1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
Education is important for everyone in this world to upgrade their standard of living, to be able to deal with problems and challenges, to get good jobs, and overall to live fully as good and responsible citizens. Since the beginning of the 20th century, education has been not only about the collection of knowledge but also has emphasized the understanding of the value of knowledge, critical thinking, creativity, motivation, social and life skills. In order to develop education sufficiently to encourage the growth of an individual’s emotional, spiritual, social, intellectual, creative and artistic potential, studying academic subjects alone is no longer enough. Classroom learning activities and extracurricular activities have come to play an important role for students and other stakeholders. ECAs helps them to grow into a person with leadership, management, decision-making, communication and creative and critical thinking skills and prepares students to fit in and achieve in working life after school.
1.2 EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES (ECAs)
Extracurricular activities are offered alongside the regular traditional curriculum at all levels of the education system, mostly in western countries. Emmer explains “the terms extracurricular activities, co-curricular activities, and non-classroom activities have all been used interchangeably to mean experiences and activities such as debate, athletics, music, drama, school publications, student council, school clubs, contests, and various social events.” The definitions and terms used as synonyms for ECAs and the activities considered as ECAs vary according to the scholars and their scope of studies.
There are sports and non-sports related ECAs offered at all levels of school. Sport ECAs include activities such as soccer, basketball, aerobics, sports competitions and dance. Many studies have shown that such sports-related activities improve students’ Grade Point Average (GPA), probability of college attendance, develop educational aims and team spirit, broaden peer networks, and reduce problem behaviours such as alcohol and drugs consumption. Non-sports related ECAs include such activities as school government, publications, choir, band, school clubs, competitions, drama, debate, volunteerism, community services and internships. Among ECAs, some are school-based activities which are organized by school clubs and organizations and some are in the category of out-of-school activities. Researchers such as Peguero have shown that involvement in such school-based ECAs lead to greater educational achievement. Therefore, extracurricular activities, by whatever name they are called, are an essential, vital, extensive part of education. ECAs offered at schools are categorized alongside the academic curriculum. Such activities outside of the school curriculum are an extension of the education program which encourages the development of the students. ECAs should be practiced at high schools as a requirement for graduation because these extra-curriculum activities are as essential as the traditional academic curriculum. They also explain that providing ECAs for students enhances the student-centred approach school environment since it focuses on the individual as a person for development. Since educational reform started in the 1990’s with the implementation of a student- centred approach, providing well-organized ECAs at all level of school may be seen as a support of these reforms.
The educational vision set by the Ministry of Education (MOE) is “to create an education system that can generate a learning society capable of facing the challenges of the knowledge age.” In order to face challenges and live as well-rounded beings, an education system can be modified to promote critical thinking, creativity and social skills not only through academic subjects but also through well-organized ECAs.
There are two main sectors in the education system: the basic education school system and higher education institutions. The basic education school system provides a 5-year primary program, a 4-year lower secondary program and a 2-year upper secondary program, which in total is an 11-year general education program, one year shorter than other ASEAN countries (UNESCO-IBE). At the end of the last year of high school, students sit the matriculation examination from which the marks are used to determine which university each student will attend. Matriculation examination is known as both the graduation exam of upper secondary school and the entrance examination to higher education. For all levels of schooling, there are two examinations, one mid-year and another at the end of the year in addition to the regular chapter-end tests.
Besides the marks and grading from those tests and exams, a student’s Comprehensive Personal Record (CPR) is also taken into consideration in order to be promoted to another Grade. CPRs record the student’s activities such as helping at home, participation in aesthetic education, sports, clubs, associations and school activities, offering voluntary service for community work, sitting regular chapter-end tests, abiding by school rules and regulations and having a minimum of 75% school attendance (UNESCO-IBE). These data are recorded by the student’s parent and the class teachers
are sometimes not accurate. This is because most of the parents fill in their children CPR card as ‘good’ even if their children are not doing anything listed on CPR. These are the only types of test or exam used in all school level education which places a great emphasis on marks and grading. As a result, the students have little time and are not actively encouraged to emphasize, or participate in, ECAs.
Based on my own experience, the public education programme, primary through tertiary does not provide well-organized ECAs for students. Some of the consequences are that student’s lack general knowledge and the current education programme does not encourage the development of social, leadership, communication, creative and critical thinking skills. It also affects the students live and work after school. The report of the Comprehensive Education Sector Review (CESR) comments on this issue as “the current education system does not have a mechanism to continuously upgrade itself to respond to the needs of the world of work… school curricula and teachers competencies have not been upgraded to respond to the changing needs of the labour market.”
On the other hand, there are several registered private schools and universities which mostly emphasize English language. In contrast to public education, these private schools and universities offer an array of ECAs such as trips, clubs, organizations, charity events, special speakers and competitions for the purpose of extending learner’s education and learning experiences across various contexts and beyond the classroom. Thus, most parents who can afford it start sending their children to private schools at least for weekends in order to learn English language and participate in ECAs. One of the private universities offers a Liberal Arts Programme (LAP) which includes various in-school and
out-of-school ECAs. This study explores the impact of participating in well-organized ECAs through the views of the students and teachers at Liberal Arts Programme.
With the growth of private schools and universities that offer opportunities for involvement in ECAs, the Ministry of Education (MOE) has been concerned about the education offered at public schools. According to the report of the Data Collection Survey of The Education Sector, some of the prioritized issues in Basic Education and Higher Education towards the next National Development Plan which hint at the potential implementation of ECAs include:
• Effective implementation of a Child-Centred Approach (CCA) in basic primary level education
• Awarding prizes to well-rounded students and forming scout and Red Cross Organizations in schools (Supplementary education activities in the basic education sector)
• Participation of the private sector in education services and systematic supervision of establishment of quality private schools
• Development of Quality Assurance Systems and extension of cooperation with International Universities and Educational Organizations
• Revision of the University Entrance System
• Promotion of education to the international level
• Strengthening networks with International Universities
Through the above plans for National Development in Basic and Higher Education, it is hoped that ECAs will be widely introduced and well-organized in the future of public education, especially the course of cooperation with private schools, international universities and educational organizations.
The participants identified social skills, management skills, communication skills, leadership skills, teamwork, decision-making skills, intrapersonal and interpersonal skills as being an important part of benefits gained through participation in ECAs. Internships and sharing applying knowledge gained from school to their community or church through out-of-school ECAs was identified as a way to have positive impacts on their community and needy people. The participants have outlined their perceptions of how ECAs involvement sometimes has negative impacts on academic learning because of missing classes, lower class attendance and over-involvement in ECAs which conveys the complexities of experiences of the role of ECAs in students’ academic life. However, gaining confidence to speak up in the classroom, improving English and writing were identified as the benefits of ECAs experiences.
The analysis of school documents and newsletters showed that the mission statement, objectives and learning outcomes set by the university are met directly or indirectly through the experiences and learning gained from participation in ECAs.
The establishment of such an integrated system of education-employment-welfare in order to foster the core human resources, to build a fair society through lifelong skills, to increase social integration through jobs and to promote overseas jobs requires changes in public education system. Thus, implementing ECAs alongside the school curriculum in
education system would be a part of the establishment of such an integrated linkage system of education-employment-welfare. This study explores the issue of whether experience of participating in ECAs develops different life skills and social skills for the labour market. Some of the recommendations from the discussion are to modify the current academic curriculum and to help “inform the vision of higher education through cooperation in curriculum development and basic research methods, totally integrated living-learning academic experience that generates fertile discourse and critical academic engagement outside as well as inside the typical academic classroom.” Thus, the findings of the perceptions and experiences of students and teachers regarding the role of ECAs in the public educational context may be a support for such living-learning experience. This research concerns the perceptions of students and teachers of the role of extracurricular activities. From my own experience and informal discussions with teachers, we believe that in-class learning activities and extracurricular activities play a supportive role in education alongside the implementation of a student-centred approach. Most private and public schools and universities have well-written mission statements, expected learning outcomes, programme activities and curriculum. Private schools and universities even publicize the learning outcomes set for ECAs. This discussion led me to reflect on whether ECAs can have impacts on the academic and social life of students and how well educational institutions can achieve their overall statements and learning outcomes through the role of ECAs.
According to my personal experience of being a student at public schools from kindergarten to high school, I know that students’ participation in ECAs is at a very low level. The school time-table includes one class period of physical education, aesthetic education and participation in school activities. However, these activities are not well-organized. For example, during the physical education (PE) class period, students go to the PE hall and play whatever they like. There are no gym or sports facilities. There is no supervision for sports activities. Participation in school activities such as school band, traditional dance and singing competitions is very limited. Furthermore, students who participate in such activities are chosen by the teachers to participate. Students are also not motivated to participate in ECAs, but consider these PE class periods as free time to relax and play around. Lwin asserts that the variety of elective subjects and ECAs are neglected in many public schools and this gap may reduce the potential contribution of this form of education.
Moreover, there is only a small amount of literature focusing on the topic of ECAs at public schools in general. Therefore, it is important to raise awareness and wider implementation of ECAs at public schools. It would inform the Ministry of Education, teachers, students and parents about the understanding of the importance of ECAs, benefits of participating in ECAs for learning outcomes and academic achievements and how ECAs have a potential to meet learning outcomes set by the schools. The findings could be informative to public schools for considering whether it would be possible to start an ECA programme as an aspect of a student-centred approach implementation. The perceptions of students and teachers of the role of ECAs and their impact at a private university, Liberal Arts Programme (LAP), which offers ECAs, may raise the possibility of implementation of ECAs in educational context. Thus, it will explore the value of ECAs and their relevance to public schools as a way of promoting a more holistic education.
The findings of this research may be of value to the private university involved in this research for further development or adjustment of their ECA programme. Examining the barriers to participating in ECAs would enable the institute to find possible ways to help further development of extracurricular activities.
1.4 RESEARCH AIMS AND THE RESEARCH QUESTIONS This research study aims to identify the benefits of participation in ECAs for student’s academic achievements, social life and life skills by examining student’s and teacher’s perceptions of their experiences of ECAs. It will examine the mission statements and expected learning outcomes set by the selected institute in order to analyze how well an educational institution can achieve these outcomes through the role of ECAs.
It will also discover the barriers to and the reasons for participation in ECAs. Its aim is to give a voice especially to the students and their views on the role of ECAs in order to contribute to the wider research on the future implementation of ECAs as part of the public education system especially through higher educational reform.
1.4.1 RESEARCH AIMS
To investigate student’s and teacher’s perceptions of the role and educational potential of co-curricular activities.
1.4.2 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
1. What is the nature of extracurricular activities in Liberal Arts Programme?
2. What are the teacher’s and student’s perceptions of the role and impact of extracurricular activities?
3. How are Liberal Arts Programme mission statements and expected learning outcomes achieved through extracurricular activities?
4. What factors help and hinder participation in extracurricular activities?
In particular, this study addresses the role ECAs play in students’ lives, how the LAP mission statement and learning outcomes can be met through ECAs, the barriers against participation in ECAs and strategies to overcome them.
2. LITERATURE REVIEW
Literature survey on teacher and student perception on extracurricular activities was done to study work done on it. Survey on these has been given:
Millard et al. (1930) proposed the terms extracurricular activities, co-curricular activities, and non-classroom activities have all been used interchangeably to mean experiences and activities such as debate, athletics, music, drama, school publications, student council, school clubs, contests, and various social events. ECAs are activities organized or participated in by the students that are outside the area of the normal curriculum of school in which some activities are not part of students’ school obligations. ECAs usually exist at all levels of school, from primary to tertiary.
