Background to the study
Education plays a very significant role in national development and for this reason, the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 1998 adopted education as an instrument par-excellence for this desired goal. Through education, desirable habits, skills, attitudes and values of the society are transmitted and cultivated in the individual with the view to making him useful to himself and the society at large.
University education in Nigeria has witnessed tremendous development since the country’s independence in 1960. This is in recognition of the fact that the National Policy on Education stipulates that university education in Nigeria shall make optimum contribution to national development by intensifying and diversifying its programmes for the development of high-level manpower within the context of the needs of the nation (FGN, 2004). In pursuance of this objective, university education in Nigeria has been geared towards the production of high-level manpower. In doing this, examination has been the main criterion of quality of the educational system (Adeyemi, 2010).
Ebenuwa-Okoh (2010) defines academic performance as participants’ examination grades (grade point average) at the end of a particular semester or programme. It could also be seen as the level of performance in a particular field of study. Higher scores indicate better academic performance (Egbule, 2012). The social and economic development of the country is directly linked with student academic performance (Mushtaq & Khan, 2012). Academic performance plays an important role in producing the best quality graduates who will become great leaders and manpower for the country thus responsible for the country’s economic and social development (Ali & Jusoff, 2009).
In educational institutions, success is measured by academic performance, or how well a student meets standards set out by government and the institution itself. As career competition grows ever fiercer in the working world, the importance of students performing well in school has caught the attention of parents, legislators and government education departments alike. Although education is not the only road to success in the working world, much effort is made to identify, evaluate, track and encourage the progress of students in schools. Parents care about their children’s academic performance because they believe good academic results will provide more career choices and job security. Schools, though invested in fostering good academic habits for the same reason, are also often influenced by concerns about the school’s reputation and the possibility of monetary aid from both governmental and non-governmental organizations, which can hinge on the overall academic performance of the school.
In the university setting, academic performance is being assessed through the grade point average obtained by students in all the courses registered for by students. As such a student is considered to have performed well if the grade point average is high. To this end, the grade point average for the postgraduate student is on a cumulative basis, spanning through all the semesters (University of Ado-Ekiti, 2003; Adekunle Ajasin University, 2004). Hence, the cumulative grade point average would determine the academic performance level of a postgraduate student from one semester to another.
Majority of the postgraduate students are engaging in paid employment yet, at the same time expect to get higher grades even though they are putting in less effort (Salamoson & Andrew, 2006). Growing number of university teachers have expressed concern that postgraduate students are becoming disengaged from their university experience because of time commitments in non-academic activities. Most part-time postgraduate nursing students are engaged in paid employment due to lack of sponsorship and an increasing proportion of mature-age students are likely to have family commitments (Applegate & Daly, 2012).
Historically, nursing students have been predominantly women and according to Owoyemi, 2010, the nursing workforce in Nigeria is comprised of seventy-five (75) percent of women. One strategy for maintaining student enrolment into nursing programmes has been to diversify the nursing workforce by increasing the pool of suitably qualified applicants from a heterogeneous population in terms of age, sex and marital status (Ofori, 2010).
Age is considered one of the independent variables that may likely affect the academic performance of postgraduate students in this study. Cognitive development and maturity (which are associated with age) are necessary for a worthwhile performance of students. As the age of the individual increases, it affects the various developmental changes. It also affects every area of human performance (Ukueze, 2007). Studies have consistently suggested for example that mature nursing students do well regardless of qualifications, while non mature students with better qualification perform poorly with resulting high attrition rates (Charlton & Ofori, 2012). It is therefore necessary to examine the extent to which age affects the academic performance of post graduate nursing students.
Gender issues have an important relationship with academic performance. The learning achievements of male and female students may be different, hence the concern of educational researchers on gender and academic performance. A common statement often made by both educators and students is that some disciplines are dominated by females while some by the males. For example, some individuals are of the opinion that male students perform better than their female counterparts in science-related courses (Igbokwe, 2012). Influence of gender on student’s academic performance has over the years attracted the attention and interest of scholars. However, it is worthy to note that opinions and findings about the issues are diverse as illustrated by the following literature reports.
Fisher (2008) found out that there was no gender difference in student’s academic performance if they are subjected to the same treatment. Montague (2008) argued about the general belief that boys perform better than girls. He thus concluded that this may result in slow motivation in girls and could widen the gender gap in academic performance in favour of boys. He observed that cultural beliefs like these are “incredibly influential”, making it critical to investigate them in research studies. The above assertion shows that the effect of gender on academic performance is still unclear.
In the case of marital status, several international studies report better academic performance for married students compared to their unmarried classmates. For example Smith and Naylor (2013) explored the data for all students graduating from all UK universities in 2011. In their analysis, married students (men and women) did better than unmarried students. Also, Al-Mutairi (2010) reports that married students at the Arab Open University outperformed their unmarried counterparts, and concludes that marital status plays a significant role in determining students’ academic performance.
Participating in paid employment by the part-time PG nursing students may reduce their time for study and consequently may influence their academic performance. Few nursing studies however have examined the impact of paid employment on academic performance. Previous studies have linked age, sex, and marital status to academic performance (Applegate & Daly, 2012). It is therefore necessary to investigate if students’ mode of study has influence on academic performance on six core courses offered at the Master of Science (MSc) nursing programme of the Department of Nursing Sciences, University of Nigeria Enugu Campus.
