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Student perceptions of the school climate: a case study

Wong Ho, Wai-hing, Nancy.; .

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1992

http://hdl.handle.net/10722/65266

The author retains all proprietary rights, (such as patent rights)


and the right to use in future works.

STUDENT PERCEPTIONS OF THE SCHOOL CLIMATE - A CASE STUDY

by
Wong Ho Wai Hing, Nancy

August 1992
Dissertation presented in part fulfilment of the
requirements of the degree of Master of Education,
University of Hong Kong

DECLARATION

I hereby declare that this dissertation represents my own


work and that it has not been previously submitted to this
University or or any other institution in application for
admission to a degree, diploma or other qualifications.

WONG HO WAI HING, NANCY


August 1992

ABSTRACT

The case study is focused on a Government Grant school in


Hong Kong, sponsored by a Catholic missionary group of sisters,
and headed by a lay principal who was once a student and a
teacher in the school.
The study is on the students' perceptions of the school
climate. It probes into their degree of satisfaction with various
aspects of school life; namely, their general satisfaction with
the school; their commitment towards school work; their reactions
to teachers; and their social involvement in school. A
questionnaire, containing 36 items on these 4 domains, was
distributed to all the students in the school to be answered.
Group interviews were later conducted on representative samples
of students from 4 different levels, Secondary 2, 4, 5, and 6.
The data generated from the questionnaire were first
analyzed and checked against the research questions that the
present study set out to ask. From the interviews with the
students, further analysis was made.
The findings reveal that the students are generally
satisfied with their school life. The level of satisfaction
follows a distinct pattern of decrease over time, however the
pattern is twice punctuated - at S4 and S6. It is found that the
students' perceptions of school life is greatly influenced by the
school's traditional emphasis on English. Other factors are far
less influential by comparison. One particular finding stands out
from the rest - the class as a unit is found to be the most
significant factor for student perceptions of school life.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

ABSTRACT
CHAPTER

PAGE

I.

INTRODUCTION

II.

HISTORY AND BACKGROUND OF THE SCHOOL

History
Class Structure and Curriculum Development
School Tradition
III. LITERATURE REVIEW

5
7
9
16

Development of School Climate and School


Culture
17
Description and Comparison of School Climate
and School Culture
18
School Climate Research
23
IV.

METHODOLOGY - INSTRUMENTS AND ADMINISTRATION


The Instruments
The Questionnaire
Administration of the Questionnaire
The Interview
Procedure

V.

DATA ANALYSIS
- Questionnaire Analysis
The Properties of the Questionnaire Items
The Overall Satisfaction of the Students
in the School
The Four Constructs of the Climate of the
School
Differences in Satisfaction among the
Different Forms
The Effect of The Emphasis on English
The Effects of Other Factors
- Findings of The Research Questions

VI.

INTERVIEW ANALYSIS
General Satisfaction
Respect for Student Needs
Discipline
Attitude towards Studies (in general)
Attitude towards Studies (the S5 students)
Attitude Towards the Teachers
School Activities (weekly assembly)

29
29
29
31
33
34
37
37
37
38
42
43
47
55
62
69
69
70
70
72
73
73
74

School Activities (Talent Quest & Fun Fair)


School Activities (various Festivals)
Learning Opportunities
VII.

CONCLUSION

75
76
76
77

BIBLIOGRAPHY

82

APPENDIX
LIST OF TABLES
Table 1

The Basic Properties of the Items

40

Table 2

The Mean of the Questions in Descending Order

41

Table 3

Properties of the Constructs and the Composite


Scores

42

The Mean Scores of The Constructs According


to Forms

44

The Mean of the Constructs and Composite Score


According to Classes

50

Table 6

The Most and Least Satisfied Classes

55

Table 7

The Mean of the Constructs and Composite Scores


According to Whether Students are from the
Feeder Primary or New Students

57

The Mean of the Constructs and Composite Scores


According to Other Factors

58

The Mean of the Constructs and Composite Scores


According to Other Factors

60

Table 4
Table 5

Table 8A
Table 8B

Table 9 The Spread of Leaders

62

CHAPTER I

INTRODUCTION

1.1

Each school is a unique organization, distinctly

different from any other because of attributes peculiar to


itself. Its characteristics, constituting what is known as
the

school

described.

climate,
Adjectives

are

sometimes

like

open,

disengaged have been frequently

easier
close,

felt
engaged

than
or

used to describe the

climate of a school. Whenever such terms are applied


though, the school climate is invariably viewed from the
perspectives

of those who deliver

education

i.e. the

teachers or the head, in order to determine the leadership


style of the administrator or the effect of the school
climate on student outcome. But in fact, it should matter
very much how the direct recipients of education, i.e. the
students, view the school climate because they are the ones
who benefit or suffer from it. However, so long as the
study on school climate is based on the perception of those
involved, its true nature defies conclusive views from any
one party.

1.2

My particular interest in the present case study

is to understand the students' perceptions of the school


climate in the hope of improving the quality of school
life, making the school a more welcome place of learning
for the students. The more satisfied the students are with
1

their learning environment, the happier they should be with


the process of learning.

1.3

It

is

similar

to

the

adult

world

of

job

satisfaction in a way. It is generally assumed that if the


workers are satisfied with their work climate/ they will be
more productive and develop more loyalty to the workplace
(Halpin & Croft:1963, Campbell:1969, Gerson:1976, Peters &
Waterman:1982, Ouchi:1982, Greenfield:1986) . However, there
are differences between the adult world of work and the
student world of learning. While work productivity can be
measured, in some cases, in quantifiable terms, success at
studies cannot be so measured except perhaps, as shown in
some studies, in terms of academic results. But then of
course, academic result is not the total end product of
schooling and should not be thought of as such. And even if
one wants to measure the academic results alone, there are
so many social and economic factors outside the school that
affect

student learning that it is difficult, if not

impossible to create a control group in research to focus


exclusively on the effect of schooling on student learning.
Therefore it is not the intention of the present study to
determine
climate

the

and

causal

student

relationship
outcome, nor

between
can

the

school

it be reliably

established.

1.4

I have been working in the school under study for

over 17 years. The school is an Anglo-chinese secondary and


2

has been served by its feeder primary school since its


existence. However, the school has gone through some major
changes over the years. In particular, it has grown from a
relatively small school to a standard school, with its
student population almost doubled in ten years. The school
has always placed emphasis on students learning through
English, and on extra-curricular activities. With these
characteristics

of the

school

in mind, the

following

research questions are raised:

Whether there are any differences in perceptions of


the school climate, if any, between:
Rl.

the junior (Secondary I-III) and senior students


(Secondary IV-VII) - Factor A

R2.

the Secondary 1 students who joined the school from


the feeder primary and those from other primaries Factor B

R3.

the new (those joining the school for the first year,
mainly at Secondary 4 and Secondary 6) and the old
students (those who have been with the school for more
than a year) - Factor C

R4.

students who studied in primaries that used English as


the medium of instruction and those who studied in
primaries that used Chinese as the medium of
instruction - Factor D

R5.

the academically strong and the academically weak Factor E

R6.

those who have immediate plans to study abroad and


those who do not - Factor F

R7.

those who hold different faiths - Factor G

R8.

those who hold leadership posts and those who do not Factor H

R9.

those who are more involved in extra-curricular


activities and those less involved and - Factor I

RIO. those who spend more time on homework every evening


3

and those who spend less - Factor J.