Coleman et al. (1961) proposed on sports-related activities have been shown to improve student’s Grade Point Average (GPA), increase the probability of college attendance, develop educational aims and team spirit, broaden peer networks, and reduce problematic behaviours such as alcohol and drugs consumption.
Vygotsky et al. (1978) reported that non-sport related ECAs include such activities as school government, publications, choir, band, school clubs, competitions, drama, debate, volunteering and internships. Involvement in such academic, school-based ECAs shows greater educational achievement. He stated ECAs as “by whatever name they are called, are an essential, vital, and extensive part of education in America.”
Gholson et al. (1985) mentioned that ECAs should be practiced at high schools as a requirement for graduation because ECAs are as essential as the traditional academic curriculum. Some empirical studies of students with different age groups, backgrounds and ethnicities have confirmed that participation in ECAs have resulted in greater academic achievements, social skills, communicational skills and interactive skills and other life skills.
Langenbach et al. (1988) reported that ECAs are considered as one of the learning areas every student should be involved in in Japanese education. Moreover, the scholars explain that providing ECAs for students helps the student-centred approach school environment since it focuses on the individual as a person for development.
Marsh et al. (1992) argued that ECAs are usually voluntary, organized by school officials and not associated with academic credit. He also adds in the argument that ECAs usually do not offer credit for students, but mostly for personal growth and contribution to the school or community. Although there are studies showing the benefits of participating in ECAs, some questions still remain.
O’Brien et al. (1995) proposed the idea of school as a place for academic pursuits only and the studies of ECA involvement questioned the appropriateness in the school curricula during 1950’s and 1960’s. He claimed that ECAs become competition for academic pursuits which then affects students’ academic performance because of time spent on such ECAs (non-academic activities).
Rollefson et al. (1995) reported that there is no clear evidence to support whether involvement in ECAs provides advantages or whether already successful students are more likely to participate in ECAs or both. Since there are different types of ECAs, the particular type of ECA may also influence the outcomes and benefits. He pointed out that the impacts on students might be varied depending on their racial group, gender, socioeconomic status, age and level of their participation in ECAs.
Zill et al. (1995) reported that many educational practitioners and researchers have shown a more positive perspective by arguing that ECAs may have positive effects on life skills and may also benefit academic achievements. He notes that “students with higher standardised test scores are significantly more likely to participate in most ECAs except athletics, cheerleading, and vocational activities; high-ability students are significantly less likely to participate in cheerleading and vocational activities and no more likely to participate in athletics than are lower ability students.” Therefore, the study conducted at four urban middle schools located in an upstate New York urban area points out that positive student outcomes were not related to individual activities or the total of students’ involvement in any type of ECAs, instead both positive and negative outcomes were linked to unique patterns of involvement.
Glyer et al. (1998) proposed the learning outcomes of various ECAs as education and teaching approaches have been changing according to the demands of the fast changing world. A “liberal arts education” is one form of the lifelong education which can teach the students to be prepared for the real world with critical thinking skills, social skills and an understanding of the world. Liberal arts education can be defined as an “academically prestigious brand” which every university desires to practise and could also be implemented without changing the current educational practices.
Weeks et al. (1998) proposed out that liberal arts education teaches us the ability to rule ourselves, in other words, self-rule, taking responsibility for our duties as human beings. The report of the task force on general education shows that liberal arts education also prepares students for the rest of their lives through being good citizens in making informed decisions which may affect others’ lives. Thus, liberal arts education is not all about receiving information, knowledge and skills at schools. It is a bigger picture of how people learn to live, make choices and decisions to become the fullest human beings and ECAs and co-curricular activities within a liberal arts education assist the students to achieve those.
Barber (1999) reported the significant value of liberal education is that it provides the students with lifelong freedom, “the society helps the individual to find what is in his own interest considering the whole of his life.” In this sense, ECAs allow the students to continue to be involved in the activities related to their subject interest area outside of the school curriculum that the potential need for liberal arts education is becoming a global trend because it emphasizes a broad curriculum including critical thinking, creativity, problem solving, communication skills, life skills and cultural awareness.
Dunn et al. (1999) proposed that a liberal arts education is a strong foundation that individual students build up themselves to achieve maximum employability through ECAs, internships, community involvement, volunteering and study aboard. The goals set by the liberal arts education are mentioned by thinking critically or possessing broad analytical skill, learning how to learn, thinking independently, empathizing, recognizing one’s own assumptions, and seeing all sides of an issue, exercising self-control for the sake of broader loyalties, showing self-assurance in leadership ability, demonstrating mature social and emotional judgment; personal integration, holding egalitarian, liberal, pro-science, and antiauthoritarian values and beliefs and participating in and enjoying cultural experience.
Eccles et al. (1999) proposed that “Extracurricular activities supplement and extend those contacts and experiences found in the more formal part of the program of the school day.” There is a large volume of published studies describing that “when managed properly, the extracurricular activities program allows for a well-rounded, balanced program by reinforcing learning, supplementing the required elective curriculum (formal courses of study), integrating knowledge, and carrying out the objectives of democratic life.”
McNeal (1999) reported the ECAs become supplementary coursework which are counted as academic credits towards graduation. The report of the task force on general education also mentioned financial issues, parental involvement and transportation strategies that student organizations, the performing arts and athletics which are part of ECAs, develop the intellectual, ethical and personal growth of students.
Eccles et al. (1999) reported that ECAs is a success story at Harvard College where the college “provides means for students to enrich both their classroom and their extracurricular experiences by forging an intellectual link between them.”
Cassel et al. (2000) proposed participation in ECAs. According to his zero-sum model of time allocation, students struggled with their time management in which they had a limited time to divide between academic and structured and unstructured ECAs. He argued that spending time on ECAs resulted in poorer academic outcomes. However, even though Coleman’s thinking has dominated in the past that there are many positive impacts resulting from participating in ECAs.
Chow et al. (2000) proposed a study using data from the 2002 Educational Longitudinal Study which has a sample of 752 public, Catholic and other private schools. The findings indicate that students learned a sense of responsibility, fair play and honesty which encourages them to stay away the from alcohol and drugs usage. He agrees that participation in ECAs constructs positive perception of peer groups which reduces alcohol use.
Demoulin et al. (2000) proposed that all the students, mostly male, who have participated in sports activities, develop positive impacts on their lives but have reported on the level of alcohol consumption, drunk driving and violent activity.
Reiger et al. (2000) reported that students who participate in high school sport ECAs increased their likelihood of drug use, dropping out and other risky behaviours. Students increased use of alcohol is related to interscholastic sports involvement although participating in classroom-related ECAs such as student government, decreased the possibility of alcohol consumption.
Field et al. (2001) reported that students who were involved in sports were almost twice as likely to remain in school as students who did not participate; nevertheless, it was also concluded that participation in sports teams enhanced the chance of greater rates of alcohol consumption and drug use.
Broh et al. (2002) proposed the importance of learning in cultural context through social interaction. He also agrees that “such positive, inclusive interactions will lead to improved student engagement in learning.” Such a comfortable and interactive environment fosters learning and social skills through understanding different points of view from others.
Hunt et al. (2003) mentioned that non-cognitive skills which are self-discipline, motivation and trustworthiness, are as important as cognitive skills such as perceptions, thinking, learning, for life success. The scholars state that such non-cognitive skills can be learned over a long period of time and developed through ECAs.
Harrison et al. (2003) reported how the involvement in high school sports ECAs has an impact on higher incomes in adult life. The authors also discuss the connection to being employed full-time and to a higher quality of job and working life with the evidence of National Education Longitudinal Study (NELS) stating “eight years after high school elite athletes were 49 percent more likely to be employed than those who did not participate in sports during high school.” This is because those students are considered to have better concentration, team spirit, soft skills to improve productivity, the ability to work more efficiently and leadership skills.
Kleitman et al. (2003) reported the interviews with alumni indicate that their engagement in ECAs provided real opportunities to develop themselves and enhance their career prospects. Moreover, the results show that ECAs can add value to the students especially for their future job hunting through gaining skills for employment and helping with their courses, personal and social development.
Perez et al. (2004) reported that “participation can give adolescents confidence about their physical and perhaps social selves… social competence, often have greater opportunity to interact with others, develop friendships, and to develop social confidence… participation might be interpreted as a sign of maturity and as a self-affirming behavior.”
Gillman et al. (2004) reported that participation in ECAs also helps to provide happiness in life. Impacts of ECAs on students’ life such as good health, quality job, self-confidence and good social life increase the happiness throughout their life.
Sorger et al. (2004) investigated students with single-parents in Taiwan, in ECAs such as field trips, speeches, hands-on workshops, and team competitions, peer mentoring and evaluative exercises. The findings show that some of the students experienced positive feelings of self-worth and recognised noticeable progress after the extracurricular science intervention. ECAs are complementary with respect to students’ development where ECAs often provide such skills as problem-solving, strategic planning and organizing and leadership training which cannot be developed through normal classroom activities. The environment provided by ECAs can enhance students’ interaction among each other.
Kosslyn et al. (2007) proposed that “The opportunity to form friendships also gives students a chance to develop social skills. For some students, social interaction in extracurricular activities is their first experience working with others toward a common goal. And teamwork is an important skill that most instructors and employers view favorably” which continuously develop students’ leadership skills.
Dietz et al. (2007) reported that active engagement in school and community activities can enhance a sense of belonging and is important for students’ academic achievement. He suggested that by strengthening a student’s sense of identification at school and by providing the school environment that may enhance the student with a greater sense of belonging and satisfaction it may lower students’ dropout rate.
Stuart et al. (2007) reported that students who participate in ECAs become more attached to their school and have better attendance which develops the greater sense of belonging. In particular, involvement in ECAs has been related to increased interest in school, strengthening students’ sense of identity, and providing students with a sense of self-satisfaction.
Hang et al. (2008) mentioned that volunteering and sports activities can reduce identity development, social capital and college attendance, and there are more chances to engage in more risk-taking behaviours and to experience more stress. Other studies, on the other hand, reveal how participation in ECAs develops life-long good habits, good character, self-respect and self-worth, greater level of communication and self-esteem. Such life-long good habits as being on schedule, honesty, fair play, exercising, respect rules and regulations can be gained through ECAs. However, positive and negative developmental outcomes often depend on the types of ECAs are involved.
Lawhorn (2008) reported that volunteer and service-related activities help improve the local and worldwide community. He argue that community-based learning (CBL) initiatives are practiced at several liberal arts colleges in the United States where the community becomes a partner in the student’s learning process, called service learning. However, the research on the impacts of CBL programs and service learning on the communities and organizations where students provide their service has been overlooked.
Ornstein et al. (2008) proposed a few impacts of service learning “Student commit to understanding and serving the needs of the community to build strong linkages to improve services and improve the quality of life for community members.”
Hill et al. (2009) reported how volunteering strengthens the community and improves the life of people being served as part of their research. The report of volunteer indicates that volunteering “offered a vital link to the community, reinforced their ability to cope with day-to-day life and had been instrumental in helping them to develop skills, build confidence, self-esteem and make new friends.” Volunteering and service learning programs not only have impacts on the culture, society, environment, tradition and the community but also have impacts on student’s individual psychological development, social and life skills.
Maiko et al. (2009) reported that students’ outcomes such as academic achievements, self-esteem and perception of life chances have increased by involvement in such scholastic-related ECAs as honour societies, plays, sports, school bands and clubs. However, different types of ECAs producing different types of outcomes for students are supported in the argument made stating that many effects of participating in ECAs depend on the type of ECAs which students are involved in.