Statement of the problem
The Department enrolled first set of post graduate students into the master’s degree programme in 2003/2004 session and the modes of the programme have been part-time and or full-time with duration of twelve to eighteen months. Majority of the students are engaged in paid employment. Some are married and have responsibilities that may often make them to skip lectures. Some tend to hurry over assignments and seminars to meet up with time. Watanabe (2009) noted that students’ academic performance may also depend on the circumstances of their experiences under the school instrumental process. The possible influence of all these on the students’ performance has not been investigated.
Overstay in the master’s degree programme of the Nursing Department is common as there are students who have spent upward of six (6) years in the programme. Anecdotal reports from post graduate students of the Department of Nursing Sciences, UNEC, show that many of these students were late to class, and/or leave before the lecture ends particularly those that live off campus (who are also in the majority). Some fail to meet up the university policy of 75% minimum class attendance to qualify to sit for the course examination. Some take the examination but end up having poor results.
The questions being posed by this study are: does mode of study influence the academic performance of PG nursing students? How does age, gender and marital status influence the academic performance of PG nursing students? The answers to these questions prompted this study.
Purpose of the study
The purpose of this study was to examine the influence of demographic variables of mode of study, age, sex, and marital status on the academic performance of post graduate nursing students of the Department of Nursing Sciences, UNEC.
Specifically, the study is intended to:
- Determine the academic performance of the post graduate nursing students
- Determine the influence of mode of study on academic performance of the post graduate nursing students
- Determine the influence of age on academic performance of the post graduate nursing students.
- Assess the influence of gender on academic performance of the post graduate nursing students.
- Determine the influence of marital status on academic performance of the post graduate nursing students.
To further guide this study, the following null hypotheses (Ho) were formulated and tested at the 0.05 level of significance:
Ho 1: There will be no significant difference between mode of study and academic performance of post graduate nursing students of UNEC.
Ho 2: There will be no significant difference between age (mature and younger ages) and academic performance of post graduate nursing students of UNEC.
Ho 3: There will be no significant difference between gender and academic performance of post graduate nursing students of UNEC.
Ho 4: There will be no significant difference between marital status (females) and academic performance of post graduate nursing students of UNEC.
Significance of the study
A formal study of this nature contributes towards unraveling those significant determinants of students’ academic performance. It will reveal the influence of mode of study, age, sex and marital status on academic performance of PG nursing students of UNEC. It is equally hoped that the findings of this study would provide insight on the factors that are associated with suboptimal academic performance of PG nursing students of UNEC with a view to instituting corrective measures. In addition, it will help lecturers in the Department of Nursing to find ways of helping the PG students in order to ameliorate the situation.
If the findings of the study are published, it will help the university administrators to design and implement policies that will improve the students’ academic performance and the quality of education by changing the attitude of students towards learning, facilitating students and improving the teaching procedures.
The findings may also create awareness among students about their rights and responsibilities to achieve quality education. Once students have a better understanding of how mode of study, age, sex and marital status influence their academic performance, they may be more likely to understand their own situations and take corrective action.
Finally, it is hoped that the findings of this study will stimulate interest for further research in the subject and also add to the already existing knowledge in this area.
Scope of the study
The scope is delimited to the influence of demographic variables of age, sex, marital status and mode of study of PG nursing students on their academic performance. The study is delimited to only the PG nursing students of UNEC who were admitted to an MSc programme of the department between 2007 and 2011 sessions. The Nursing Sciences Department of UNEC is the choice for this study because of its relative importance in providing all the South Eastern, South Southern and most Northern states of Nigeria with the needed manpower at the tertiary level of our health educational sector.
For this study, six of the core courses offered at the PG nursing programme were used. These include:
- Health Economics
- Advanced Statistics in Health Technology
- Advanced Concepts in Nursing
- Advanced Research Methods and Techniques applied to Nursing
- Nursing Seminar
- Advanced Concepts in Health and Human Diseases
The research subjects’ records reviewed include all the students who were admitted into the PG programme (MSc) in the department from 2007/2008, 2008/2009, 2009/2010 2010/2011 and 2011/2012 academic sessions. These students were included because they have spent upward of four to eight years in the programme. Their demographic data will be compared accordingly with their cumulative grade point averages in those courses.
Operational definition of terms
Demographic variables: This is defined in this study only as the age, sex, marital status and mode of study of the PG nursing students.
Academic performance: This is the score on a set of examinations which in this study is defined by the student’s cumulative grade point average on the selected core courses offered by the PG nursing students. This could be good (CGPA of 2.5 and above) or poor (CGPA below 2.5)
Part-time PG students in this study, means those students who were not sponsored for the programme and who were involved in paid employment either in the government or private organizations during the period of course work.
Full-time PG students are those students who were sponsored for the programme and who were not involved in any form of paid employment.
Post-graduate nursing students: Post graduate (MSc) nursing students admitted in 2007/2008, 2008/2009, 2009/2010, 2010/2011 and 2011/2012 academic sessions.
Mature-age students in this study include all PG nursing students of UNEC aged above forty (40) years as at time of admission for the programme.