1.5

It is hoped that the findings of the case study

will be of use to the school head. They will present a


clearer picture of how students perceive school life. The
information

will

be

useful

for

review

of

existing

programmes, and planning for the future, be they formal or


informal teaching and learning. In the process of the
study, I try to be as objective as possible in drawing up
the

questionnaire

and particularly

interview with the students.

in conducting the

CHAPTER II

HISTORY AND BACKGROUND OF THE SCHOOL

History

2.1

The case under study is a school that has a

history of 65 years in Hong Kong. It was started by


Catholic missionaries from the United States. In the early
years, only a handful of girls were accepted into the
different forms in the premise which had more the look of
a grand domestic mansion than a school. During WWII, it was
forced to close down. The school was opened again in the
post war years under a new name, in another premise which
again was more like a private mansion. By then, the school
was offering classes from Primary 5 to matriculation. With
the assistance of the Government and help of parents and
friends, the school moved into a new building on a new site
in the late 1950s (1957). The name of the school was once
again slightly modified, and became one of the Government
Grant schools. By the beginning of the 1960s (1961), the
primary school had its own premise in a separate school
building

nearby,

running

24

classes

in

bisessions,

providing education to both girls and boys even though the


latter population was kept proportionally low. The last
intake of boys into Primary One was 1978 to make room for
more feeder places for the girls under the Secondary
Schools Placement Assessment scheme.

2.2

A new chapter in the history of the school was

started in 1979 when the original group of missionaries had


to turn over the sponsorship of the school to another
Catholic missionary body owing to the shortage of manpower.
The changeover was not easy at first. There was regret and
dismay among the staff and students, but it was also mixed
with gratitude that the school could still maintain its
characteristics. Five years into the changeover, the name
of the school was changed at the request of the previous
sponsor, but in so doing, every care was taken by the new
missionary to maintain as close a resemblance to the past
as possible, to the extent that even the initials of the
school name remained the same. The bond with the past was
sensitively and carefully nurtured. It is most clearly
manifested in the continuity of the traditions, the school
rules and uniform, and the same alumnae association. Even
to this day, members of the former sponsoring body who were
previously connected with the school still take an interest
in it and support some of its alumnae functions.

2.3
school

Another significant change in the history of the


took

place

in

1991

when

the

sponsoring

body

appointed the then Vice-principal, a local lay person, to


take up

leadership

in the

secondary

school. The new

principal is a former graduate of the school under the old


sponsor and has taught in the school for well over 17
years, having witnessed most of the changes since the late
1950s.
6

Class Structure and Curriculum Development

2.4

Since moving into the new premise in 1957, the

then secondary school for girls was running 19 classes from


Secondary 1 to Upper Six with a student population of
slightly over 600. During the next 20 years, the school
steadily built on its fine tradition of offering an allround education with a reputation especially for its high
English standard1.

2.5

In the meanwhile, the

school population was

boosted by the addition of an extra class in Secondary 1 to


5

(4 classes in each form) because of the demand for

placement

when

years

of

free

education

was

made

compulsory. By 1981, the school was running a total of 24


classes. The increase also brought about the introduction
of new subjects like Economics and Principles of Accounts
in the curriculum. Half of the top floor space that
formerly belonged to the sponsoring body was given over to
the school to cope with the expansion.

2.6

The school experienced further changes in the

1980s. Emigration and going abroad for studies as a result


of Hong Kong reverting to China by 1997 left a significant
1

A former graduate of the school who is now a member of the


Legislative Council commented in an interview which appeared in
the magazine 'Teachers Plus' that the English standard of the
school was so high that even a Form V graduate then spoke better
English than a university graduate now.

mark on the history of the school especially in the second


half of the decade. Student population suffered such a
heavy setback especially in the junior forms that for 3
consecutive years (1989-91), there was nearly a full class
of vacancies at Secondary 5. An average of 33 students were
assigned to the school to fill up the vacancies through the
central

allocation

system

under

the

Junior

Secondary

Education Assessment in 1989 and 1991. This arrangement was


most unsatisfactory

to both the school and the 'new'

students whose generally low academic standard and learning


attitude made it extremely difficult for them to cope with
their studies despite school measures to give them more

remedial lessons on the basics, choice of alternative


subjects, modifications of the syllabi, and counselling
programmes for adjustment.

2.7

To cope with this unsatisfactory situation, the

school asked for special permission from the Education


Department to become an asymmetrical school by 1991, (to
operate 5 classes in Secondary
Secondary

4-5)

so

that

by

1-3

natural

and 4 classes in
'wastage'

due

to

emigration or studying abroad in the junior forms, the


school could still offer all its own Secondary 3 students
a place in Secondary 4. Once again, the sponsoring body
gave up half of the remaining top floor area to ease the
congested room facilities in 1991.
2.8

The intake of students at Secondary 1 used to be

almost entirely from the feeder Primary School, when there


8

were 4 classes of P6 students going into 3 classes of S1.


By 1981, the numbers drew even, with 4 classes each in the
Primary and Secondary. The banding of students at the time
was essentially one and two. With the increase of students
at

S1, the banding

also expended

to

include

Band

students.

2.9

Such a rapid change of class structure is not

without cost. The expanding student population and the


intake of a larger number of new students at S1, and S4
levels have adversely affected the homogeneity of the
student body which at one time boasted of the closely-knit
school

community

as a big

'family' where practically

everyone knew each other. The 'we',

'they' distinction

began to appear, and 'they', at times, unfortunately became


the easy scapegoat of dissatisfaction. School spirit was
still high though, to some, the good name of the school has
been tarnished.

School Tradition

2.10
deeply

Over the years, the school has built up some


rooted

traditional

qualities

that

are

highly

appreciated, and readily identified by all the students.


Among them is the respect for the individual, the pride in
being

all-rounded

presentable,

fluent

and

not

just

in English
9

'book-worms', lively,
language, and good at

organizational skills.

2.11

Respect

for

the

individual

is expressed

in

several ways. The most apparent example is the students'


freedom to wear either the yellow or the blue uniform in
summer. The winter uniform is of the same colour, but the
spirit

of

choice

is

reflected

in

the

variety

of

combinations of different articles that make up the full


uniform. In fact, when this tradition was first started by
the former missionaries in the late '60s, students in the
Sixth Form were not expected to be in uniform at all. The
philosophy then was to give a chance for the students to
learn to express themselves in the way they wish to look in
readiness for the adult world. For two decades, the same
rule was upheld. It was not until 1989, 10 years after the
change of sponsorship, that a new set of uniform, designed
to distinguish the Sixth Formers from the rest by giving
them a more mature look, was adopted. The change was due to
a number of causes all interactive upon one another. The
change of leadership, the wider intake of students coming
from

different

backgrounds,

and

the

increasingly

sophisticated social environment, all have a bearing on the


new uniform policy. Nevertheless, even to this day, many
first-time

visitors to the

school

are struck by the

varieties that the school uniform can take.

2.12

The tradition of respect for the individual is

likewise

reflected

in

the

sensitive
10

approach

to

the

teaching and practice of religion. There has never been any


pressure to impose the professed religion of the sponsoring
body on the non-believers

be they students or teachers.

All that is expected of them is respect for the professed


faith when there is a religious gathering in the school. In
fact, great care is taken not to disrupt school for special
religious needs other than the main celebrations which are
kept to the minimal. The guiding spirit of tolerance and
respect for others' beliefs was ironically misunderstood at
one time by some non-believers to be a lack of religious
fervour

on

the

part

of

the

missionaries.

Religious

knowledge is taught in the school but in the senior forms,


the course is more on the study of different religions of
the world and ethical issues.

