There is a general consensus that children are the future potentials of a country's leadership, workers and citizens. A case of school dropout among high school student interferes with this reality. Greenberg, M.T., et al, (2003) reports that every society's vision should capture the educational aspirations of its citizens to become "Knowledgeable, socially skilled, duly responsible, healthy, and productive citizens". The reality that many high school students do not complete high school has far reaching implications for the Glebe economy. This leads to the reality that a greater segment of this portion will remain in the poverty line, on the global arena; this reduces the competitiveness of the American society (American Psychological Association-APA, 2010)
In South Wales alone, the number of high students not completing their studies was estimated at around 12,000, a percentage of 11-12% for the year 2010 alone. (BBC-Reports, 2011) and generally classified as NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training) with similar occurrences also reported in other parts of Wales.
This research study seeks to correlate and add the research findings with data from recent research studies on child growth, environmental effect, and peer influence on the social, emotional and psychological learning that all compound to define the high school dropout complexities. This research adopts a qualitative sample study approach due to the numerous benefits that accrue from using this approach in social research. The design adopted in this study is s pretest-posttest-(before-after technique) design method suing two variables; one is a treatment population variable while the other is control population for the research study. The method of study used is the participatory observation to record the findings of the study. Further the research findings confirm the research theory of influence of peer groups to school drop outs compounded by the numerous literature evidences and the observation study findings. The ethical considerations in this research entailed maintaining the privacy, confidentiality and anonymity of the participants. The research study further concluded on various aspects of the study.
Why Social Research? Social Research is a form of research designed mainly to gain an understanding of a social concern. This research helps to a greater extent in providing explanations about people and their behavior thus providing a good framework to gaining useful insights into human complexities. Over the past century, social research paradigm has shifted towards finding solutions geared towards solving educational complexities. Of such has been the increased rise of high school teenagers dropping out of regular school sessions as a result of peer influence of other societal group influence. In an attempt to seek solutions to the underlying causes, research literature materials have instead provided a blanket argument in putting forth reasons for such occurrences. The UN Convention on Universal Child Rights outlines that every child has a right to equal educational opportunities so as to develop their "Unique Talents, personality, mental together with their physical doings to their highest potential".
Annually, an estimation of over 1Million American Students drop out, a significant proportion whom are young people. The nation's youth are its future workforce and leaders. In Glebe, South Wales this figure is estimated at 12,000 or 12% of the total high school dropouts. Education still remains the main tool by which a community develops. APA, 2010 further expounds on this by arguing that education empowers a society on three fronts' economic, social and political pillars that increases the well being of pluralistic society. The reality that many high school students do not complete high school has far reaching implications for the South Wales economy. This leads to the reality that a greater segment of this portion will remain in the poverty line, on the global arena; this reduces the competitiveness of the American society. (APA, 2010)
This research study seeks to correlate and add the research findings with data from recent research studies on child growth, environmental effect, and peer influence on the social, emotional and psychological learning that all compound to define the high school dropout complexities. Across a wide scope of cultural settings, adolescents tend to form friends with those people they admire the most. Varieties of peer groups have got different capacities to influence negative or positive influence to their friends. In the U.S, groups are often distinguished from other forms of peer groupings through the pressure they put on their members to conform to various orientations in school environment, drug adoption and sexual involvements. Documented research findings put clear marks on six different levels in peer participation in risky behaviors. Such behaviors range from cigarette smoking, alcohol, and engagement in undesirable sexual favors (Plath, 2006). Further, these groups also encourage drop out from high school.
