1.1 Background to the Study
School is an establishment where people shape their psychological, mental, social, and spiritual formation. A learner can discover latent capabilities, acquire skills, and become an important and productive individual after passing through the learning process. Schools are second homes to students, given that they invest more time in schools compared to anywhere else (Tubaon, 2018 as mentioned in Tus, 2020). Each school has a unique culture defined by values, standards, attitudes, and behavior patterns built over a very long time. For that reason, every member of the school community participates in forming the school culture with constant involvement and interaction of every member of the school community. It is an environment where members of the school community work continually, following how things are happening in school. The State Department of Education of Georgia (2019 as mentioned by Tus, 2020) specifies the school culture as the "pattern of behavior which is specified by patterns of experiences acquired by the school community over time." Likewise, it is all to do with the defined sequence of behaviors and acts of individuals in a school.
The idea of culture has a long history in the description of human behavior across human groups. Anthropologists initially designed the idea to discuss differences amongst all including life pattern of tribes, societies and national or ethnic groups. Later on, other social researchers used the aspect of patterns of behavior within formal work organization. The idea of culture assists in comprehending these varied patterns, what they are, how they come to be, and how they impact performance (DeWalt, DeWalt & Wayland, 2011).
School culture is the presence of interplay between three factors; the attitudes and beliefs of individuals, both within the institution and external environment, the culture standards of the school and the relationship between individuals in the school. School culture is created and is distinct and therefore can be controlled by people within the school. Whatever their commonalities no two schools would be exactly alike. Since culture provides focus and clear objective for the school, it ends up being the cohesion that bonds the school together as it goes about its objective and vision (Fullan, 2001).
Students' performance has been viewed as the capacity of the students to succeed in their examinations. It depicts the action or manner in which the students perform an activity of being examined or evaluated on what they have learnt with schooling. Student performance has been the subject of on-going discussion amongst teachers, academicians and policy makers. Great performance has been related to hard work, previous schooling, and family income to name a few as variables that have a considerable impact on the student. Success in an education institution is determined by the performance of students in external examinations. Examinations are used to determine the level of candidates' achievements and clarify the candidates' level of education, training and development. Nyaanga (2004) mentions that a school, as an organization, wish to realize its goals. Society has a claim of interest in the performance of the school arising from the understanding that the school sources its human and material resources exclusively from society.
A relationship exists between culture and performance; school culture being a totality of what goes on in a school, in regards to beliefs, norms, values have effect on performance. As illustrated by Oyetunji (2009) school culture is asset of measurable properties of the work environment based on the collective understanding of individuals that live and work in the environment and how that environment affects their behavior.
Characteristics of school culture include; avoiding bullying and harassment amongst students, premier awards for success, progressive discipline, holding teacher-parent students' academic progress discussion, development of class rules working together with students to name a few, for that reason, creating a conducive leraning environment (Maslowski, 2001).
Ndaiti (2007) suggested that the school management ought to make sure that a strong culture is in place to achieve its objectives. Among the keys to understanding why the schools perform as they do is to examine cultural factors. Interest in the study of school culture is motivated by the recognition that there is a link between a school's culture and its performance. By examining school culture and its impact on achievement, the researcher intends to gain insight on how the organization works and learns. Hence the reason for the researcher to investigate school culture and its effect on geography students’ academic performance in secondary schools in the Buea Municipality.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
World over, education is just one of the fields that are of vital importance in the integral development of countries and in the advancement of social and individual wellness. Preferably, schools are considered to play an essential role in the socializing process of the young people where they learn how to manage their own conduct, respect and value others, manage their time properly and therefore becoming responsible citizens. Consequently, the significance of some kind of school-wide set of values and standards of behavior are essential in improving students' academic performance. In realization of that the performance of schools is judged according to the quality of students they produce, lots of school administrators have attempted to improve the image of their schools in the eyes of the public by introducing school fundamental assumptions, norms and values and cultural artifacts that are expected to guide school members.