2.13

Based on the same philosophy of respect for

students, the school has not instituted a prefect system


whereby senior girls monitor the behaviour of the junior
ones. Instead, all the students are expected to exercise
self-discipline, to respect others' needs in the school
community. They are not required to line up everyday, nor
to observe absolute silence as they move from class to
class, though they are expected to be reasonably quiet and
self-restrained. It was only when the school population
gradually expanded that the Discipline Committee, composed
of teachers, was set up in the late 1980s to deal with the
unruly ones. However, the school has always encouraged a
certain degree of free spirit and independence in the
11

students.

2.14

The spirit of respect for the students is also

expressed in the extent of choice students have in the


Secondary 4 and 5 curriculum since the early 1980s. Other
than the main compulsory subjects, students are able to
choose which stream

(defined by a combination of two

compulsory subjects), and which three optional subjects


they wish to take. It is the deliberate intention of the
school not to stream the students only according to their
academic performance at this level, but rather to respect
their preferences, and to cater to their interests as far
as it is administratively possible, which includes varying
the size of the subject groups to meet the student demands.
This arrangement cannot obliterate all traces of ability
grouping, obviously. In the eyes of the students, some
subjects are more challenging than others and therefore
more suited to the 'able' ones. Their choice of subjects
therefore naturally results in

some ability grouping

though the distinction is less mandatory.

To ensure both

students and parents are well informed of the choices


available and their needs are met, the school organises a
series

of programmes

every

year, and

even an appeal

session.

2.15

Since the early 70s, the school has kept up a

particular feature of student assessment that is rare in


the examination-ridden Hong Kong setting. Not only is there
12

no ranking for positions according to academic excellence


within the class, but grades instead of marks are entered
in the report cards. It is the school's philosophy to
discourage unnecessary comparison of attainment by the
difference of a few marks among the students- Continuous
assessment throughout the school year except the final
examination in S1 and S2 is another characteristic of the
school tradition. The same practice was extended to S3
before the introduction of the Junior Secondary Education
Assessment. All these measures are seen to be beneficial to
the students in that they downplay the significance of
learning only for examinations and marks. The reduced
anxiety over examinations, especially in the junior forms
allows them time to try out their potentials, develop their
interests and acquire social skills. There is also room for
some group project work to be done at these levels. Again,
as discussed before, because of the expansion of the
student population

leading to

a different

calibre of

students, and the loss of some long-serving staff due to


emigration, it has become increasingly difficult to uphold
the same tradition.

2.16

Another greatly treasured tradition of the school

is the Student Council which has had a long history (going


back to the late 1960s) of democratic election by the
student body - except the S1 students. The officers are
nominated by the students (S4 and above), and elected on a
one person one vote basis, after the entire student body
13

has had a chance to hear their platform speeches. At their


inauguration, they have to pledge their loyalty to the
school and to work for the good of the student body. In
like manner, but on a smaller scale, each class gets to
elect its own class spokesperson, councillor, and religious
activities convenor. The election is conducted under the
guidance of the class teacher, but at no time does the
authority

seek to

impose

its will

on the

choice of

candidates. It is a much valued tradition for training


students to be democratic, and responsible.

2.17

In

opportunity

the
to

school,

develop

students

their

are

special

given

every

talents, be

it

singing, dancing, drama, debating or sports. Some of them


may not be strong in their studies, but they are never
discouraged from participating in these activities. The
same spirit applies to their participation in the annual
Hong Kong

Schools

Speech and Music

Festival

and the

school's own annual English Festival. No one is turned away


from trying provided she is willing to work at it. The
production of the school Yearbook is a good illustration
too of the school's belief to provide opportunities for the
students. Students have always been given a free hand in
the

design

and production

of the

Yearbook. Even the

photography is entirely done by the students. The advisors


truly only advise, the work is done by the students. This
school policy has produced many a self-confident graduate,
who do not necessarily excel at their academic studies, but
14

who prove to be ready and quick to adjust to the work


environment.

2.18

Not only are students concerned with development

of their own talents and interests,, but there is a long


tradition in the school whereby the students are taught to
be caring for the underprivileged. Throughout the year,
students regularly respond to local charities for flag
selling; visiting and organizing programmes for the sick,
the elderly, the orphans; and generously making donations
to different organizations for emergency needs. This spirit
of charity underlies the religious belief of the missionary
body which sponsors the school.

2.19

The students take pride in looking neat, well-

groomed, smart, and presentable. The graduates have long


been

associated

with

qualities

of

being

lady-like,

sociable, and caring for the underprivileged. They have


also been traditionally distinguished for having a high
standard of English and are consciously
heritage.

15

aware of the

CHAPTER III

LITERATURE REVIEW

3-1

The study on school climate has had a very long

history.

It was originally

organizational theory

inspired by the classical

relating leadership style to group

behaviour. In the 1960s, the term 'organizational climate'


became very popular. Since then, there has been a prolific
amount of literature and research on organizational climate
in educational institutions and reviews of such literature.
Over the years, the term 'organizational climate' has been
variously dubbed 'organizational saga' (Clark, 1975) and
'ethos'

(Ratter et al, 1979). In the 1980s, the term

'Climate' for some researchers has become inter-changeably


used with 'culture' in relation to the search for corporate
effectiveness or excellence. This confusion, in addition to
the lack of strong theoretic framework on the topic, has
made school climate research more problematic. Another
problem with researches on school climate is the almost
exclusive focus on the effect of different leadership
styles on the behaviour of teachers and student outcomes.
The ambiguous role of students in the school organization,
whether they are to be regarded as a significant part of
the school organization or as products of the school, has
not received much attention. I shall review the literature
concerned

to clarify the

abstract

concepts of school

climate and school culture, and to determine the place of

16

student perception in research on school climate.

Development of School Climate and School Culture

3.2

Organizational climate and organizational culture

have a long tradition in the literature of organizational


studies. The concepts originated with the concern for human
resources

development

(HRD),

how

to

motivate

the

participants to the kind of behavioral response that is


favourable to organizational effectiveness. In the 1930s,
the Western Electric research noted that certain management
styles elicited greater satisfaction from workers, leading
to more productive work than other management styles. In
the 1940s, the Lewin studies explored planned interventions
to make the organization more effective. But it is in the
1960s that the term 'organization climate' became popular,
largely owing to the research on elementary schools by
Halpin and Croft. In the 1970s, the term 'organizational
saga' was used by Clark in his studies of universities,
whereas 'ethos' was used by Rutter and his colleagues in
their studies of high school effectiveness.

3.3

According to Owens (1991), two books published

within two years of each other in 1981 and 1982 had a


direct

impact on the interest drawn to the study of

organizational culture. The first one was Ouch's Theory


the

other

was

Peters

and
17

Waterman's

In

Search

Z,
of

Excellence.

Ouch's theory is targeted at HRD. He directed

attention to how Japanese management

styles emphasize

building organizational culture within the corporation to


increase

productivity

employees.

and

Expressing

enhance

similar

self-esteem

concern,

among

Peters

and

Waterman described the powers of value and culture in the


high-flying American corporations. Educators, in America
especially,

were

riveted

by

the

implications

of

organizational culture for educational organizations. The


interest in school culture has resulted in a significant
increase in literature on effective schools. The present
research on the topic is also aimed ultimately at school
improvement.

Description and Comparison of School Climate and School


Culture

3.4

In the school setting, people have used terms

like atmosphere, personality and tone to identify the


unique characteristics of a school, to describe the subtle,
elusive,

amorphous

and

unconscious

forces that

shape

student behaviour. The analogy: "Personality is to the


individual what 'climate' is to the organization" was used
by Halpin and Croft (1963:1). Some writers maintain the
assumption

that

the

term

existence

irrespective

of

'climate' has
the

an

perceptions

experiencing it. As Strivens (1985:47) puts it,

18

objective
of

those

Some people may feel the cold more, others have a


greater tendency to bronchitis or rheumatism, but
these differing experiences are the consequences of
the same real conditions, which can be described and
classified, and will have a predictable effect.