Yoshihito et al. (2009) proposed a number of studies have found the benefits of participating in ECAs at school have a positive impact on students’ learning outcomes and academic achievements carried out a study which shows that the average Grade Point Average (GPA) of students who are actively involved in ECAs. However, since many ECAs are not academic.
Lutz et al. (2009) reported the effects of total extracurricular activity participation during the last two years of high school by using large, nationally representative High School and beyond data notes that there are correlations between the total number of ECAs a student is involved in and the many different outcomes such as a positive social and academic self-concept, taking more advanced courses, spending more time on homework, attendance and higher occupational aspirations.
Wilson et al. (2009) proposed “benefits of participating in extracurricular activities included having better grades, having higher standardized test scores and higher educational attainment. He points out that improved GPA and higher post-secondary aims as one of the significant benefits of involvement in ECAs. He claimed that active participation can be tied to positive academic outcomes, including improved grades and test scores, more school engagement, and enhanced educational aspirations.
Metzger et al. (2009) reported the research conducted with 89 high school seniors in the United States shows that students who are actively engaged in more hours in sports ECAs statistically had significantly higher GPAs. Additionally, the findings from the survey conducted with over 50,000 ninth graders on ECAs, sports participation highlight that students who participate in ECAs have greater chances of doing more than three hours homework per week.
Lunenburg et al. (2010) reported that participating in ECAs sometimes consumes more time and energy than students can handle which then affects their academic performance. The investigation shows the study conducted at Purdue University, Indiana, USA of student involvement in five ECAs across six semesters which resulted in higher GPA and academic performance for those who are engaged more in ECAs.
Barrientos et al. (2010) reported that involvement in ECAs can be overwork for students mentally and physically and take away the time which can be used for study. In this case, ECA participation can lead to negative effects on academic achievement. Thus, even though a number of studies show various benefits and positive effects of participating in ECAs, it is important to have a balance between academic and activities to have better impacts. He presented a similar view that participating in ECAs takes away time for homework, increases spending extra time of both students and parents, and sometimes causes overwork which drains student mentally and physically awareness of the extracurricular activities.
Turner et al. (2010) on the efficacy of extracurricular science intervention for at-risk students who live with single-parents in Taiwan shows that “it is particularly encouraging that the academic performance of boys and girls from single-parent households might be enhanced by an extracurricular intervention. The intervention appears to have lessened some of their risks for poor academic performance and improved their psychosocial functioning.”
Ronald et al. (2010) reported the US Department of Health and Human Services (USDHHS) on the review of the analyzing the findings of nineteen articles, shows significant positive association of participating in ECAs with very few negative effects. He indicated the positive, negative and neutral effects of participating in ECAs on self-esteem, educational aspirations, positive academic attitude, school attachment, school attendance, dropout rates and GPA.
Reynolds et al. (2010) reported positive views, most studies pinpoint that any benefits which result from participation in ECAS are heavily dependent on the nature of the activity. Managing time commitments becomes a challenge for most students who are weak at time management and who take longer to finish homework and study.
Humphreys et al. (2011) reported ECAs involvement consumes extra time and energy, more than students can handle which leaves them with insufficient time to finish their house chores and homework. He suggested that one of the strategies is to get involved only in one or two ECAs which do not take much time after school. The scholar continues to advise choosing ECAs which are according to the students’ interest and which leave enough time to finish homework, house chores and other priorities and self- esteem.
Peguero et al. (2011) reported that involvement in different ECAs can cause stress not only for the students but also for the parents when both have to make time in their tight schedule. Moreover, busy students may not have enough time to spend with their family which may later affect the parents’ and children’s relationship. He claimed that “Not only can over-scheduling impact academics and level of commitment, it can also impact the student emotionally and physically which could lead to stress, fatigue and bum-out.”
Rodriguez et al. (2011) reported that being involved in sports and performing arts competitions can put pressures on students which sometimes can be overwhelming. He mentioned that if the student is stressed or overloaded with activities, he or she should drop a few activities and allow some time for leisure or unstructured activities with family and friends.
Anderson et al. (2011) reported that the cost can vary according to the type of ECAs and can be a great amount. He indicated that organized sports ECAs and music-related ECAs are costly for students and parents because of the registration fees and purchase of uniforms, equipment and musical instruments. He highlighted the fact that performing arts ECAs such as a band may cost a certain amount of money to buy instruments and to have private lessons which cannot be afforded by certain students with parents on a limited income.
Coulon et al. (2011) reported the average-income student to compete with the athlete who has had additional training, top-notch equipment, and enjoys the opportunity to play sports year-round. This economic disadvantage can bring disappointment and frustration to the student, or even prohibit some from even trying the sport in the first place and the economic values on students.
Molina et al. (2011) reported strategy to overcome this barrier suggested by the school to offer to supply parents with equipment and instruments for students to use for school-organized sports and music ECAs. He also indicated that schools may arrange many
activities with low cost and well managed budgeting.
Kuster et al. (2011) reported the challenges for the students to participate in ECAs and also parental support and involvement can be seen as one of the challenges for students not to participate in ECAs. He noted that some teachers have difficulties to get students to participate in ECAs because of the lack of parental involvement.
Wende et al. (2011) reported students are not able to participate in ECAs because of parents’ lack of support or limited income. On the other hand, he highlighted that students who have to work in order to help with the family income are not able to participate in ECAs. Therefore, students’ socio-economic status can be considered as one of the barriers. Transportation also plays a part of the challenges preventing students from participating in ECAs.
Zhang et al. (2011) reported that students who use public or school transportation may be discouraged from being involved in ECAs. Regarding parental involvement, teachers must encourage the parents to be involved and give permission to their children to participate in ECAs.
Aeling et al. (2012) reported the main challenges preventing the students from participating in ECAs are discussed in a few studies as time management, stress, financial issues, parental involvement and encouragement and transportation. Some of the strategies to overcome those challenges are also discussed.
Borges et al. (2012) reported ECAs programmed such as sports-related ECAs and non-sports related (in-school or outside school) ECAs are discussed. Each ECA offers significant experience and development for students. However, positive outcomes depend on the type of activities students are involved in and the unique patterns of involvement.
Gruter et al. (2012) reported different research studies and literature show that ECAs help students attach to school with better attendance, to develop a sense of identification belonging and life-long good habits through in-school and outside school activities. Students gain and learn good character, self-respect and self-worth, greater level of communication, self-esteem, honesty, fair play, exercising, respecting rules and regulations through participating in ECAs.
Hao et al. (2012) reported that ECAs produce positive impacts on students’ learning outcomes and academic achievements. The findings of different empirical studies prove that participating in physical or sports ECAs has an association with healthy lives, physical and mental health, lower risk of suffering from various diseases and development of life-long healthy habits.
Helanto et al. (2012) reported many literature and studied clearly show that ECAs promote different sets of life skills and other essential skills in order for students to develop into well-rounded beings and prepare them for the job market. In contrast, some researchers have argued that unstructured ECAs with no adult supervision could bring negative aspects to participation in ECAs. Even though there is a very limited amount of literature on the impacts of participating in ECAs on the community,
Haing et al. (2012) reported evidence that volunteering and service learning have positive impacts on the community and the beneficiaries. Some of the challenges preventing students from participating in ECAs are presented as time management, stress, financial issues, parental involvement and encouragement and transportation. Some of the strategies to overcome those challenges are also discussed.
Garcia et al. (2012) reported the ECAs which promote the above mentioned skills in addition to the knowledge and learning gained from school can be considered for implementation in public schools. Moreover, future implementation of well-organised ECAs in public schools might bring more advantages to the students’ and country’s development.
3.1 EPISTEMOLOGY AND ONTOLOGY
In order to understand the nature and purpose of educational problems and the related methodologies of research, the educational and social science research traditions cannot be overlooked. Educational research is often related to an individual or an organization conducted in educational settings. Freebody noted that educational research is used to “inform, advance, or obstruct policy and practice in education.” Anderson and Arsenault also stated that educational research tries to deal with questions or solve problems through the data collection and analysis for the purpose of description, explanation, generalization and prediction. Educational research is concerned with broadening knowledge within research traditions and approaches besides improving educational practices. Findings of educational research can help educators to be more effective professionals and that effectiveness turns into the better learning of students. That is why educational research is important and worth conducting.
When choosing the methodological approaches and data collection methods, it is essential to consider the underpinned epistemological and ontological understandings. Epistemology raises the question of what knowledge is and how it can be acquired. The aspect of epistemology is as “an epistemological issue concerns the question of what is or should be regarded as acceptable knowledge in a discipline.” Ontology, on the other hand, is based on theory of being; questions related to the kind of things exist in the world. The authors also mentioned how different cultures hold different beliefs which sometimes affect the way one perceives and engages in the situation. As this research dealt with the perceptions and experiences of students and teachers regarding the role of extracurricular activities to investigate an individual’s worldview, it stands on the epistemology position of interpretivist approach. Even though each individual comes from a similar background, it is not necessary to be identical in their views and experiences.
Davidson and Tolich stated that “paradigm is used in social science to describe an entire way of looking at the world.” The two classical paradigms in educational research are described in different ways such as a positivist or scientific approach and a post-positivist or interpretive approach. The interpretive paradigm is as “the systematic analysis of socially meaningful action through the direct detailed observation of people in natural settings in order to arrive at understandings and interpretations of how people create and maintain their social world.” In the interpretive paradigm, the researcher tries to understand the reality through participants’ perspectives and realizes how participants interpret the world around them.
My study is based on the research questions that understand and interpret the nature and aims of current ECAs practices, interactions and seek experiences of the participants through document analysis and interview data collection. This research attempted to investigate an array of perceptions of a group of people to create a meaning of a particular situation which indicates a part of the interpretive paradigm. Thus, I carefully chose this appropriate paradigm for this research in order to provide clear, strong and valid theoretical underpinnings the findings.
The plan of action which a researcher uses to relate methods to outcomes while
studying theoretical arguments of the research methodology. Research methodology is important as it establishes the approach, method and strategies to be used by the researcher. Following the interpretive paradigm, the term used to describe it is referred to as qualitative analysis. A qualitative form of research is used in this study to investigate the perceptions, attitudes, feelings and experiences of the participants. Qualitative research is “the collection, analysis, and interpretation of comprehensive narrative and visual data to gain insights into a particular phenomenon of interest.” Thus, qualitative research helped me to understand the world in which students perceive ECAs to develop meanings from their experiences. By engaging in in-depth interview conversations about ECAs, the meaning of participant’s perceptions was understood. Therefore, the focus of this research is on interpreting, describing and analyzing the data.
In educational research, when choosing a method or methods of inquiry for a particular research problem, the researcher has to consider the nature of the problem, their own research skills and the disciplinary perspectives. Qualitative research methodology is best suited for this study rather than a quantitative methodology as “certain kinds of educational problems and questions do not lend themselves well to quantitative methods, which use principally numerical analysis and try to control variables in very complex environments.” Since this was small scale research, it was quite difficult to attain the statistical requirements of quantitative research. Therefore, qualitative research methods were one of the key tools for the researcher who uses the interpretive paradigm.
A basic assumption of the qualitative research methodology is that a deep
understanding of the world can be achieved through conversation and observation in natural settings instead of gaining them through the experiments and artificial conditions. Qualitative researchers examine things in natural settings in order to make sense of or interpret the situations based on the meanings participants bring to them. In this research, scientific objectivity was impractical as I brought my own experiences and worldview regarding the role of ECAs. Thus, this particular research was conducted in a real-world situation with an acknowledgement of my own experiences and background using qualitative research methodology.
