1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
Environment plays major role in the life of every individual whether a student, teacher, employer or employee. Though, some people are yet to believe that environment brings about better performance. The school environment, which includes the classrooms, libraries, technical workshops, laboratories, teachers’ quality, school management, teaching methods, peers, etc are variables that affect students’ academic achievement (Orlu, 2013). Hence, the school environment remains an important area that should be studied and well managed to enhance students’ academic performance.
The issue of poor academic performance of students in Nigeria has been of much concern to the government, parents, teachers and even student themselves. The quality of education not only depends on the teachers as reflected in the performance of their duties, but also in the effective coordination of the school environment (Owoeye and Yara, 2011).
When children move out from the family to child care centres, schools, and the community at large, they begin to form attachments, and friendships emerge through their play. Even infants and toddlers are observed reacting to other infants by touching them, by crying when others cry and later by offering nurturance or comfort. But about age three; early friendships begin to form and children’s peers begin to have a more lasting influence (Barbour, Barbour and Scully, 2002). These children begin to think and act like their friends and they begin to see that there are other values, opinions, and rules besides those set by their parents (Ajuba, 2011).
Young people in their adolescence, join different peer groups and identify themselves with these groups by participating in their activities in order not to be rejected. A peer group is a source of great influence during the time of adolescence (Majeed, 2010). In a contemporary society, peer groups have become an increasingly important context in which adolescents spend time. Modernization has led more and more to age segregation-in schools, work place, and in the community. How much time one spends with friends will play a great part in the development of the adolescent into the mature adult (Barbour, Barbour and Scully, 2002).
The adolescent spends much of his time with the members of his peer group. He follows the ideals of the group; he would want to be fully accepted. Nothing can be more devastating to the adolescent than to be rejected by his age mates (Vishala, 2008). Adolescents are mainly influenced by their peers in such a way that their attitudes, beliefs and behaviors are conditioned by what is conceived to be okay by other people (Dewey, 2008). According to Castrogiovanni (2002), a peer group is defined as a small group of similar age, fairly close friends, sharing the same activities. It is against this backdrop that this research seeks to examine the nexus between school environment and peer influence on students’ academic achievement in economics with a special reference to some selected secondary schools in Alimosho LGA of Lagos State.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Many of the studies on school environment, peer influence and students’ academic achievement were done outside Nigeria. Moreover, in Nigeria, most of the few available studies about school environment and peer influence and its possible effect on students’ academic achievement were theoretical studies whose findings were subjectively based on researchers’ personal opinions. It is noted that the past studies did not give adequate attention to the problem under investigation. Hence, this study will fill in the gap by empirically examine the relationship between school environment, peer influence and students’ academic achievement in economics in Lagos State.
When it comes to poor academic performance by students in economics, people are being too quick to blame parents and their students. But the fundamental problems facing education in Nigeria since independence are largely school environmental factors, ranging from inadequate school structures, poorly equipped classrooms, high rate of school enrolment, inadequate instructional materials, high drop-out unto inadequate facilities; all these culminating to mass failure in public examination in economics. These challenges led to the introduction of the renowned 6-3-3-4 system. However, the problem of poor academic performance in economics still persists.
Another fundamental problem to students’ academic performance in economics at the secondary school level is the dynamics of peer pressure. Research has shown that over the last 50 years, peer pressure has emerged as the chief source of values and behavioural influence in adolescence, replacing the influence of parents (Oni, 2010). Along with this new trend has come an unprecedented rise in antisocial behaviours, as students now tend to be directly or indirectly manipulated and controlled by the party of friends they keep without a care for academic excellence. In this vein, Abd-Elhamid et al (2014) carefully warned that friends play an important role in both harmful and positive activities, and that peer pressure predisposes adolescents to many forms of deviance, including alcoholism, gangsterism, robbery and violent secret cult activities even to the detriment of their academic dreams and eventual outcomes. Given the foregoing, it can be expected that some of the social vices and poor academic achievement that are recorded yearly in Nigerian senior secondary schools in subjects like economics are the result of poor school environment and peer group influence on adolescents.
1.3 PURPOSE OF THE STUDY
The purpose of this study is to explore the impact of school environment and peer group influence on students’ academic achievement in economics. Other specific objectives are:
a.To determine the impact of school environment on students’ learning outcomes.
b.To examine the relationship between peer group influence and learning outcome of students in economics in Lagos State.
c.To identify the current challenges to students’ academic achievement in economics.
d.To provide plausible recommendations on how to improve students’ academic achievement in economics.
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
Based on the problems discussed above, the study provided answers to the following research questions:
1.What is the impact of school environment on students’ academic achievement?
.What influence does peer group have on academic achievement of students in economics?
3.Does teaching environment and peer pressure have any impact on students’ academic performance?
1.5 RESEARCH HYPOTHESES
The study tested the following hypotheses at 0.5 level of significance:
H01: There is no significant impact of school environment on students’ academic achievement.
H02: There is no significant relationship between peer group and academic achievement of students in economics.