Nevertheless, there is a general out cry from the general public regarding the core school culture is being eroded in some schools. This is manifested by the enhancing instances of arson, substance abuse, strikes, alcoholism, bullying, vandalism of school property in addition to general refusal to comply with school guidelines and regulations (Mpaata, 2008). A few of these instances have resulted into loss life and property (Mpaata, 2008). It appears that, as opposed to the ideals of the establishment of the schools, educational values have been jeopardized. This has as a result created a huge worry from teachers, head teachers and stakeholders regarding the lack of opportunity for learners to focus on their academic work. The general characteristic of the culture in lots of schools is stated to be in many ways depressing, without any precise ethos, gradually drifting from the objective and visions for which these schools were built (Mugagga and Musoke 2011). As a corollary, many schools continuously experience low academic performances with lots of students particularly amongst the least developed schools. Therefore, this study seeks to investigate school culture and its effect on geography students’ academic performance in secondary schools in the Buea Municipality.
1.3 Objectives of the Study
The main purpose of this study is to ascertain school culture and its effect on geography students’ academic performance in secondary schools in the Buea Municipality. The specific objectives however, include:
i) To find out the relationship between school environment and academic performance in Geography among students in Buea Municipality.
ii) To establish the correlation between school strategic direction and academic performance in Geography among students in Buea Municipality.
iii) To understand the influence of school symbolic behaviors on academic performance in Geography among students in Buea Municipality.
1.4 Research Questions
The research aimed at answering the following questions:
i) What is the relationship between school environment and academic performance in Geography among students in Buea Municipality?
ii) What is the correlation between school strategic direction and academic performance in Geography among students in Buea Municipality?
iii) What is the influence of school symbolic behaviors on academic performance in Geography among students in Buea Municipality?
1.5 Research Hypotheses
The study embraced the following research hypotheses:
i) There is a significant relationship between school environment and academic performance in Geography among students in Buea Municipality.
ii) There is a significant correlation between school strategic direction and academic performance in Geography among students in Buea Municipality.
iii) There is a significant influence of school symbolic behaviors on academic performance in Geography among students in Buea Municipality.
1.6 Significance of the Study
It is anticipated that the study will be significant to different stakeholders in the following ways:
School Managers: The information gathered in this study could be used to inform school managers of the main issues related to school culture challenges and strategies that may be used in the district to restore school cultures that help students to perform well. This could be done basing on the recommendations that will be made and when they are implemented, they may help to improve school culture hence improve on academic performance of students.
Teachers: The study is expected to identify the major aspects of school culture, the school administration and teachers could to draw appropriate strategies to improve it. Therefore, teachers may become major partners in development and get involved in the management of schools to promote culture among their schools.
Policy makers: As individuals charged with formulating policies, their understanding of school culture remain very vital in the education management process, findings from this study may help them in formulating better strategic policies to have better ways to promoting school culture to avoid its effects on their academic performance of students.
Researchers: The issues raised in this study are likely to lead to the involvement of various researchers in generating more knowledge and could form a basis for further research to those interested in school culture and its management.
Researcher student: the study will act as contribution to getting the degree and it will help the researcher understand deeply the major aspects related to school culture and in the long run the researcher could be consulted on the issue since he will have vast knowledge on the aspect.
1.7 Scope of the Study
This study focused on to ascertain school culture and its effect on geography students’ academic performance in secondary schools in the Buea Municipality. The researcher excluded other subjects and mainly focused on Geography subject because the performance of students in Geography at secondary schools is critical on their future carrier. In terms of delimitations, the researcher restricted the work to government secondary schools within Buea Municipality because majority of the households in the region enroll their children in public secondary schools which are more affordable compared to the private schools.
1.8 Limitations of the Study
A limitation of the study refers to the constraints or drawbacks both theoretical and practical that the researcher may find and has little or no control over (Orodho, 2004). The researcher acknowledged specific limitations of this study which included the reliance on individual respondents’ willingness to complete the questionnaires provided with honesty in their responses. The researcher assured the respondents that the findings of the study were to be used for academic purpose only and that their identities would remain confidential.
1.9 Definition of Terms
The following were the significant terms used in the study:
School culture: The way schools portray themselves or do things as known by the school surroundings and other community members that uniquely identifies them from other schools in the surrounding or community that largely defines their academic performance.
Symbolic behavior: Includes the Values, objectives, mission and beliefs of the school.
Strategic direction: includes the central forces such as vision, mission, strategies, tactics and core values that propel a school toward its intended objectives.
Student Academic performance: Evaluation of students’ periodic academic performance as measured by periodical examinations or continuous assessment in both final national and school exams.
School environment: The physical and aesthetic surroundings and the psychosocial climate of the school.