My personal background knowledge and experiences had shaped my research topic and questions which I aim to study. I studied at a public school which did not offer any particular extracurricular activities and practised a teacher-centred approach in the classroom. I grew up as a person with little confidence in critical thinking and social skills. When I studied my bachelor degree at an American Liberal Arts College for four years with an involvement in a variety of ECAs, I personally developed such skills as social interaction, leadership and creative thinking. Thus, my interest in the role of ECAs played in students’ lives was aroused when this particular private school in started to offer ECAs for students.
Qualitative case study research is a type of in-depth interpretive enquiry which tries to describe, explain and discover more about real world contexts. Case study research takes place with the desire to understand the social circumstances and allows the researcher to maintain the holistic and meaningful characteristics of real-life situations. Merriam also states “a qualitative case study is an intensive, holistic description and analysis of a single instance, phenomenon, or social unit.” A case study provides contextual data with “commitment to the overwhelming significance of localized experience” in order to support the qualitative research methodology. Since this study focused on the process of ECAs, the understanding of student’s experiences and interpreting views, a case study is the most suitable choice because of the importance of context.
The two data collection methods selected for this particular study are in-depth interviews and document analysis which are “the best-known representatives of qualitative research studies and most embody the characteristics.” Since this is qualitative research, it is necessary to use methods which allow intensive and close interaction with the participants during the research and time-intensive data collection. Morse points out that the researcher can gain a more complete picture of participants’ behaviours and experiences by using more than one method. The semi-structured interviews helped me to gather rich data with an opportunity to explore the perceptions of students and teachers around extracurricular activities shaped by the interview questions. Using two methods of data collection allowed me to reflect on how well educational institutions can achieve their overall statements and learning outcomes through the role of ECAs.
The sample size was limited in this research according to the length of time-period to finish the research and the scope of this study. A sufficient sample is necessary to represent a wider group related to my research interest. Participants in the sample should be willing to participate and give time to express their views and experiences during the interviews. A key issue with the choice of sample is to choose the participants carefully to match the research area and questions, contacting them carefully to receive approvals and access.
According to the limitation and the size of the research, the sample size is important to take into consideration. As the purpose of the study is to explore the students and teacher’s perspectives and experiences of participation in ECAs and their views on the values of ECAs, was selected as the research field. Since my research was an in-depth case study research, I invited a private educational system, which offers an ECA programme.
Bryman highlights the necessity of purposive sampling needed to select the participants with the essential expertise and role to answer the research questions. Therefore, ten students and five teachers, who were participating in ECAs during the time of this study, were invited out of approximately 550 students from that particular institute. The students were invited from third and fourth year groups (Junior and Senior students) because these students have a reasonable amount of ECA experience to discuss. Oppenheim claims that we need “a good spread of respondent characteristics” to have different possible kinds and backgrounds. Thus, the participants were carefully invited to match the investigation.
The invitation of the students and teachers to volunteer in the interview is as follows. Students who showed a willingness to take part in my research were provided with an information sheet and asked to provide more information on their participation in ECAs in order for me to select the most suitable participants. According to research, I considered age range, gender balance and individual backgrounds to maximize the diversity.
There were more than ten students who volunteered to participate. The class teachers also pointed out some students who actively participate in ECAs and leaders of students’ committees among the students who wanted to volunteer. Therefore, I selected the participants according to my proposed criteria. I wanted to choose six students who had leadership roles in student organizations, two in sports activities and two in any type of ECAs. However, there was only one student who was involved in sport activities in my volunteer list. Thus, with the help of that student, I recruited one more student from the sport committee. I also achieved a reasonable cross-section of students in terms of gender and age.
I invited the teachers who supervise or are involved in the planning of ECAs who were interested in my research. Similar to the student participants selection, their age, gender, backgrounds and years of experience were taken into consideration. Since most of the student organizations were run by the students, there were only a few teachers who were involved in ECAs. I talked to those teachers individually, explained my research and invited them to participate. There were four teachers who showed interest in my research.
I sent out the information sheet after receiving the confirmation from participants who were willing to be interviewed for my research. All the participants were interviewed individually (face-to-face) with the interview schedule and questions. Participants were given a consent form to sign before the interview on the scheduled day. Since all the participants understand English well, both information sheet and consent form were provided in English instead of translating into Burmese. The challenge of scheduling the interviews was that most students were very busy and had a tight schedule with their classes and activities. Since, some students attended full-day classes.
3.3 DOCUMENT ANALYSIS
Merriam states “documents are, in fact, a ready-made source of data easily accessible to the imaginative and resourceful investigator.” In order to find out whether the mission statements, aims and learning outcomes set by the institute are met directly or indirectly through the role of ECAs, analyzing the available documents played a crucial part.
According to Bowen, document analysis is defined as “a systematic procedure for reviewing or evaluating documents, both printed and electronic material. Document analysis is a useful tool in qualitative research methods as a means of triangulation. The documents are regarded as evidence of past and current realities or future plans. Thus, by analyzing the documents, the researcher can understand the degree of truth coming from interviewees. The researcher acts as a primary instrument for gathering data which makes their skills to find and interpret the data from important documents.
They were asked to provide copies of their policy papers, student handbooks and reports related to ECAs since finding relevant documents was the first step in the process. The main documents used for this research were official documents which were produced by the institute such as newsletters, files, reports, meeting minutes, memos and yearbooks, kept as a record. The documents provided important contextual, philosophical and background information which can assist other data collection methods. Analyzing the documents before the individual interviews helped me understand the role ECAs played in education and served as a foundation for the perceptions of the participants.
There are some drawbacks of using document analysis data collection methods. Merriam points out those documents can give incomplete information as they were not written for research purposes. Therefore, the data obtained from some documents might not be useful or might lack some details for the research and also mentions that an incomplete collection of documents may lead to biased selectivity. One of the main limitations of document analysis is verifying their authenticity and accuracy. However, document analysis is an efficient method in research as it is less time-consuming for the researcher. Bowen highlights the stability of the documents which can be reviewed repeatedly. Document analysis was a good combination data collection method for the interviews since it allowed me to compare and contrast what interviewees said to the standards set by the institute. Thus, data collected from documents was a good source for such a qualitative case study because “they can ground an investigation in the context of the problem being investigated.”
3.4 INTERVIEW DATA COLLECTION METHOD
In order to have deep understanding of the participant’s views, attitudes and experiences, a face-to-face interview data collection method was most appropriate for this study. When we try to understand other people the interview method is one of the most popular ways. I assert that conducting interviews is a good research tool for getting the information in detail by asking direct questions to participants who are chosen as sample for a particular research topic and also suggests that interviews are a useful data collection method when looking in-depth at participant’s views and attitude. This research focused on the insights and experiences of participants of their involvement in ECAs, so the interview data collection method was chosen.
I used semi-structured interviews which included a series of open-ended structured questions followed by probing questions to achieve additional required information. The literature points out the interviewer’s ability in asking questions such as wording, consistency and the flow of the questions. He also mentioned that it is necessary to avoid dead-end or closed questions which can only produce such answers as ‘yes’, ‘no’, and ‘kind of’. The authors also assert that it is important to consider how to use prompting for interviewees to elaborate, but not to use leading questions which can prompt a specific kind of answer which the researcher hopes to get.
As data-collecting instruments have to be piloted with a similar population to the participants. Thus, it was good practice for me to conduct two pilot interviews with cousins, studying at private high schools which offer ECAs, before conducting them in the field in order to raise my ability to ask questions and follow the interview rules. Conducting pilot interviews assisted me to focus on the wordings, the flow of the questions and time limit for the actual interviews.
I was very careful not to impose my own perspectives and biases on the interviewees while conducting the interviews. This is one key issue which the literature has discussed because “the interviewer’s perspective is also limited by knowledge and experience as the interviewee’s.” Moreover, some literature points out that not having enough social skills and active listening skills, which are essential in conducting interviews, can be a concern in generating reliable data. Having good social and interaction skills made the interviewees feel comfortable to open up with me and be interested in my research topic. Thus, it was important for me as an interviewer not to hear only what I hoped to hear according to my research interest. Additionally, I was aware of the language used by the interviewees when transcribing and translating the interviews into English.
Interviews were recorded with a digital recorder and some note taking by me. I firstly asked the permission from the interviewee to record the conversation digitally. Even though I recorded each interview with the digital recorder, I also took some notes while the participants were responding to help with the data analysis later on. Note-taking can also record the non-verbal communication such as body language. However, the note taking during the participant talk can “disrupt the effectiveness of the communication between interviewer and respondent… note taking may distract them from giving information they otherwise might have given.” Thus, I gave full attention to the interviewee during their talk and made a minor note after they finished talking.
3.5 DATA ANALYSIS
Data analysis is a careful examination of the data that result from single or multiple interviews. Data analysis as “examining, sorting, categorizing, evaluating, comparing, synthesizing and contemplating the coded as well as reviewing the raw and recorded data.” The qualitative data analysis includes organizing, interpreting the data, constructing the data in terms of participant’s definitions. Thus, the data analysis process started with transcribing the interview conversation, followed by coding and categorizing into the linkage between the researcher and the system of education with experience of
them in order to compare and contrast them. When categorizing into themes, it was necessary to analyze the data critically for the similarities and differences in order to find out the actual meaning of the data.
The transcribed raw data from interviews were coded according to the themes. Numerical and coding was used for the interviewed participants as S1-S10 and T1-T5. This was helpful in facilitating analysis. When analyzing the data, I used the hand analysis of qualitative data mentioned by reading the transcribed data, marking it by hand and dividing into different categories. Notes and remarks were also written down in the interview transcripts while reading. Not only the positive comments but also the negative comments were discussed under each theme. Key features, relationships, patterns, themes, categories, and regularities were noted in analyzing the data. Every enquiry is unique and so any attempt to generalize on analytical methods is a problematic venture. Thus, I was aware of generalization when analyzing the data. A large amount of collected interview data was reduced and interpreted in order to put it into different themes and patterns to create meanings. Thus, I used my research questions as a guide in the reduction of the collected data.
Document analysis involves “skimming, reading and interpretation.” I determined the relevance of the documents to my research problem and aims among the selected documents. In the same manner, I used the coding for key points related to different questions. I looked for clues into the phenomenon under study since they were important to look for and examine. Then I put the different coding into the categories and themes developed in interview data analysis according to the content analysis process. I re-read the documents again to review the data in case I had missed out essential information in the first place.
Reliability refers to “the degree to which study data consistently measure whatever
they measure.” Qualitative researchers need to consider the reliability of the techniques which are used to collect the data. Measure is reliable only if it produces the same results when the tests are repeated in different places at different time. Reliability is considered a match between the researcher’s interpretation and presentation of collected data and what is actually happening in the natural setting which is being researched. Therefore, reliability can be described in two different words ‘repeatability’ and ‘consistency’.
Since this particular research was qualitative research, “there are many interpretations of what is happening, there is no bench-mark by which one can take repeated measures and establish reliability in the traditional sense.” In this case, reliability can be interpreted as dependability in which researcher needs to check whether their findings are dependable or not with the participants. Thus, I provided the transcripts of the interviews to the participants for checking and clarification of the interpretation in order to raise the level of reliability.
The follow-up questions can be used for reliability checks to confirm with an interviewee’s previous answer. Thus, follow-up questions were added during the semi-structured interviews whenever it was necessary. Moreover, I formulated the questions carefully which conveyed clear meaning, to be aware of the possible problems and to conduct practice interviews with a sample group in order to reduce biases.