Likewise, Kottkamp et al (1987:31-48) assume that 'culture


is socially constructed, nonetheless, it is a reflection of
"something out there" rather than merely idiosyncratic'.
Others

question

this

assumption. Greenfield

quotes Prospero in The Tempest:

(1986:154)

"We are such stuff / As

dreams are made on" to describe the elusiveness of culture.


The nature of social reality

is such that "we can do

nothing to validate our perceptions of reality other than


to describe it as we see it and argue for the truth of our
description"

(1986:142).

Though

there

has

been

little

consensus on what climate is, some agreement does exist.


Anderson (1982:371)) summarizes them as follows:

to

a) schools dc possess something called climate, unique


each organization;
b) such differences, while discernable, are elusive,
complex, and difficult to describe and measure;
c) climate is influenced by, but not a proxy for,
particular dimensions of the school such as student
body characteristics;
d) climate affects many student outcomes, including
cognitive and affective behaviour;

e) understanding the influence of climate will improve


the understanding and prediction of student
behaviour.

3.5

A more precise specification of the construct was

suggested by Tagiuri

(1968) who defined climate as the


19

'total

environmental

quality

within

given

school

building". His taxonomy comprised of four dimensions to the


environment: ecology
milieu

(the physical and material aspects),

(the social dimension concerned with the presence of

persons and groups), social


it, organization

system

or as Owens (1991) puts

(the organizational and administrative

structure governing the patterned relationships of persons


and groups), and culture

(the belief systems, values,

norms, and ways of thinking that are characteristic of the


people in the organization). According to Anderson (1982),
Tagiuri's taxonomy was preferable to Moos' because the
latter delineated climate as only one of six approaches to
the human environment, whereas the former is a broader
construct. However, not all four dimensions are equally
significant in producing quality of the climate in a given
organization. Recent studies, especially those since the
early 1980s, have focused more attention on the importance
of culture in shaping climate in an organization.

3.6

Schein, writing in 1985, made a breakthrough in

defining culture, by which he means:

a pattern of basic assumptions - invented, discovered,


or developed by a given group as it learns to cope
with its problems of external adaption and internal
integration - that has worked well enough to be
considered valid and, therefore, to be taught to the
members as the correct way to perceive, think and feel
in relation to those problems (p.9).
He made further distinctions between the visible and the
invisible levels of culture. At the top level is its
20

'artifacts and creations" - like technology, art, and


behaviour patterns - all visible and observable but the
meaning of which is not readily decipherable. Below this
symbolic level of culture is the level of 'values' - a
'mission statement' or a 'credo' of the organization. But
even these merely reflect the basic assumptions that are
the essence of culture. At the lowest level then, the
'basic assumptions' are taken for granted, invisible, and
out

of

consciousness.

These

have

to

do

with

the

relationship of the individual to the environment; the


nature of reality; time, and space; the nature of human
nature; the nature of human activity; and the nature of
human relationship. Understood in this way, the study of
symbolism becomes central to the study of organizational
culture for it is through rites, rituals, and myths that
values and approved behaviour are made explicit.

3.7

From

the

above

discussions

on

climate

and

culture, it is possible to draw some conclusions on the


differences between the two terms. Climate describes the
perceived, unique internal characteristics that distinguish
one organization from another. These characteristics are
manifestations of the main aspects of the culture of the
organization. As Cheng (1989:130) puts it:

climate is a set of overt, perceptible, and behavioral


norms but culture may be multi-level including
implicit assumptions, beliefs and values and also
explicit behavioral norms.

21

The culture of an organization exerts powerful influence on


the development of climate. The two are closely related. It
is

impossible

to

understand

the

shared

values

and

assumptions of an organization without first perceiving the


behaviour norms of the participants of the organization;
and studies of organizational climate depend heavily on
eliciting

perceptions

of participants, mostly

through

questionnaires.

3.8

Schein's

contribution

cleared

the

ground

of

confusion and spearheaded research in a new direction. The


traditionally

scientific

and

rational,

social,

psychological, quantitative research by questionnaire that


was

used

to

increasingly

describe

organizational

supplemented

by

the

climate

was

anthropologic,

ethnographic, participant-observer method of research to


understand

and

explain

the

members'

experience

of

institutional life.2

School Climate Research

3.9

School climate

is a problematic

concept for

educational research. In this section, I shall discuss some


major

studies

on

school

climate

and

their

related

instruments. Debatable issues surrounding school climate


research will also be examined.
2

Schein maintained his research was clinical rather


than ethnographic, that is, talcing the role of the
paid consultant rather than the insider observer.
22

3.10

In 1963, Halpin and Croft introduced the notion

of organizational climate to schools. Their empiricallydriven Organizational Climate Description Questionnaire


(OCDQ) is based on the assumption that "whatever people in
the

organization perceive

as their experience

is the

reality to be described" (Owens 1991:186), and measures the


interaction of teachers and teachers and principals in
elementary schools.3 It is constructed by four dimensions
namely, intimacy, disengagement, esprit, and hindrance
which measure the teacher's behaviour
dimensions

namely,

production

and

four other

emphasis,

aloofness,

consideration, and thrust which measure the principal's


behaviour. In Hong Kong, the only published research on
school climate was conducted by Cheng (1985) among 64 aided
secondary schools using the OCDQ to solicit the teachers'
view of their school organizational climate. In the same
research, he also used Halpin's (1966) Leader Behaviour
Description Questionnaire (LBDQ) to assess leadership style
of the school principal. The research was to classify
schools

into different

organizational

climates and to

relate their organizational effectiveness with leadership


style.

3.11

The OCDQ has been much criticized in the light of

later studies on school climate. Anderson (1982), Kottkamp


et al

(1987), and Owens

(1991) have all discussed the

limitations of this instrument; that the middle climate


3

italic as in the author's work


23

continuum is ambiguous, the validity of at least half of


the subsets is questionable, and the unit of analysis is
the individual rather than the school. Hoy's criticism of
the

OCDQ,

"a concept

of

school

climate that

ignores

students as being like discussing politics without voters"


was quoted in Kottkamp et al
introduced

their

new

(1987:35) as the latter

school

climate

measurement,

Organizational Climate Description Questionnaire - Rutgers


Secondary (OCDQ-RS). The revised instrument includes five
aspects of school interaction to describe the behaviour of
teachers and principals at the secondary school level. They
form two basic dimensions of school climate - openness and
intimacy. However, Hoy and his colleagues
questioned

its usefulness

because

of

its

(1990) still
lack

of

theoretical underpinning. The significant attribute of


student perception is still ignored.

3.12

The Organizational Climate Index (OCI), developed

by Stern-Steinhoff in 1965 is based directly on Lewin's


view that individuals and groups in organizations must be
understood in the context of their interaction with the
environment [B=f(P, E) ] . The

two key dimensions of this

measurement are development press and control press. Owens


(1991:193) highly commends its theoretically conceptual
basis and its applicability to a wide variety of educative
organizations, and its adaptability to eliciting views from
students and teachers. The unpopularity of the OCI, at
least in its initial introduction was the length and
24

complexity of the questionnaires.

3.13

In 1968, Rensis Likert and Jane Gibson Likert

developed the Profile of a School (POS) questionnaires for


use

in

schools,

which

are

based

upon

the

survey

questionnaires previously used in business and industry.


Interrelated

POS

questionnaires

enable perceptions

of

teachers, principals, students, and parents to be studied.