Jill V. Hamm, (2000) reports that when compared to European of American origin and Asian of American Adolescents, Afro-American Adolescents prefer friends who are not likely to be the same in areas of academic spheres or use of substances, but more same in areas of ethnic inclinations. There are two important educational issues that are of interest in this study. The percentage of drop out cases of high school students within the Glebe, South Wales neighborhood of the U.S and the contributing effects of peer influence towards the school drop outs among the high school students, the first aspect of the research requires an in depth of high school going students within the Glebe, South Wales neighborhood through quantitative techniques that establishes the percentage of the school going age and the percentage that do not attend school and establishing reasons as to why they are not in school. Subsequently, the other aspect of the study would include analyzing issues to do with existence of peer groups within the Glebe, South Wales neighborhood and their influence on high school peers, their attractiveness for school going youth to join among other factors.
The guiding Hypothesis for this study is:
H0: Peer influence exerts greater pressure on High School students to drop out of school at inappropriate age
This hypothesis will therefore be tested against the alternative which is;
HA: Neighborhood peer influence exerts positive peer influence necessary for the psychological development and self esteem of high school students.
The population of study in this research is High School young adults who reside in the Glebe, South Wales Neighborhood in the year 2011. The persons who are accessible for this study includes a small proportion of High school students from Glebe, South Wales neighborhood between the dates of 28th July 2011- 30th December 2011 who satisfy the following conditions: 1) History of associated with peer groups in the neighborhood; 2) Associated with drug and alcohol use; 3) Must be over the ages of 14years; 3) Must be attending a High school within Glebe, South Wales neighborhood. The sampling data was obtained from secondary county authorities' records and from observation of the students. Due to the huge numbers of these students, a sampling percentage of 50% was appropriate for this study. This culminated into 200 high school students being included in the study.
On average basis, the research participants were above 14 years of age. With a 65% of the participants being male students and none was married. A little percentage (49%) was African American origin with the remainder having being the minority groups of both European-American and Asian-American. While the general aim of conducting such a research was to determine the effects of peer influence to high students drop out, the population size selected cannot be a true picture to providing for all the unique characteristics of the Glebe, South Wales neighborhood population, generalizing the issue was not a primary aim-but the main aim was to assess the level of peer influence to high school dropout (Travers, 2010).
A sample study method was appropriate for this study due its numerous benefits that it possesses over other methodological approaches. Some of these advantages include; as an approach to social study it ensures producing data based on real happenings observations, it also ensures wide and all inclusive coverage during the study, the approach subsequently lays greater emphasis on quantitative aspects of data analysis and it is also relatively cheap and cost effective.
A research design serves to glue the research components showing all major parts of the research. A pretest-posttest (before-after) group randomized design was adopted in this study. All research participants were observed at start of attending a high school program (pretest) and Three months after attending the High school program (posttest)
Using a notation, this design can be represented as follows;
N O x O
N O O
N- Shows that the there were two groups in the study (Treatment group and Control group)
O- Both groups of High school students were measured before the program
X- Kind of treatment given; i.e. the Case study carried out on both groups
This method of design was adopted due to its internal validity. It does not require history, testing and selection complexities. Its main primary weakness is in terms of data treatment mortality. During this study, the drop out level was as low as 4% for the control group and 3.5% for the treatment group (Plath, 2006). These rates are so low such that their effects cancel each other in the study. Overall rating this research design is considered as having greater internal validity.
This offered the research exercise a unique means of data collection; it draws on the evidence of the eye in witnessing events as they occur. This research adopted a participant observation technique with an aim of producing accurate consistent qualitative data. The researcher randomly selected a group of 200 High students from Glebe, South Wales neighborhood between the dates of 28th July 2011- 30th December 2011. Of this population the treatment population was assigned to be 30% representing 60 students from 6 Glebe, South Wales community high schools, a remaining number of 120 students were also selected for study within these six schools each having 20 students. These students were observed at the beginning of the term all the way through the end of the term. Data was collected at weekly intervals between 7am – 5pm in the evening and the number of students attending the school clearly recorded. In cases where absenteeism was noted additional study was conducted to determine the cause and frequency of such absenteeism. Additional information was also obtained as regards to existence of peer groups in the neighborhood and their membership and the activities these peer groups advanced. Of special interest was the means by which these social peer groups appealed to the high school students.