The reliability of documents raised a question because of the multiple meanings of the documents depending on the view of the researcher which may vary the interpretations of the wordings. Therefore, the dean of students and teachers were asked some questions related to the mission statement, aims and learning outcomes of the students to confirm or discard my interpretation. As a researcher, I was careful not to pick some words and passages from the analyzed documents and instead established the meaning to contribute to the research problem.
In qualitative data, “validity might be addressed through the honesty, depth, richness and scope of the data achieved, the participant approached, the extent of triangulation and the disinterestedness or objectivity of the researcher.” There are different types of validity to take into consideration in research. In this particular research, interpretive validity was what I must be aware of such as original meaning, terms and interpretation of the participants when conducting and transcribing the interviews. As a qualitative researcher, validity simply means being truthful. The interviews in this research were conducted in order to reduce the participants’ misinterpretation of the questions and to increase the ability to express their thoughts and feelings, to ensure the data validity.
Validity is addressed through authenticity, credibility, trustworthiness and integrity besides the use of data triangulation in order to guarantee the validity of data collection and analysis. The two data collection methods – interviews and document analysis, were used to inform the results of the research, which is also known as triangulation. By using multiple methods or sources of information, the credibility of research was strengthened.
When findings from both methods showed the same things, the researcher can say that
the findings were valid. In order to gain validity in the result, I used the above two method to justify my finding.
3.8 ETHICAL ISSUES
Ethical principles and reasoning are important to consider when conducting research.
Ethics is a primary consideration and all the researchers need to engage in ethical practices throughout the research period. Ethical issues should be addressed in each step of the research such as when designing, choosing methods, analysing the data and presenting. Both quantitative and qualitative research methods have ethical issues which arise during the data collection and interpretation/ distribution of findings in qualitative research. Issues are mostly related to confidentiality of data, getting the consent of the participants, interpretation and publication.
There are five principles related to ethical issues such as “do no harm, voluntary participation, informed consent, avoid deceit and confidentiality or anonymity.” The researchers should not harm the participants in any way, mentally, emotionally and physically. All the participants should give consent to take part voluntarily and knowing what is involved in the research. Since this research included conducting interviews, the participants were given an information sheet (informed consent form) with the objectives and explanation of their role which they were requested to sign to show their consent. Firstly, the information sheet was provided to the Dean of the university as an invitation besides explaining the potential benefits for the school through this research. The Principal had agreed to welcome me to conduct my research at the institute by providing
me with an organizational form. This form was only for gaining access to the project site
and was not used as the individual form. I did not interview the Principal of the institute who provided me organizational consent.
The participants have rights to withdraw from the research at any time, without any consequences. As mentioned above, the research objectives were clearly informed to the participants as deceiving them is very unethical. The collected data from the interviews and documents were correctly analyzed and reported without leaving out any data or interpreting more than what was originally said. All the names of participants and the school where I conducted the research were kept confidential, not even indicating anything that could be linked to them. The collected data was coded accordingly not to reveal the identities of the participants and any quotation which can lead to the participants and the institute. The transparency is important and needed to make sure that all the participants are fully informed about the objectives of the research and their role in it. Since these are the core of ethical issues in research, I, as an educational researcher, was fully aware of each principle while conducting the research.
Since the primary research methods were interviews and document analysis, I considered all the ethical issues related to those methods. The interviews were semi-structured using open-ended questions with some follow-up questions. As there were both risks and benefits to the participants, I ensured that they felt comfortable to share their perspectives and were not pressured or embarrassed. I arranged the interview questions and environment not to harm the participants in any way, mentally, emotionally and physically. The consent to the study was unlikely to stimulate or cause anything harmful to the participants. It is important to consider how researchers should treat the
participants before, during and after the research. Transcripts were given to participants
to check on the correct interpretation, to make any clarification and for further explanation of their perspectives. For this particular research, different ethical issues were taken into consideration before contacting the participants and conducting the research.
With a careful analysis of a range of literature, the qualitative research methodology
was the most appropriate for this particular research in looking at the perceptions and experiences of students and teachers of the role of ECAs and how it affects the institute mission statements, aims and students’ learning outcomes. The use of a case study approach provided validity in findings to obtain an understanding of the significant events, views, behaviours, actions, interactions or contexts constructed by the meanings given by the participants. Two data collection methods – interview and document analysis – were used to provide rich data for the research with a thoughtful consideration of data analysis, reliability, validity and ethical concerns.
4. DATA ANALYSIS AND INTERPRETATION
4.1 PARTICIPANT’S BACKGROUND AND DEMOGRAPHIC DATA
Two groups of participants took part in the research, one group included the lecturers from the Liberal Arts Programme (LAP) at the private university and the other group includes the 3rd and 4th year students from the same programme.
Ten students who were undertaking Bachelor’s degrees in English, Business, Social Studies and Music, volunteered to take part in the research. These included 3rd and 4th year students, currently participating in extracurricular activities (ECAs) offered at the school. Student participants were aged between 18 – 25 years old and included five females and five males. Most of the student participants were currently taking leadership roles in ECAs. Nine out of ten students indicated that they were attending, or had finished, either through distance education or as full-time day students. Student participant’s current year, major and attendance at the public college.
Table 4.1.1 Liberal Arts Student’s Academic Background
Student Code Class Major Public University Attendance
S1 8 Religion Yes (Distance)
S2 9 Business Yes (Day)
S3 9 English Not Yet
S4 8 Music Yes (Day)
S5 8 Business Yes (Distance)
S6 9 English Yes (Distance)
S7 8 Music Yes (Distance)
S8 9 English Yes (Distance)
S9 9 English Yes (Day)
S10 9 Social Studies Yes (Distance)
Teacher participants selected for this study were from the LAP which includes both full-time and part-time teachers. Four female and one male teacher took part, among those are one part-time and four full-time teachers. They are aged between 23 – 40 years old. One of the interviewees is the Dean of students, who is also a lecturer in the English Department. Four out of five teachers were senior teachers who have teaching experience over seven years and three out of five teachers were former students at LAP. All of the teachers indicated that they are not actively involved in ECAs unless they are invited to participate. Table 4.2 shows the lecturers’ teaching experience and the department they belong to.
Table 4.1.2 Liberal Arts Teachers Academic Background
Teacher Code Teacher Experience Department Part-Time or Full-Time
T1 Over 7 years Social Studies Full-Time
T2 1 years English Part-Time
T3 Over 9 years English Full-Time
T4 8 years English Full-Time
T5 Over 7years English Full-Time
The following section presents the findings based on the perceptions of ten students and five lecturers regarding their experiences of participating in ECAs. Key findings include the scope of ECAs, the role and impact of ECAs on students, challenges and barriers to participating in ECAs, and the comparison of ECAs experiences offers at the public and private schools. This study explores the experience of participating in ECAs develops different life skills and social skills for the students and teachers.
4.2 DOCUMENT FINDINGS
Documents, including the policy handbook, student’s reports and newsletters, also show the positive impacts of ECAs. The main activities indicated in the student handbook are as follows; worship Vesper service, Music choir, sports, gospel team activities, LAP family day and fun-fete.
According to the student handbook, internship is part of the graduation requirements and students can choose the place where they want to intern. Then, students propose to their teachers and Principal of school in order to receive approval to intern at their chosen places. Both students and teachers noted the importance of the trips to the community and work with the community which help students develop community development skills and to provide opportunities to apply what they have learned in the class in their communities.
Fun-fete activity mentioned in the student handbook provides opportunities for students to develop leadership and organizational skills besides developing their sense of sharing responsibilities, working in teams, having fellowship and understanding each other. Reaching out to students’ homes and sometimes to underprivileged people’ homes in the community during trips, visiting the families, all help the students to have fellowship with them and to understand the different families’ lifestyles and struggles. Internship reports also unveil the fact that most of the students chose to help the children in the villages and needy people or community. Students taught children English language, school subjects, handicraft, Bible and songs. Some students even came up with ways to help the community and reported to the responsible organizations.
The principal of school stated the impact of ECAs as follows in a Newsletter article.
“Newsletter will also touch each of the student’s heart, mind and whole being to change ones’ life to become a great leader one day.”
4.3 THE SCOPE OF ECAs
According to the findings from interview results, there are three areas to consider as ECAs which are in-school activities, subject-related activities (credited and non-credited) and outside school activities. The majority of students mentioned their involvement in subject-related credited activities and outside school activities when asked about their participation in ECAs.
Some participants highlighted a range of views on different areas of activities by the following comments.
“Concerning with ECAs, there are lots of it. Activities that are conducted by the student body for the whole school, and also there are activities conducted by small groups or committees… We also connected with district associations and churches for the gospel trips conducted by Evangelist and Mission Committee (E&M)… The importance of E&M short trips is to have fellowship with the community.” S1
“We have many groups. We have religious and major groups which do not concern with studies. For example, social major has a group which strike for social major activities.” S10
“We allowed students to form their own society and organize activities. For example, social studies students formed S3F (Social Studies Student Family). Beside school ECAs, they have their own activities. Other majors have their own groups and activities. Thus, a lot of activities are there because committees and groups also organize. Annually, school holds only two activities, Family Day and Christmas Fun Fair, For English major, they have to hold Burmese Drama for class credit.” T1
4.3.1 IN-SCHOOL ACTIVITIES
In-school activities mainly involve the activities organized by the Student Body and different committees. They can be clearly defined as ECAs which are non-credited activities and have no connection with the subject areas conducted outside of the curriculum. There are ten committees which organize activities for students, namely, education and knowledge sharing committee, women’s committee, Buddhist students association, evangelist and mission committee, finance committee, information and communication committee, sports committee, newsletter committee, social committee and student care and concern committee. The findings indicated that –
“Student Body mainly performs school activities… for example; song competition is organized by Music Committee. But for Family Day, fund raising is run under Student Body.” S2
“I am involved in song competition, Family Day retreat once a year, school talent shows, farewell, senior nights organized by Student Body… In those activities, I am responsible for games and backdrop setting.” S1
“Sports committee aims the students to be able to work together and gain unity. As for example, there is football and basketball matches for men. For women, there is tennis and volley ball.” S4
All of the committee’s activities are organized by the students with very little support from the teachers which is evident in the following quotes.
“Teacher’s involvements are very less. It has almost none. Students had to take thing on
themselves.”S3 “Not much, it is because full time teacher’s affairs and they could not participate much in activities.” T1
4.3.2 SUBJECT-RELATED ACTIVITIES (Credited and Non-credited)
Subject-related activities such as major field trips and performances can be credited and non-credited. According to the findings, subject-related activities are organized by the teachers as well as the students. There are classes activities which are compulsory and accredited, most include performing dramas, going on field trips and attending talks. These activities are usually led by the teachers. For example, English major students are required to participate in performing dramas each semester in their 3rd and 4th year as their final exam. Teachers give guidelines and lead the practice sessions. One student noted as follows:
“I am in fund raising for Musical Drama. Previously, I was in setting design for Burmese Drama. I also involved in a group to sell things to raise fund… English major organizes it.” S3
On the other hand, activities such as attending activities held by others and participating in activity are organized by each major group. These activities are non-accredited and organized by the students. For example, students majoring in social studies have their own major group to organize the activities related to their major or activities which support the compulsory activities. Non-credited subject-related activities, such as attending music concerts, operating the school shop and participating in trips, are highlighted by the range of comments.