An interesting outcome of the instrument is "Likert's own
analysis

of

the

shortcomings

structure

of American

schools

of

the

and

its

organizational
impact

on the

interaction-influence system" (Owens 1991:200) The POS is


empirically-derived, but the survey questionnaire approach
can be understood only in the context of the extensive
research on management systems theory.

3.14

In

spite

of

decades

of

development,

the

problematic nature of school climate research has not


diminished though research might have taken a different
direction. In the early studies, children "seemed to be
assigned a status as organizational products rather than as
important members of the organization in their own rights"
(Strivens, 1985). Adult perceptions within an organization
were frequently solicited to measure the degree of their
satisfaction with the management style of the leaders.
Students, who

form the majority

of the

institution's

members, and their behaviour patterns which probably are


immediately striking to an outsider, were largely ignored.
25

Later

research

sensitive

to

in the
the

same tradition

status

of

students

have been more


in

the

school

organization, e.g. Epstein and McPartland's Quality of


School Life (QSL) Scales (Epstein and McPartland, 1976).
The QSL appears to be the first measure of quality of
school life that took its theoretical perspective from
literature

concerned

with the quality

of adult life.

Perceptions of students are seen to be the key variable of


the school organizational climate, an educational objective
in their own right. The QSL incorporated three scales: a
measure of general satisfaction with school, a measure of
commitment to classwork, and a measure of reaction to
teachers.

3.15

With the same concern for 'quality of school

life', Williams and Batten (1981) developed 'The quality of


school

life'

questionnaire

based

on

explicit

theory

borrowed from social indicator models of quality of life


(for example, Andrews and Withey, 1976; Campbell, 1981) and
a model of schooling by Spady and Mitchell (1977) . They
were able to generalize directly to quality of school life
from these models and produced a scale which taps six
dimensions of the quality of school life: general affect,
negative

affect,

status,

identity,

teachers,

and

opportunity.

3.16

Another

more

up-to-date

document

on

School

climate research is the Handbook for Conducting School


26

Climate Improvement Projects (Howard, Eugene et al 1987) .


This book offers practical ways to improve a school's
climate by increasing both productivity and satisfaction
concurrently. Satisfaction is measured by such factors as
a sense of personal worth, enjoying school, and success
from participation in worthwhile activities.

3.17

Too often, research on school climate adopts the

simplistic assumption that school effectiveness in terms of


student academic achievement can be directly related to the
influence of school climate. Strivens quoted Kelpy (1981)
who pointed out confusions stemming from the "seductive"
assumption of a relationship between satisfaction (morale)
and

productivity

(achievement)

which

'research

has

consistently shown to be neither predictive and causal'.


This criticism is echoed in the debate of student inputs
and outputs. Even with the quantifiable student absences
and dropouts in addition to achievement, the complexities
of the interaction of a wide variety of variables within
the school and outside it are such that measurement is
bound to be inadequate.

3.18

For the purpose of the present study, the climate

of the school is studied from the perceptions of the


students

who

are

an

important

member

of

the

school

organization. Since it has been argued in literature that


there is no ground for relating school climate to student
achievement, this study shall restrict itself to the sole
27

factor of student satisfaction.

28

CHAPTER IV

METHODOLOGY - INSTRUMENTS AND ADMINISTRATION

The Instruments

4.1

This research relies heavily on 2 main sources of

data collection, questionnaire and group interviews. The


questionnaire is essential for gauging the perceptions of
the students on the quality of school life. Their views
towards the school, whether positive or negative, tell of
how happy or unhappy they are at the school. The group
interviews are for further probing into their state of
satisfaction or dissatisfaction to unlock information which
cannot be adequately reflected by the questionnaire survey.

The Questionnaire

4.2

The present questionnaire is based on The Quality

of School Life (QSL), taken from environmental studies of


adults (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 1973), which
has been applied to over 4000 students in elementary,
middle, and high school students in a single county in
Maryland by Joyce L. Epstein and James M. McPartland
(1976) . It aims at measuring student satisfaction as a
separate outcome. It does not treat student satisfaction as
29

variable

associated

with

academic

success.

It

is

analogous to adult satisfaction at work.

4.3

The concept of the quality of school life is

believed to be "affected by both the informal and formal


aspects of school: social and task-related experiences, and
the

relationships

with

authority

figures

and peers"

(Epstein & McPartland, 1976, p.16). The 27-item QSL is


defined

by

constructs

of

student

reactions:

(1)

satisfaction with school in general (SAT), (2) commitment


to school work (COM), and (3) attitudes towards teachers
(TCH).

4.4

The present questionnaire consists of 36 items,

and is defined by 4 constructs, the first three being the


same as the QSL, while the fourth one is added to measure
more specifically student reactions to their involvement in
social activities in the school.

Other than a few items

which have been lifted from the representative items of the


QSL Scale, most of the items have been self-constructed
based on the 10 research questions in Chapter I. Care was
taken to reflect the particular circumstances of the school
while

pertaining

to

the

relevant

constructs.

In

constructing the items, reference has been made to two


other sources: The Quality of School Life model, a research
monograph

of

the

Australian

Council

for

Educational

Research (Williams and Batten, (1938); and the instrument


used in the School Climate Profile, developed by Hoard,
30

Eugene and Others, published in 1987 by Phi Delta Kappa


Educational

Foundation,

U.S.

The

latter

instrument,

consisting of 4 main constructs, and 26 subscales of 5


parts each, has been used widely in school climate studies
in

the

U.S. for

several

years. The profile

provides

information on the different school organizational members'


perceptions of what are and what should be the positive
climate factors and determinants in a school. It may be
considered

diagnostic

tool

for

school

climate

improvement.

Administration of the Questionnaire

4.5

The questionnaire was tested out in a pilot study

to see how well it could generate responses from the


students. The pilot study was undertaken at the end of
February. A

random

sample

of

16

students

from

three

different levels: S2, S4, and S6 were selected with the


help of the Class Teacher to ensure a good mix of students
from different backgrounds:
a)

students who joined S1 from the school's feeder


primary which uses English as the medium of
instruction;

b)

students who joined S1 from other primaries which


may or may not use English as the medium of
instruction; and

c)

students who joined the school at S4, and S6.

31

The

questionnaire

was

personally

administered

by

the

researcher to observe any difficulties arising. Most were


able to finish the questionnaire within 10 minutes. No
questions were raised.

4.6

A study of the pilot questionnaire reveals that

there was need to define the variables very specifically,


e.g. instead of asking how well the student thinks she is
doing in school, the item was changed to more specific data
like the number of high grades and low grades the student
received in her last report card. This change was necessary
in order to provide more reliable data control for later
analysis. Of the original 45 items listed (according to the
5

constructs

of

Satisfaction,

School

Cohesiveness,

Curriculum, Reaction to Teachers, and Social Involvement in


school), the revised questionnaire was reduced to 36 items,
12 to measure the students' Satisfaction with the School
(SAT), 9 to measure the students' Commitment to School Work
(COM), another 9 to measure the students' Reactions to
Teachers

(TCH), and 6 to measure the students' Social

Involvement (SOC). However, the 4 distinct constructs of


the subscales were deliberately omitted to give a fair
chance to the individual items.

4.7

The questionnaire was administered to the entire

student body minus those who had already taken part in the
pilot study through the Class Teachers during one of the
weekly Class Teacher Periods in March as if it were one of
32

the regular class activities. The size of the survey was


over 800. The return rate was 100% (except those who were
absent on that day).

4.8
the

The SPSSPC is used as the statistic package for


analysis. The Mean, Standard Deviation

and Alpha

Reliability are calculated for each item, the Constructs


and the Composite Score to establish their properties and
reliability. The comparison of the group means is based
mainly on the Oneway Analysis of Variance.

