, 2010); the more complicated a task is and the higher its value, the more motivated the individuals become. It is widely believed that peer group variables such as the ethnicity of the students, the socio-economic background of the students, family relationships and group interests have great impact on the academic performance of students and that was what this study focused on with a keen interest on Economics subject among secondary school students in Uyo Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom state, Nigeria.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Several researchers have been interested in discussing the link between social interactions among peers in school and academic outcomes for many years now. Several literatures have established the fact that a child's peer group influences social and academic development and that these influences begin at the very start of formal education. Influences and motivations for all kinds of children's behavior, including study habits and personal academic development, come not only from their peers, but also from their parents, teachers, and others with whom they come into close contact. Because of the amount of the time a child spends each day with his or her friends, the peer influence on a child can be very essential.
In addition, peer effects become more important as time passes, peaking somewhere during adolescence. Consequently, children must promote positive peer groups early so as to become well-adjusted adolescents and possibly adults.Having friends in school allows the child to learn a host of skills: group interaction, conflict resolution, and trust building, among others.Absence of positive peer group interactions brings about serious social problems development. Peer rejection in early childhood and early adolescence, for instance, is a good predictor of social and academic problems later. Therefore, this study aimed at investigating the impacts of peer group variables on academic performance in Economics subject among secondary school students in Uyo Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom state, Nigeria.
1.3 Research Questions
The following are some of the questions which this study intends to answer:
i) what is the prevalence of peer group variables and academic performance in Economics subject among secondary school students in Uyo Local Government Area?
ii) what are the effects of peer group variables and academic performance in Economics subject among secondary school students in Uyo Local Government Area?
iii) what efforts are being taken by the parents of the students of secondary schools in Uyo Local Government Area to ensure better academic performance in Economics?
1.4 Objectives of the Study
The main objective of this study was to investigate the impacts of peer group variables on academic performance in Economics subject among secondary school students in Uyo Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom state, Nigeria. The specific objectives were:
i) to establish the prevalence of peer group variables and academic performance in Economics subject among secondary school students in Uyo Local Government Area
ii) to determine the effects of peer group variables and academic performance in Economics subject among secondary school students in Uyo Local Government Area
iii) to investigate the efforts being taken by the parents of the students of secondary schools in Uyo Local Government Area to ensure better academic performance in Economics
1.5 Significance of the Study
This research work would benefit the government of Akwa Ibom state, Nigeria, in developing and implementing policies that promote student performance in relation to peer influence. The study findings would also assist schools to eradicate negative peer influence on Economics performance. It would also help researchers as it would help develop new literature in the area of Peer group variables and academic performance in Economics among Secondary school Students in Uyo Local Government Area.
1.6 Scope of the Study
This study investigated the impact of Peer group variables and academic performance in Economics among Secondary school Students in Uyo Local Government Area. The study shall be concentrated to only students from Uyo Local Government Area.
1.7 Limitation of the study
The researcher was faced with inadequate time however the researcher keenly followed the time frame. The respondents were also shy about giving information thinking it was for commercial purposes but they were assured of confidentiality. Lastly it was not easy to get some respondents to respond to the questions but the researcher was patient and made several trips to collect the questionnaire.
1.8 Definitions of Terms
The following terms were used in the course of this study:
Academic Performance: Scores attained in form one end of year examination.
Economics: A social science subject that study human behaviour in buying and selling.
Peer group: A group of students in the same class.