“As a Music major group, we go and join other activities. Teacher encourages us to take experience like this. We went to music group to gain experience. We did not get credit for going there.” S4
“We manage the small shop at school as Business major students. It is to practice our theory of business in reality. It is not for class credits. Business Student Fellowship members manage the shop, not the whole major students. However, all the Business major students are invited to the meeting related to the issues of the shop.” S5
“Social major has a group which strike for social major activities. These activities concern with producing T-shirts and raising funds for social major trips… More or less, they get marks for social field trips… usually; they have to participate even if they have work.” S10
“ECAs in social major include community participation, field trips and work, and community development. Combined workshop is hold with the relevant students and people from the community.”T1
4.3.3 OUT-OF-SCHOOL ACTIVITIES
Out-of-school activities can be differentiated into two categories. The findings show that students are involved in outside school community-based or church-based activities. Students are involved in such activities with their own consent during their free time.
This is illustrated by the following comments about ECAs which students participate in outside of school activities with their own consent.
“Choir group from outside school that occupied most of my time. Every Saturday and Sunday I go to the group and teach music…This group is trying to become a professional group… I do not get any pay or anything but I get experience.” S7
“Outside, I volunteer at Anglican Young People Association… Once in two years, work camp is held with all the youth from around the country… We build tanks and roads.” S8
“I also share my knowledge at two monasteries every weekend.” S9
Moreover, some out-of-school activities are connected to school, such as internship and committees’ or majors’ organized trips which help, work with, benefit and are conducted in the community. These trips to the communities are usually arranged by the students, where they help and have fellowship with the community, less-privileged society and people. The findings indicated that:
“We connected with District Association… although we called it a gospel trip, our trips are much focused on fellowship with the community.” S1
“I think internship program is very useful for the students when we read their reports. When they interned at certain places around the country for one or two months taught them a lot of things. Internship provides benefits to both the students and also native people who live in that area. Students have learned a lot of lessons and values from those native people. When we read their reflection papers, we have read that they are really happy to do internship and gained a lot of experiences. It is very good ECAs.”T4
According to the student handbook, internship is part of the graduation requirements and students can choose the place where they want to intern. Then, students propose to their teachers and Dean of school in order to receive approval to intern at their chosen places. Both students and teachers noted the importance of the trips to the community and work with the community which help students develop community development skills and to provide opportunities to apply what they have learned in the classroom in their community.
4.4 IMPACTS OF ECAs
Both student leaders and students who participated in the activities noted a number of positive impacts such as great experiences which develop their social life, academic life and other skills. Student participants were asked to provide positive and negative impacts of participation in ECAs, both on their social life, academic life, future careers and developing different life skills. Teachers were also asked to provide their perceptions on the role of ECAs in education and impacts they have seen on students’ lives. According to the findings from interviews with students and teachers, participating in ECAs offer positive impacts, especially on students’ social lives with the development of different life skills one student described the impact of participation in ECAs in a simple way as:
“When one participates, one can learn a lot from the leaders. When one has to lead, one will get a lot of experiences.” S9
4.4.1 SOCIAL LIFE AND BEHAVIOURS
All the students mentioned that participating in ECAs had a positive impact on their social lives. They had learned to improve their social skills through interaction with different types of people. Being on different trips also taught them how to work with others effectively. They gained new friends and built closer friendships between each other. Some of the student leaders mentioned how taking a leadership role in ECAs widened their social space and offered an opportunity to work with professionals in the business market. The findings highlighted the social experiences and learning students gained from ECAs.
“We get experiences from activities. What we learned from associating with others cannot be experienced in classroom. Mainly, we get this knowledge from ECAs.” S1
“Through these activities (ECAs), we learned social dealing skills and group work… we improve in negotiation skills… We gained professional experiences.” S8
“After involving in ECAs, they were able to come out of their ethnic groups. They gained social dealing skills. There is less discrimination. They are able to mix with others from different ethnic groups.” T1
The majority of students and teachers suggested that ECAs were useful as part of their preparation for future jobs and careers, including the ability to apply what they have learned from participating in ECAs to their work environment.
A number of students and teachers commented about this impact on their future career of how experiences and learning from ECAs would be useful and for some, how they were already able to apply them in their current jobs.
“It is more than what they can learn in the classroom and from textbooks and assignments. They gain a lot of experience for their future career as well, which they can apply in the real world… In NGOs field, this school is well-known because of academic and ECAs and students are automatically impressed.” T2
“We have a lot of feedbacks from alumni about how experiences from ECAs have positive impacts on their working life.” T5
“The strength for me is that I became more mature, developed leadership skills. Because of that, I believe that can work well in my future job based on these experiences.” S5 “It (involvement in ECAs) will be helpful a lot. I have so many links now. I get many
personal link links. It is easy for me to find sponsor in the future.” “If we learn and participate in the activities, the school can write good recommendation for us when we apply jobs.” S9
4.4.3 LIFE SKILLS
Most student leaders stated that they had gained all or some of the following: social skills, management skills, communication skills, leadership skills, teamwork, decision-making skills, intrapersonal and interpersonal skills. The findings indicated that:
“Especially in this year, acting as co-president, I gain leadership and decision-making abilities… I also came to understand how to motivate people… As for selling things, they (students) are practising how to relate with people and how to persuade people. These skills are developed.” S2
“I have learned how to be a good leader and how to manage. I have also learned what they want, how to negotiate with them to reach the goal. I have learned to deal with people with different types and personalities.” S5
“I gained leadership skills and associating skills.” S8
“When I worked as President for Newsletter committee, I had to smile and talk to people. Then, my social space is widening… I learn how to relate with leaders. Now, I know how to arrange appointment with Dean and Vice Principal. I know how to write official letters.” S9
“Some students, who are in leadership roles learn to manage, work in a team and organize events… some sstudents, have developed different skills.” T2
Not only the leaders and members who organize the activities, but also students who participated in the activities developed their social skills, teamwork, intrapersonal and
A range of positive experiences and developed skills, such as interpersonal, intrapersonal and team work, is evident in the following quotes.
“Involving in those activities (ECAs), bring relationship closer between friends… I am more patient and have more understanding now. I know how to relate with others.” S3
“I was able to work with team as well.” S4
“I think ECAs offer here is good. They get offer experiences such as leadership skills, how to deal with others, and how to adapt oneself while attending school.” T4
A number of participants thought that experiences and learning gained from involvement in ECAs had a wider impact, even on the community. There were positive impacts when the students go on field trips and community participation. The students revealed that participating in ECAs encouraged them to have the spirit of helping the community. When students went on trips organized by the committees, they served the community by looking after the needy and poor.
The quotes which hint at the ECAs impact on the community such as benefits gained by the community are as follows.
“I have been leading Choir group from outside that occupied most of my time. Every Saturday and Sunday, I go to the group and teach music… When my church called me to lead some programs, I was able to lead them as well.” S7
“I also share my knowledge at two monasteries every weekend.” S9
“Other students, parents and relatives are invited to the Drama performances so it has effects to the wider community.” T2
“Internship provides benefits to both the students and also native people who live in that area.” T3
“When the students go back to their home town after graduation, they can lead their community and churches. These results are not only because of what is taught in the classroom, but also because of internship programs and ECAs.” T5
4.4.5 ACADEMIC LEARNING
Students are asked for their perception of the positive and/or negative impacts on their academic life and grade because of their involvement in ECAs. Teachers were also asked if they had noticed any impacts in the classroom. However, a few students cannot link effectiveness of participation in ECAs to their academic life which is evident in the following comment made by two students.
“As for academic life, I think it is not much connected.” S1
“There is no relation to apply what I have learned in the classroom and what I have learned in Music committee.” S7
Some of the comments are rather neutral, which they mentioned no positive or negative impacts on academic results, which can be seen in the following quote.
“As for me, no marks went down. This is because I manage my time well, time to study and time to do ECAs.” S5
On the other hand, some of the students noted that they are too involved in ECAs which makes them tired physically and mentally, sometimes led them to miss classes and not being able to focus on study. Some students and teachers highlighted a number of negative impacts on students’ academic life such as decreasing in marks and missing classes because of their involvement in ECAs as is evident in the following quotes.
“It does affect my study. It is because I had to go around each class to make announcement and so I was late for class… When I was too tired, I cannot study anymore… I have to cancel my classes for the meetings.” S2
“I have missed some classes. As for me, I prioritized lesson. If these coincide (ECAs and class), I choose study. As for my friend who belongs to Social committee, got 40 marks for Chinese class as she has to go for announcements and all for activities. Then, the teacher asked her to reduce social work.” S3
“There are students whose marks are decreased as they spent too much time on activities. But I think it concerns with personal attitude and doings. As for me, I feel positive.” S4
“There are only a few student leaders who participate in ECAs actively and at the same time, hold their academic standing, good grades.” T4
“On negative side, some students who are outstanding academically, but they have never participated in any ECAs except the ones with credits. On the other hand, there are some students who participate actively in every ECAs but when looking at their GPA, they graduated with minimum required GPA. Most of the students who participate in ECAs, however, have lower marks.” T5
However, a few students and teachers thought that their involvement in ECAs had a positive impact on their academic life. It is shown that the positive impacts happen when the ECAs are relevant to their courses or majors. Class-accredited activities are also helpful for their academic results. For example, when students have an opportunity to practise what they have learned in the classroom by the Business major students operating a shop at school. Another example is that when English major students improve
their English by participating in debates, talks and Newsletter committee.
“I can learn the mistakes that I have made in grammar… I have improved my English, the usage and writing style… those class credited activities become a practice for English and public speaking.” S6
“So it (experience from ECAs) also affects in the classroom. Students here are more confident to talk to teacher compare to the students from other universities.” S10
“By doing the activities, they become more responsive especially in their second year… they gained confidence for presentation… Students are smart and capable. They actively involved in activities and we do not allow academic to loosen. Student leaders are more intelligent.” T1
“From ECAs experiences, they have come to learn who is good at what and they can give the roles and responsibilities according to each other strength. They know how to make presentations interesting, how to manage the time, etc.” T2
However, students noted both positive and negative impacts of participation in ECAs on students’ academic learning, the majority of the students and teachers pointed out that it depends on each student, how they manage their time effectively. Time management between their study and participation in ECAs play a crucial part of student life.
4.5 STUDENT’S AND TEACHER’S PERCEPTION OF THE ROLE OF ECAs
The following section presents the general aspects of ECA’s role in education, experiences and learning gained from participating in ECAs met the mission statement and objectives set by the particular schools (LAP).
4.5.1 LAP TEACHER’S PERCEPTION OF POTENTIAL ECAs’ ROLE IN EDUCATION
There are two types of education sectors, one is public which is run by the government and the other one is private, run by independent organizations. The question concerned with the role of ECAs in education in general was asked of the teachers. All of the LAP teachers presented their knowledge that there are no ECAs at Public schools. The perceptions of LAP teachers on the potential role and importance of ECAs in education is evident in the following extracts.
“From my perspective, theories that we taught in the class need to practice. ECAs open a chance for students to practise their lessons.” T1
“Not having such ECAs can make students not willing to go to school. Since Myanmar education system is teacher-centred approach, it is quite boring. If the school provides ECAs, students can have more interaction among each other and they can also develop other skills, such as leadership, creative and critical thinking skills. It is important because most students, seven out of ten, attend public schools.” T2
“ECAs provide variety of experiences to the students. It will be good to offer ECAs at public schools so that students will have fun. In education as you know, students only think about study, study and study. We cannot teach social skills practically in the classroom. Thus, when they participate in ECAs, they learn a lot about social dealing and interaction.”