The Interview

4.9

It is quite obvious that the findings revealed by

the questionnaire survey can only be indicative of fairly


broad trends and inclinations among the students. The
method of group interview was chosen for the purpose of
further probing into the students' way of perception.
Interviews of groups rather than individuals was thought to
be more appropriate because the students might be less shy,
more open and ready to talk more in the presence of their
own peers (Patton, 1987) . Having no more than 6 in each
group was

for the practical

reason

of ensuring more

opportunity for each student to express her opinion during


the discussion. Each session took up one and a half hours the length of the double lesson in the school.

4.10

The researcher prepared a few questions as an


33

interview

guide

questionnaire

(Patton,

findings

1987:

111)

based

which were either

on

the

a matter of

significant interest or areas not so clearly reflected in


the survey. Care was taken to avoid leading questions. They
were phrased in a simple, tangible way so that they would
be easily understood.

They are as follows:

SAT
1.

How satisfied are you with the school in general?


Please name some aspects with which you are
particularly
satisfied and some areas that you are
unhappy about.
2.

Do you think students in the school are hardworking?

3.

Can you find someone to talk to in the school?

4.

Do you think there is a school spirit?

COM.
1.

How do you find school work?

2.

What do you think of the present grading system ?

TCH
1.

What do you think of the teachers in the school?

2.

How do you find learning in class?

SOC
1.

Is the English speaking environment adequate in the


school?

2.

What do you think of the extra-curricular activities?

Procedure

4.11

3 groups of students from 3 different forms,


34

each with a balance of 'old' students and 'new' ones of


different backgrounds, were randomly selected to reflect a
general

representation

of

the

form

they

come

from.

Originally, S6, S4 and S2 students were selected. Later, a


group of S5 students, also 6 in number, was interviewed as
well because the S5 seemed to show significantly negative
opinions
findings,

on the whole according to the


and they

could

fit

into

questionnaire

the time

slot of

interviews before they took their HKCE. This last group is


composed of 4 science students from 4B, and 2 arts students
from 4C.

4.12

The

selection

of

the

students

was

done by

soliciting the help of the Class Teachers who recommended


the names, based on the criteria given. The teachers were
told of the purpose of the interview, that some should be
'new' (joining the school for the first year) and some
should be 'old' (having been in the school for more than a
year, and who came from different primary schools), and
that the students should not be shy and ready to talk.

4.13

The S6 group of students were taken from their

double Religious Education lesson; the S4 from their P.E.


lesson, the S2 from their Music and Religious Education
lesson; the S5 after one of their Mock Examinations. All
the interviews were completed within 3 weeks of each other
in April.

35

4.14

All the interviews were tape recorded with the

consent of the students.

They were all told that the

interview was conducted for the purpose of research into


student perceptions of the school climate. All the students
were relaxed and ready to express their views.

36

CHAPTER V

DATA ANALYSIS

Questionnaire Analysis

The Properties of the Questionnaire Items

5.1

The questionnaire is a 36-item multidimensional

instrument with four subscales. The Satisfaction

(SAT)

subscale measures general reactions to school/ Commitment


to Classwork (COM) deals with the level of student interest
in work done in class. Reaction to Teachers (TCH) concerns
the nature of student-teacher relationship, and Social
Involvement in school (SOC) measures the degree of student
participation in the school community.

5.2

Table 1 gives the Mean and Standard Deviation of

the 36 items in the questionnaire and the Item-to-Subscale


Correlation and Item-to Total Scale Correlation. The Itemto-Subscale correlations exceed Item-to-Total correlations,
and,

except

Correlation,
relatively

few

both
high,

items
sets
which

in the
of
shows

interrelated.

37

Item-to-Total

inter-relationships
that

the

items

Scale
are
are

The Overall Satisfaction of the Students in the School

5.3

Table 2 lists the mean of each of the questions

in a descending order. Out of the 36 items, 31 have a mean


smaller than the 2.5 average. This indicates that the
students are largely satisfied with life in the school
under study. The aspects of life that satisfy them most
are: they do not feel lonely in the school (1.72); their
teachers praise them when they have done well in their
*

studies (1.88); they feel accepted (1.94); and they are


proud of their school (1.96). The rating also indicates a
good relationship between the students and the teachers.
The students feel that their teachers care for them (2.00);
listen to their problems (2.09); are available when they
need help
teachers

(2.15); and hence they like most of their


(2.16). The students are satisfied that their

classmates

are

keen

on

studying

(2.16);

that

the

academically bright students are given enough recognition


(2.12); and that work in class is not a waste of time
(2.16) .
5.4

Among the least satisfied items in the school,

two are related to class activities. They feel that most of


the class work is uninteresting (2.61); and in class, they
count the minutes till it ends (2.78) . They have misgivings
about their complaints being ignored (2.58). They dislike
the lack of an English speaking environment (2.96); and
they moan about the frequency of tests in the school
38

(2.98) . In this respect, it is interesting to find that the


reality of student life is one of dilemma. On the one hand
they find lessons boring and class work uninteresting, yet
they know they have to bear with it and recognize that
class work is not a waste of time (2.16).

39

Table 1
The Basic Properties of the Items
Items
SAT
Ql
Q2
Q3
Q4
Q5
Q6
Q7
Q8
Q9
Q10

Qll
Q12
COM
Q13
Q14
Q15
Q16
Q17
Q18
Q19
Q20
Q21
Q22
TCH
Q23
Q24
Q25
Q26
Q27
Q2 8
Q29
Q30
SOC
Q31
Q32
Q33
Q34
Q35
Q36

Mean

3td Dev

Items
Table 1
Item-toItem-to-Total
Subscale
Scale
Correlation
Correlation

2.17
2.39
2.09
2.41
1.94
1.96
2.58
2.16
2.27
2.31
2.34
1.72

.59
.60
.55
.72
.49
.66
.74
.57
.84
.66
.72
.70

.4612**
.5060**
.3985**
.4902**
.4622**
.5419**
.4329**
.5113**
.4221**
.5515**
.6192**
.4554**

.3964**
.3873**
.2947**
.4443**
.3791**
.4413**
.4202**
.4348**
.3262**
.4814**
.5779**
.3217**

2.40
2.61
2.78
2.98
2.16
2.28
2.12
2.29
2.96
2.30

.65
.68
.79
.73
.62
.76
.68
.72
.82
.65

.4901**
.5754**
.5712**
.3805**
.5593**
.3371**
.3660**
.3913**
.3784**
.4734**

.4375**
.5227**
.4586**
.1764**
.4729**
.1882**
.2141**
.3232**
.2180**
.3645**

2.15
2.00
2.16
1.88
2.09
2.44
2.47
2.31

.62
.63
.75
.55
.59
.77
.74
.69

.6240**
.7159**
.6284**
.2696**
.5672**
.6465**
.5828**
.6203**

.5131**
.5804**
.5306**
.1511**
.4363**
.5680**
.4798**
.5600**

2.17
2.47
2.33
2.46
2.39
2.44

.74
.78
.73
.77
.80
.75

.6132**
.5349**
.6210**
.5730**
.4687**
.5926**

.4911**
.2877**
.3701**
.4259**
.2623**
.5033**

Note:
Note:

In the questionnaire, a four point scale is adopted where


1 - very true, 2 true, 3 - untrue, and 4 = very untrue
** - Significant at 0.00
* *

40

Table 2
The Mean of the Questions in Descending Order
Mean
12.
26.
5.
6.
24.
3.
27.
19.
23.
25.
8.
17.
1.
31.
9.
18.
20.
22.
10.
30.
33.
11.
2.
35.
13.
4.
36.
28.
34.
29.
32.
7.
14.
15.
21.
16.