The data obtained in all these observational studies were correlated with other existing literature and documented arguments sought to explain such trends.
The observation method was adopted due to its superiority in number of ways including; it ensured direct data collection as opposed to what participants would say, the method also eliminates at a much greater level emotional or personal perceptions of the researcher, given the time span with which the research was conducted, an observation technique provided a substantial amount of data in a short time, the data collected is also pre-coded and therefore ready to be analyzed and produced a high level of reliability.
Despite its wide use and potential benefits, the method describes more of a happening of a behavior rather than why the behavior occurred, subsequently compared to other methods, the method oversimplifies situations and also missed the contextual information which always has a strong bearing on behavior under consideration.
There were a total of 185 participants in the study to the completion. This can be attributed to the fact that there were a total of 15 drop outs from the treatment group and control group. In South Wales in the year 2008, the number of students dropping out of school was nationally placed at 13% of those between the ages of 16- 24 years. APA, (2010) further presents that this percentage 4.8% were whites, 9.9% African-Americans while another 18.3% for Latinos.
This study established gender differences between the high students dropping out of school. Overall, males recorded a higher dropout rate at 8.2% with significant differences observed between the various races. However, Afro-American females recorded a higher dropout rate at 9.3% as compared to males at 8.9%. Data from the National Centre for Education (2010) indicates that poverty has a greater influence on high school dropout rates with a 7 times greater probability for students that come from lowest income levels as was also compounded for by this study.
The social location where these students come from play a crucial factor in school drop outs, for instance most of the Glebe, South Wales neighborhood where the research was conducted is predominantly slum environment with some sections being the middle class income dwellers. There was greater existence of peer groups within Glebe, South Wales slums at 89%; most of these groups were composed of school drop outs at 79% while a small percentage promoted healthy relationships among the members. With a 70%, these groups promoted drug abuse, anti-school practices and absenteeism from school; contrastingly enough these were the groups that most high school dropout preferred.
There is no single factor that can be attributed to high school dropout. Though, there are numerous factors that act together to increase the chances of a youth dropping out of school at an early age, these factors can generally grouped into four main groups; as concerning the individual (poor attitude, the family background (poverty), peer influence (within the school or within the community) and communities where these students come from (crime, little community support to schools). School dropouts relate to high incidences of poverty, irregular school attendance, low academic performance and no proper school engagement.
During this research, numerous ethical concerns were taken care of including; the research material presented was made to ensure that none of the participants suffered as a result of the research, the identities of the participants were not disclosed at any level. Equally, information given by the respondents was treated with great privacy, anonymity and confidentiality. No part of any information got from the participants was used for any other purpose except for the sole reason that they were sought.
The findings of this study were a true reflection of the earlier hypothesis that peer influence leads to a significant drop out among high school students. In most situations, these peer groups exert negative attitudes that leads to students engaging in negative societal doings like drug abuse, alcohol abuse and irresponsible sexual behaviors. Lessons that can be learnt from this study are that dropping out of school significantly affects possibilities of succeeding in the future. Good education is and still remains the bridge out of poverty. Dealing with high school dropout requires great commitment in communities, huge investment in social and educational programs, a continuous process to monitoring student attending school, academic achievement and extra teaching for those lagging behind and enhancing positive school environment.
Parents need to be proactively involved in monitoring the behaviors of their children, how they spend their leisure time and putting up rehabilitation programs to re-attract those students who have already dropped out of school to determine their interest in re-enrolling in educational institutions. Progress of Glebe, South Wales communities towards a better future depends on the delivery of quality and learner relevant educational curriculum, to all Glebe, South Wales children irrespective of family background, economic levels, gender affiliation, or physical abilities/disabilities so that they may be able to develop their full potential.
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National Center for Education Statistics (NCED). (2010). Digest of Education Statistics: 2009. Washington, DC: U.S Department of Education.
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