4.5.2 MISSION STATEMENT AND OBJECTIVES OF LIBERAL ART PROGRAMME
The mission statement set by the school for LAP stated in the student handbook can
be summarized as follows: an open environment where students can develop creative and critical thinking individually, students become qualified to work in various fields and students are able to bring impact and changes in the communities. The objectives are to provide a learning atmosphere that promotes participatory thinking, creativity, and problem-solving, to enable students to master skills relevant to their fields and prepare them for life-long learning and to empower students to become highly educated and liberated through a broad-based liberal arts program.
Firstly, LAP indeed is a place for student to develop creative, critical thinking and problem solving skills by organizing a variety of ECAs.
“I believe that it meets at least indirectly. Students develop mentally, spiritually and socially through participation in ECAs brings good image to the school.” T3
“I think some experiences meet the mission statement directly. One of the mission statements is to nurture the future leaders. When we talk about leaders, being outstanding academically does not make a good leader. I think learning and experiences gained from ECAs, how to manage and deal with others, and being good academically would only make a good leader. Students might not know what they have learned from ECAs right now, but they will eventually realize the value of it when they enter the work force. This is because we have a lot of feedbacks from alumni about how experiences from ECAs have positive impacts on their working life.” T5
Secondly, the comments of students, teachers and alumni about the experiences and learning through ECAs have shaped them to master their jobs.
“It (participating in ECAs) also opens up the job opportunities for the future. In NGO field, this school is well-known because of academic and ECAs and students are
automatically impressed.” T2
Thirdly, students are able to bring minor or major transformation to the communities through internship programs, community participation and field trips.
“Main vision is to provide good and education for the students… So, those learning or experiences might not be in the vision but still students have got more than what is stated in the mission statement.” T4
4.5.3 COMPARISON THE PUBLIC AND PRIVATE SCHOOL ON THE ROLE OF ECAs
The majority of the students and teachers noted that there are no ECAs offered at public schools where the students focus only on their study. One LAP teacher commented on general public education as follow.
“In education as you know, students only think about study, study and study.” T4
One of the LAP teachers mentioned that public schools do not involve any class-credited activities to their curriculum and some of the major subjects offered at LAP cannot be studied at the public universities as follows.
“ECAs open a chance for students to practice their lessons. This is rare in government schools. For those who do not get a chance for practical work, they will be weak in future practical work… There is no group in Education Ministry that evaluates the curriculum. I want the board to evaluate the curriculum and they should go into the community to find out more in order to effectively critique the curriculum… This kind of subject (Social studies) should be implemented in government schools.” T1
“Nowadays, we have heard a lot about whole person development in the government… I think ECAs focuses a lot more on personal development of each student. Government
schools should consider those as well.” T5
Most of the students stated that they do not attend public day universities – instead they chose distance education. Therefore, they did not have many comments to make on the comparison of public universities and LAP on ECAs’ role.
One of the students highlighted a few ECAs were offered at public school through his experience. However, he stated that there is too much teacher-control over the activities and a lot of restrictions as opposed to LAP where students mostly lead the activities with little help from teachers. On the downside of being a liberal arts school providing opportunities to experience things through ECAs, it sometimes led students to have too much freedom and challenge the teachers. He commented as follows.
“I found differences in teachers’ control. Teachers told students how much they should pay, treat and buy presents for them. Teachers led those activities. As the government schools are controlled by the government, they could not hold many activities… There were lots of restrictions… I think class presentations need to be added… As LAP is a liberal school, it is very liberal. It is because too liberal; some cases are out of control. Guidance is needed.” S2
One LAP teacher highlighted the value of ECAs and why it is important to implement in the public school.
“It is important because most student, 7 out of 10, attend Public schools. So it would be great to provide such ECAs since different students have different talents.” T2
4.6 REASONS AND BARRIERS TO PARTICIPATION IN ECAs
The following section presents the students’ and teachers’ perceptions on what help and hinder students participating in ECAs. There are a number of factors why the students decided to get involved in ECAs and why some students are not able to participate although they wish to. Students and teachers also revealed the possible strategies to overcome the challenges which stop some students from participating in ECAs.
4.6 1 REASON TO PARTICIPATION IN ECAs
Students noted the reasons for participating in ECAs as their personality and desire to contribute to the school community and other students. The reasons to enrol in ECAs such as team work and leadership skills, enjoy being in a group, social and committee involvement, opportunity for friendship, developing English skills and gratitude towards their school, are shown in the following quotes.
“Since I was young, I do not like to stay alone. I am happy when I am in a group.” S1
“Since I was young, I would like to do something best for the school… The main thing is that I would like to see some improvement in my surrounding.” S2
“As a youth, I want motivation and close friendship with friends. Involving in these activities motivated me and gained close friendship with friends. I was able to work with team as well. As a youth, I want to live freely and do things together with friends. Thus, I joined these ECAs.” S4
“The main thing why I am interested (to be on Newsletter committee) is that I believe it is a place to develop my English skills since I am E-major student.” S6
“First of all, it is because of my desire to get involve. I want to gain experiences. I want to learn team spirit, leadership and to do things that seniors did.” S8
“Honestly speaking, I could apply the methods that I learned here in the outer world. Thus, I wanted to do something for school in gratitude. So I involved.” S9
“Involving in activities gives us an opportunity to experience workplace. It is like in the workplace. We have to relate to other students and teacher.” S10
4.6.2 BARRIERS TO PARTICIPATION IN ECAs
Both students and teachers noted a number of barriers which hinder the students from participating in ECAs. Both students and teachers believed that money is the biggest hindrance followed by the time availability of students. Two of LAP teachers pointed out that some of ECAs (both credited and non-credited) cost quite a lot of money to participate.
“The main barrier is money. Participating in certain ECAs or class credited activities cost quite a lot of money… Some students do not want to work with a lot of people. Some students are shy to participants in activities in which they have to speak or act in front of others on the stage. These are the biggest barriers…Some parents don’t understand the aspect of ECAs. And some students don’t participate in ECAs because of their parents.” T2
“The first barrier is time… second barrier is money… third barrier is their personality.” T5
Both students and teachers stated that the school do nat provide any financial support to run those activities. Regarding time availability, most of the students attend Public Day University or other courses and some of the students work full-time. It is commented as follow:
“One reason is because some students attend public day university. They cannot participate in activities which are conducted during day time. The main reason for most students is their interest.” T4
One student pointed out the challenge to make a decision to participate when the commitment and responsibilities they have taken in outside school activities collide with ECAs at school.
“And sometimes, church activities and school activities collided. Then, I had to cancel school choir practice which is not important compare to church activity.” S2
One of the most significant challenges facing students in participating in ECAs is study. Some students think that ECAs take too much of their time and are afraid that their marks would go down if they participated in ECAs. A few students noted as follows.
“Mainly, study. People focus on study whether it is right or not. Second barrier concerns with parents… Permission of parents is needed… But her parents do not allow her to be a Chairperson of committee because they are afraid that she will face troubles in exam.” S3
“Students who do not participate in ECAs are the one who think that these are extra work which is not important… Some students only focus on study and they think if they participate in ECAs, it might affect their study.” S5
Another barrier is not getting permission from parents to become involved, sometimes, even to go on class-credited field trips. For some students, it is their nature and personality that they do not wish to do things together in a group, but prefer to stay alone by them.
“For some, they like to do things alone. They cannot work in groups.” S4
“They (students) were told by their parent that learning does not need to go for a trip. Some parents think trips are just for fun.” T1
4.7 STRATEGIES TO OVERCOME THE CHALLENGES
Students and teachers highlighted the possible strategies to overcome the challenges they have mentioned in order for students to participate in ECAs. Regarding the money issue, most of them pointed out the school is not able to provide financial support.
“Concerns with class-credited activities, if the school cannot support financially, they should support other things.” S3
“Now, United Board has opened a way for us. We can write proposal and seek their funding so that we can financially support those (students) who have financial difficulties to go on class-credited field trips.” T1
“Students should understand, help and support each other when working together in groups… The school should listen to the problems and find a way to solve them such as money and place issues.” T2
“For the money issue, it would be better if the school can provide certain amount to conduct those activities.” T5
Big activities are held during weekends rather than weekdays in order to have more participation. However, some activities still need to be conducted during the weekdays. A few students suggested a number of ways to overcome times issues as follows:
“There are students who could not join the activities because they had some problems. So, the leaders should consider about them and think of ways for them to participate in activities.” S4
“Related to time issue, we try to choose suitable time for all students to be able to participate.” T5
One of the students and teachers highlighted the need of parental education for whole person development and education. One student commented that it would encourage students to participate more if they get some marks for participating actively in ECAs.
“Parental education is also needed. For them, achieving 1st, 2nd, 3rd grades is important. They think that if their children involved in activities, the children grade will be affected… As for changes, I hope that collecting money from students would be reduced and supports from school would increase.” S2
“What I want to add is that there should be grading for those who involve in ECAs. It is because they give time and energy for the activities.” S10
In this chapter, findings from semi-structured interviews with ten students and five teachers from LAP and analysis of school documents are presented. The interviewees are third and fourth year LAP students majoring in different subjects and participating or leading in ECAs. The teacher interviewees include Dean of students, three full-time teachers and one part-time assistant teacher. The main themes concern the scope of ECAs, the impacts of ECAs, the role of ECAs and encouragement and challenges to participating in ECAs.
The overall results indicated that there are three different areas to cover when looking at ECAs. Both students and teachers defined the scope of ECAs based on different views such as what activities are in the category of ECAs and how wide the scope of ECAs is according to the participants’ perceptions.
The findings showed that there are impacts of ECAs in different areas of students’ lives such as social, academic, different life skills and skills necessary for future jobs and careers. The major findings included the positive learning of how to deal with others, how to solve problems and conflicts and overcome the challenges and team work. The majority of students and teachers highlighted the negative effects on grades when participating in ECAs actively. However, most of the class-credited and subject-related activities are considered a big help for students’ academic life. The findings on the impact on their future career showed that what students learned and experienced in ECAs would prepare them for future jobs. Some students who are currently working also stated how useful these experiences and skills gained from ECAs are and how they can apply them at their current jobs. Moreover, the findings pointed out that ECAs not only have impacts on students but also bring positive impacts to the community around them. Lastly, one of the major findings indicated that students gained social skills, management skills, communication skills, leadership skills, teamwork, decision-making skills, intrapersonal and interpersonal skills. The result showed that ECAs provided a variety of experience and helped students to enjoy school. ECAs can provide skills and experiences which students cannot gain from studying in the classroom. The findings also highlighted that experiences and learning from ECAs meet the mission statement and objectives set by LAP directly and indirectly. There is also evidence that no ECAs are offered at public schools with teacher’s suggestion to implement if possible at Public schools. Both groups suggested that ECAs should be part of school learning and student’s experience.
Overall, the majority of participants stated the reasons to be involved in ECAs such as team work and leadership skills, social and committee involvement, opportunity for friendship, developing English skills and gratitude towards their school. The findings addressed the barriers to participating in ECAs such as money and time issues, getting parents’ permission, focus on study and other commitments. Both teachers and students suggested the possible strategies to overcome those challenges.
5. DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION
Chapter five has discussed the findings of this study by exploring the perceptions and experiences of students and teachers in the Liberal Arts Program (LAP) with reference to the research questions highlighted in Chapter one with the links to the literature review in Chapter two.