I (do not) feel lonely in this school.


The teachers praise students who have done well
in their studies.
I feel accepted in this school.
I am proud of this school.
The teachers do not care for the students.
The students of this school are not hardworking.
The teachers do not listen to our problems.
The academically bright students are not given
enough recognition.
The teachers are available to students who need help.
Thinking of my teachers this term, I really like most
of them.
The students are keen on studying
Work in class is (not) just busy work and (is not) a
waste of time.
I like to go to school every day.
The students have a lot of opportunities to develop
their talents and interests
The students are (not) divided into small groups which
(do not) quarrel with one another.
Classes are (not) often interrupted by students who do
not want to learn.
The grading system in the report card is fair.
The teachers are (not) harsh in their criticism.
New students and teachers are made to feel welcome
as part of the group in this school.
The teachers are actively learning too.
The student council looks after our interests.
There is a "we" spirit in this school.
The students of this school are well behaved.
There is not much religious atmosphere in the
school.
What we learn in class is suited to our needs.
The school cares for those students who don't do
so well in their studies.
Our suggestions for school improvement will be heard.
The teachers are not fair to students.
The school extra-curricular activities are (not)
quite boring.
The teachers are 'alive', they are interested in life
around them.
I look forward to the school assembly every week.
The student's complaints are (not) ignored.
The things I get to work on in most of my classes
are interesting.
In class, I (do not) often count the minutes till it
ends.
An English speaking environment is (not) lacking in
the school.
Tests are (not) very frequent.

1.72
1.88
1.94
1.96
2.00
2.09
2.09
2.12
2.15
2.16
2.16
2.16
2.17
2.17
2.27
2.28
2.29
2.30
2.31
2.31
2.33
2.34
2.39
2.39
2.40
2.41
2.44
2.44
2.46
2.47
2.47
2.58
2.61
2.78
2.96
2.98

Note: Q3, Q7, Q9, Q12, Q15, Q16, Q17, Q18, Q19, Q21, Q22, Q24, Q27,
Q28, Q34 and Q35, are statements expressing an unfavourable
attitude in the questionnaire. Of these, Q3, Q19, Q24, Q27,
Q28, and Q35 are stated in the negative form. In order to be
consistent with the rest of the statements (where the smaller
the mean, the more favourable is the attitude represented),
conversion was made in the calculation of the mean of the above
statements. The unfavourable attitude in the above items is
indicated in the Table by italic
and ( ).

The Four Constructs of the Climate of the School

5.5

The items of the questionnaire are divided i n t o

4 main Constructs each intending t o measure a d i s t i n c t


41

characteristic of the school climate. These characteristics


are, namely, Overall Satisfaction with the School (SAT),
Commitment to School Work (COM), Reaction to Teachers (TCH)
and Social

Involvement in School

(SOC) . The mean and

standard division of these 4 Constructs, and the Composite


scores of all the items are included in Table 3. The test
of

the

scale

of

reliability

is

also

conducted.

The

coefficients which range from .5096 of COM, .5746 of SOC,


.7017 of SAT, and .7424 of TCH indicate moderately high to
high

reliability

coefficients

in

the

subscales.

The

composite Alpha reliability is .8477, a high reliability


coefficient.

Table 3
Properties of the Constructs and the Composite Scores
Variable

Mean

SAT
(Ql to Q12)
COM
(Q13 to Q21)
TCH
(Q22 to Q30)
SOC
(Q31 to Q36)
COMPOSITE (all Qs)

26.33
22.57
19.81
14.24
83.15

Std Dev

Number
of Cases

3.82
2.89
3.44
2.58
9.90

788
814
803
807
748

Alpha
Reliability
.7017
.5096
.7424
.5746
.8477

Differences in Satisfaction among the Different Forms

5.6

Table 4 reports the mean, standard deviation, F

value and F Probability of different forms according to the


42

4 Constructs and the Composite scores. The F Value and


Probability show that there is a significant difference
among

different

satisfaction

with

forms

of

school

students
life.

in

These

their

overall

differences

are

observable in each of the 4 individual Constructs and the


Composite scores.

5.7

Table 4 Section A shows the Composite scores of

all the forms. S1, S6 and S7 are different from the rest of
the forms in that they show a higher degree of overall
satisfaction with school life. S3 and S5 are significantly
less satisfied with the

overall school life than the rest

of the classes particularly S1. A decreasing pattern of


satisfaction

over the years

is apparent. S2 is less

satisfied than S1 and, in turn, S3 is less satisfied than


S2. However, there is one interesting phenomenon in this
case. While the findings in the West showed a pattern of
consistent decreasing satisfaction with school life over
time (Epstein & Mcpartland, 1976; Williams & Batten, 1981),
the pattern of decrease in the present study goes through
a cycle. In S4, the situation improves although it does not
get back to the SI level of satisfaction. Dissatisfaction
grows again in S5 and remains the lowest among all the
forms. The situation reverses itself again in S6, and as a
whole, improves further in S7. This cycle of satisfaction
and dissatisfaction coincides with the schooling cycle in
the school. Each major regrouping of

43

Table 4
The Me an Scores of The Constructs According to Forms
Section A
Level
Mean
Std Dev

COMPOSITE (83.15)

SI
80.28#*
10.77

S2
83.74
9.92

S3
S4
84.31# 83.60
8.94
8.46

S5
S6
86.50* 81.82
10.59
8.07

S7
80.91
10.56

F value - 5.081 (F Prob=0.0000)


Section B

SAT (26.33)

Level
Mean
Std Dev

SI
25.26#
4.03

F value

Section C

S2
26.40
3.95

S3
26.43
3.38

S4
26.80
3.14

S7
26.53
4.57

S5
S6
23.23# 21.90
3.24
2.55

S7
21.15#
2.61

3.753 (F Prob * 0.0011)


COM (22.57)

Level
Mean
Std Dev

SI
22.28
3.11

F value

Section D

S2
22.81
2.71

S3
22.95
2.86

S4
22.36
2.52

3.768 (F Prob - 0.0010


TCH (19.81)

Level
Mean
Std Dev

SI
S2
S3
18.97#* 20.29# 20.29*
3.67
3.49
3.08

F value

Section E
Level
Mean
Std Dev

S5
S6
27.26# 26.81
4.05
3.71

S4
19.53
3.52

S5
S6
20.90= 19.17
3.17 3.58

S7
18.58
3.58

5.740 (F Prob ~ 0.0000)


SOC (14.24)

SI
S2
13.33#*=+ 14.34#
2.73
2.45

S3
S4
S5
S6
14.45* 14.68= 15.00+ 14.09
2.15
2.72
2.78 2.43

S7
14.35
2.10

F value = 6.244 (F prob - 0.0000)


Note: #,*,=,+ indicate the pair of groups are significantly different
at 0.05 level.

students after a public examination seems to serve as a


break for the continuous accumulation of dissatisfaction in
school.

5.8

SI students who are fresh to secondary school

will generally find life more exciting in the first year.


This is understandable. It is interesting to see S6 and S7

44

find school life equally satisfying in this case (their


mean of 81.82 and 80.91 respectively are smaller than the
average of 83.15). At this Sixth Form level, the grouping
of students is based on students' results in the Hong Kong
Certificate of Examination (HKCE). Only less than half of
the S5 students are able to carry on their studies in S6.
Perhaps their satisfaction with school has to do with their
having

succeeded

in the highly

competitive

system of

schooling. Besides, S6 are looked on as the leaders of the


students

and

are

called

upon

to

shoulder

heavier

responsibilities in student activities. Table 5 shows that


nearly the entire class of students at this level hold some
position

or

other

as

leaders.