First of all, the researcher explored the scope of ECAs, including in-school activities, subject-related activities (credited and non-credited) and out-of-school activities, based on the views of LAP students and teachers. Secondly, the researcher listed five main areas in which participation in ECAs has positive and/or negative impacts. The areas include (1) social life and behaviours, (2) future careers, (3) community, (4) life skills and (5) academic learning. Moreover, the relationship between the LAP mission statement, learning outcomes and ECAs experiences were discussed. Lastly, the discussion then focused on the issues and challenges encountered in ECAs participation and strategies to overcome those challenges.
The study raised the question of the scope of ECAs. The significant findings showed that the scope of ECAs is more than non-credited clubs, sports and organizations activities, and included activities outside the school and class-related activities.
In relation to the impact on social skills and behaviours, students gained social and negotiation skills with different types of people, teamwork skills and problem-solving skills to resolve conflicts between each other, the opportunity to interact with friends who
are outside of their close group of friends and develop sympathy for the lives of under-
The experiences students gained from involvement in extracurricular activities such as leadership skills, social skills, management skills, team work skills, personal and professional links and good recommendation from LAP helped students to get a job more easily. Moreover, the reputation of the university students attend was enhanced when students who had participated in ECAs looked for a job.
The development of social skills, management skills, communication skills, leadership skills, teamwork, decision-making skills, intrapersonal and interpersonal skills was part of the benefits of participation in ECAs. The study found that students, especially student leaders, learned to plan and organize different activities, how to arrange trips and become more mature. The significant finding of this study highlighted the wider impacts on the community such as helping the needy and poor mostly through internships, sharing and applying knowledge gained from school in their community or church through out-of-school ECAs.
It is evident that there were negative impacts on academic life mostly due to overly time-consuming participation in different ECAs, and missing classes because of tiredness and the responsibilities of ECAs. Teachers raised concerns that students leaders tended to have lower class attendance and lower GPA. However, half of the students perceived that there was no significant impact or correlation between participation in ECAs and academic learning. Moreover, there were such positive impacts as gaining confidence to speak up in the classroom, improving English and writing.
The analysis of school documents and newsletters showed that the mission statement,
objectives and learning outcomes set were met directly or indirectly through experiences
and the learning gained from participation in the extracurricular activities. This chapter also considered the challenges to overcome in order to participate in ECAs. The significant challenges include (1) monetary costs of ECAs, (2) time management and pressure, (3) negative impacts on study and (4) parental involvement and permission. This chapter continued to explore the strategies to overcome the challenges faced in participating in ECAs. Strategies students and teachers recommended include (1) getting financial support from the university, (2) organizing the activities according to most students’ availability, (3) giving parental education on ECAs and (4) receiving academic credits for ECAs.
The findings of this study related to the areas of students’ social life and behaviours, future careers, life skills and community concurred with current literature. The findings of this study are important because it provides new insights into the current literature through the specific context, private tertiary education.
5.2 RESEARCH FINDINGS
The participants identified three areas as part of ECAs, in-school activities, subject-related activities and out-of-school activities. Thus, the findings showed that ECAs not only include school clubs, sports and organization activities, but also class-related activities and out-of-school activities. Social and negotiation skills with different types of people, teamwork skills and problem-solving skills to resolve conflicts between each other, opportunities to interact with friends who are outside of their close group of friends and developed sympathy for the lives of unprivileged people are the benefits of involvement in ECAs.
Students and teachers noted that leadership skills, social skills, management skills, team-
work skills, personal and professional links and good recommendation from LAP helped students to get a job more easily. Students graduating from LAP are well-known as creative and critical thinkers, out-spoken and well-rounded people in NGOs field. Thus, the reputation of the students attend was seen as an important aspect when students look for the job.
The participants identified social skills, management skills, communication skills, leadership skills, teamwork, decision-making skills, intrapersonal and interpersonal skills as being an important part of benefits gained through participation in ECAs. Internships and sharing/applying knowledge gained from school to their community or church through out-of-school ECAs was identified as a way to have positive impacts on their community and needy people. The participants have outlined their perceptions of how ECAs involvement sometimes has negative impacts on academic learning because of missing classes, lower class attendance and over-involvement in ECAs which conveys the complexities of experiences of the role of ECAs in students’ academic life. However, gaining confidence to speak up in the classroom, improving English and writing were identified as the benefits of ECAs experiences.
The analysis of school documents and newsletters showed that the mission statement, objectives and learning outcomes set by the university are met directly or indirectly through the experiences and learning gained from participation in ECAs.
The significant challenges include (1) money issue, (2) time management issue, (3) negative impacts on study and (4) parental involvement and permission. The strategies to
overcome the barriers to participation in ECAs were also identified. Strategies students and teachers employed include (1) getting financial support, (2) organizing the activities
according to most students’ availability, (3) giving parental education on ECAs and (4) receiving academic credits for ECAs.
5.3 IMPLICATIONS OF FINDING
The study identifies few key issues. The first issue is the understanding of the scope of ECAs by LAP students and teachers. Since ECAs are not very familiar in education, the scope of ECAs is not clearly defined. The LAP students and teachers have identified class-credited activities which are part of the curriculum as one of the categories of ECAs; on the other hand, a few studies highlight ECAs as activities outsides of school traditional curriculum. This can be considered by education policy makers and curriculum leaders to identify the clear scope of ECAs in all levels of schooling.
Regarding parental education, educators could advocate ECAs more widely. LAP leaders and teachers can structure ECAs systematically in order for parents and students to understand what ECAs is and its benefits. It might be necessary for LAP to promote ECAs widely in the community rather than keeping it to themselves within school. Moreover, one important aspect includes advocating to the teachers and educators the importance of ECAs and ECAs as part of the education system.
Perhaps the unexpected source of difficulty in this study is revealing the perceptions of students and teachers on the comparison of the role of ECAs in public and private universities. There was not much information on this area since most of the students who were interviewed do not attend public university but instead go through distance learning.
However, it would be worth comparing and contrasting ECAs role in public and private
schools for future research.
5.4 LIMITATIONS OF RESEARCH
Since this particular study draws upon an interpretive research methodology, the findings have explored the relevance to the context and can make only limited statements for generalizations of the findings. One of the main limitations of this study was its scope. This is because the findings came from five teachers and ten students from a private school. Moreover, LAP takes place a largely Christian College; however, the students are well-mixed of different religions. This study was an in-depth qualitative study and its aim was to explore the perceptions of students and teachers on the role of ECAs at a private university. The findings provide insights into the perceptions and experiences of a small group of student and teacher who
brought their own experiences and views to complete this particular research.
According to the documented literature, this is the very first piece of research on ECAs in the context. Therefore, rather than carrying out hypothesis testing, this research primarily described all the results and findings based on the exploratory questions. Since convenience sampling was used to conduct this study, the sample population may not represent the perceptions and experiences of ECAs in Myanmar tertiary education. This study was done at one private school with a sample size of ten students and five teachers. Therefore, although the results were not fully representative, it could be assumed that some findings may to some extent reveal the perceptions and experiences of students and teachers about participation in ECAs, ECAs practices, benefits and problems of participation, issues about participating in ECAs and strategies to overcome them in the context. For instance, it could be assumed that regardless of the low representation level of the sample, the data indicated that at least some students who attended a private universities experienced positive effects on their social life and behaviours, future careers, life skills, community and academic learning.
The discussion on the learning outcomes of ECAs meeting the mission statement and objectives of LAP is critical since it showed that experiences and learning gained through participation in ECAs plays a supplementary role in fulfilling the LAP mission statement and objectives.
Not many significant findings on the comparison of private and public school related to ECAs were found in this study. Most teachers commented that there were no ECAs offered at public school as far as they knew and suggested that it would be valuable to implement ECAs programme at public schools. In contrast, one of the students noted from his experience a few ECAs were offered at public schools such as debates and teacher honouring activities. However, there was too much teacher-control over the activities and a lot of restrictions, contrary to LAP where students mostly led the activities with little help from teachers.
The discussion suggested that parental involvement and permission can be seen as one of the challenges. A few students and one teacher emphasized the perception of some parents that it is not necessary to take part in ECAs, which are considered unimportant and fun activities for students. Some parents did not even encourage their children to go on class-credited field trips. Most parents thought that if their child were involved in ECAs, their GPA would go down. One teacher highlighted the fact that this way of thinking was mainly because of the education system where ECAs are mostly neglected.
As a major reason teachers have difficulties to get students to participate in ECAs is because of the lack of parental involvement.
This chapter draws conclusions from the findings of the research. It presents aim of the study, a summary of the research findings, a discussion of their implications and recommendations for future research and practice, and a consideration of the limitations of this study. The findings add to the limited amount of literature about education related to extracurricular activities (ECAs). The findings are relevant to educators who are in both private and public education sectors, the education policy makers who are currently involved in education reform and future practitioners in the related area. This study will be of value particularly to LAP leaders, teachers, current students who are interested in improving ECAs programme for the future. Moreover, this study will be of interest to prospective students who want to learn about what LAP can offer.
In particular, this study addresses what role ECAs play in students’ lives, how the LAP mission statement and learning outcomes can be met through ECAs, the issues of participation in ECAs and strategies to overcome the barriers to participating in ECAs. Its aim is to give a voice especially to the students and their views on the role of ECAs in order to contribute to the wider research on the future implementation of ECAs as part of education system especially through higher educational reform.
The findings and the implications of this research have highlighted some areas where
practice might be improved. The following recommendation that is outcome of this
research may provide a support for LAP and a framework for future research.
5.7.1 Recommendations for Practice
1) It is important to gain a clear understanding of the scope of ECAs which are currently offered at LAP, which activities are considered to be ECAs and which activities are related to a particular course with credits. It should be clearly stated in school policy documents under the section of ECAs.
2) The number of similar ECAs can be reduced in order to have most effective results.
For instance, different organizations with the same objectives can cooperate together when organizing the activities. This would save students time, energy and would reduce the negative impacts on students’ academic learning.
3) Since the guidance received from the school board and teachers is low, it would be helpful to have systematic supervision of different ECA organizations and the student body. However, since this is liberal arts programme which gives freedom to the students, teachers can be at the organizations and student body meetings to offer advice whenever necessary rather than taking a leadership role.
4) The researcher recommends that the strategies to overcome the challenges faced by the students in order to participate in ECAs should be attended to and acted on by LAP leaders to give the most support possible. This can be achieved through listening to the students’ voice and an in-depth discussion with student leaders on the issues of participation in ECAs.
5) The university should support and encourage students to take part in ECAs more because of the benefits resulting from participating in ECAs such as social and negotiation skills with different types of people, teamwork skills and problem-solving skills, leadership skills, social skills and management skills.
5.7.2 Recommendations for Future Research
Future research could be conducted on:
1) The issues facing education policy makers to include ECAs as part of the learning at all level of schooling in education
2) The issues facing practitioners in implementing ECAs at public schools in order to find better strategies to solve the issues
3) Positive and negative impacts of ECAs at other private high schools and universities which offer ECAs
The study provides some useful results for future research. The future research could be done at other private high schools or universities which offer ECAs. Such studies will need to investigate key issues faced mainly by the education policy makers and education board in implementing ECAs. This will give new insights into the area of ECAs in the context. This study aims to deepen the understanding of perceptions and experiences of students and teachers particularly of the role of ECAs offered at Liberal Arts Programme at a private school. Moreover, part of this study aimed to advise a better practice for educators or practitioners. In future work, it would be appropriate to investigate whether the results of this study would apply in other private schools and universities in the same context. An extension of the interviews to a larger sample would enhance the validity of the findings.