When

there

are

such

opportunities provided by the school, the students will


respond favourably and their satisfaction with school life
will naturally increase. This is happening in the school
being studied. The S7 classes find immense satisfaction in
school perhaps because they realize that this is their last
year

in

school

and their

sense

of

loyalty

is hence

expressed in their favourable perception of school life.

5.9

In Table 4 Sections B, C, D and E, the comparison

of different forms towards the 4 Constructs is made. On


SAT, the SI students are significantly different from the
rest. They seem to be generally more satisfied with school
life

on

the

whole.

S5

shows

significantly

lower

satisfaction in the group. On COM in Section C, S7 and S6


take a clear lead in showing greater satisfaction. This is
45

possibly due to the nature of Sixth Form study - there are


few subjects students are compelled to study which are not
of their own choice. SI follows next in satisfaction, which
shows they are adjusting rather well to studies in the
school.

S5

expresses

significantly

lower

satisfaction

towards school work. The pressure of public examination and


the

uncertainty

it

has

created

may

have

shaken

the

confidence of the students. It is likely that S5 has thus


become less tolerant towards life in school and easily
finds fault with it.

5.10

On reaction to teachers (TCH, Table 4 Section D ) ,

the majority of students

(4 out of 7 levels) respond

favourably to their teachers. The S7, SI and S6 are joined


by the S4 students in feeling more satisfied with their
teachers. S2, S3 and S5 show lower satisfaction than
others, particularly significantly lower than SI. On social
involvement

in

school

(SOC, Table

Section

E) , SI

maintains the greatest enthusiasm followed closely by S6


which provides most of the student leadership in the
school. SI is significantly different from S2, S3, S4 and
S5 in their satisfaction. On the whole, the students'
reactions

to

the

4 Constructs

reveal

their

greatest

satisfaction towards SOC, then TCH, COM and SAT in that


order.

46

The Effect of The Emphasis on English

5-11

A further breakdown of the mean according to the

different classes reveals that the level of satisfaction


the students have towards school life is affected by the
school's English language policy. The school under study is
an Anglo-chinese

school of long standing. English has

always been regarded as an important instrument in the


learning

of other subjects. A

school-composed English

language test which is more difficult than the Hong Kong


Attainment Test

(HKAT) of the Education Department is

administered to all the S 1 students each year before they


enter the school. Those who perform best are allocated to
1A class where about half of the students take French
instead of Chinese at their own request. Those whose
English grades come next are assigned to IB and 1C.
Students whose English is the weakest are assigned to ID
and IE to receive remedial lessons on English.

5.12

The school has a feeder primary. As revealed by

the results of the test, students from the feeder primary


have a better English language foundation than students
from other primary schools, especially those taught in the
Chinese medium, even though the latter may be better at
Chinese and Mathematics. Hence, the school's emphasis on
English language has resulted in most of the feeder primary
students being put into 1A, IB and 1C and the rest into ID
and IE classes. Such a practice is continued into S2 with
47

some small movement of students between the two groups


based largely on their English language attainment.

5.13

In S3, the classes

are completely mixed

in

preparation for further integration in the senior forms,


but the students taking French are still kept in 3A. In S4,
students are grouped according to their choice of subjects.
4A is the Arts stream which offers English Literature and
History as the core subjects. Students opting for Science
can choose 4B which has Biology and English literature as
the core. 4C is reserved mainly for the new students and
its core subjects are Chinese Literature and Economics. 4D
is the Social Science stream with Economics and Principles
of Accounts as the core.

The students taking French can

choose to be in either 4A or 4B. However, as with all the


students, other than the compulsory and core subjects, they
can all choose 3 other subjects in the blocks, which allows
room

for

more

student

options.

The

pattern

remains

basically the same in S5, except that for this year, class
4C is cancelled because of an unexpected fall in the number
of new students assigned to the school a year ago.

5.14

The intake of S6 and 7 students is strictly based

on the HKCE results. The A and B classes are respectively


grouped together only for the class teacher period, English
language,

religious

Otherwise students

education

and physical education.

take similar Arts and Social Science

subjects according to their choice in the blocks. There is


48

an even mix of old and new students (who all come from the
same school because of special arrangement this year) in 6A
and 6B. However, there are significantly more new students
in 7A than 7B though it was not intended as such.

5.15

As described earlier

(in 5.7), the growth of

dissatisfaction with school life over the years takes the


form of a cycle. But within the same level, the policy of
grouping students according to their English ability (based
on the results in the English test) does seem to be an
influential

factor

on student

satisfaction.

(Table 5,

Secondary 1) shows that 1A is more satisfied than IB and,


in turn, IB is more satisfied than 1C in most of the
Constructs as well as in the Composite scores. As a whole,
these 3 classes show higher satisfaction than ID and IE.
The differences between 1A and

49

c l a s s e s 1C, ID and IE i s more a p p a r e n t . 1A i s s i g n i f i c a n t l y


different

from 1C, ID and IE in SAT, COM and Composite

s c o r e . 1A i s a l s o s i g n i f i c a n t l y d i f f e r e n t from ID and IE in
SOC. The d i v i s i o n of s a t i s f a c t i o n
closely

follows

the

dichotomy
50

among t h e SI

between

the

students

students

of

strong

English

ability

versus

those

of

weak

English

ability; and between students from the feeder primary


versus those from other primary schools.

5.16
level,

Following the decline


the

marked

differences

of satisfaction
between

at S2

classes

on

satisfaction in the 4 Constructs and the Composite score


also disappear, except in TCH (Table 5, Secondary 2) . At
this level/ remedial English is taught only in 2E, which
may account for the more favourable response of 2E towards
the teachers.

5.17

At

S3

(Table

5/

Secondary

3), the

general

satisfaction continues to decline. Students with different


abilities are mixed in all the classes at this level,
except 3A where students taking French are kept together.
3A still shows slightly more favourable attitude in the
Constructs particularly in SAT and COM. 3A is significantly
different from 3B in COM. Another class which distinguishes
itself from the rest is 3D which shows marked satisfaction
in 2 of the Constructs, TCH and SOC, and in the Composite
score. 3D

is significantly

different

from

3B in the

Composite score. Since ability grouping is not the case at


this

level, the spell of self-fulfilling prophesy

is

clearly not applicable. Experience has shown that lively


and approachable teachers can influence the morale of the
class especially the class teacher. Other factors like the
personality of the students themselves may also contribute
51

to the difference. This might be the case in 3D. On the


contrary, the absence of the above factors might have
caused 3B to respond the least favourably to school life at
this level.

5.18

The Composite mean scores of S4 reverse the trend

of growing dissatisfaction from the junior forms, and the


distinction between classes, except

for SAT, is also

insignificant (Table 5, Secondary 4). At this level, the


students are grouped according to their choice of subjects,
which in turn, is at times unavoidably affected by their
ability. The predominantly Science stream, 4B attracts
quite a number of bright students even though the school
does not provide Science in the Sixth Form. Among the nonscience group, the Social Science stream (4D) seems to be
the most popular with the students, and hence attracts more
able students. 4A is usually their third choice with the
core subjects of History and English literature. There are
new students at S4 and the school has shown concern for
their lower English language standard by reducing their
class

size, providing additional English classes, and

grouping them mostly in 4C which offers Chinese Literature


and Economics as the core. As discussed above, other than
the core subjects, the rest of the subjects are offered as
choices for students and there is a certain degree of mixed
ability in all the Arts classes. This is perhaps the reason
why there is no significant difference in satisfaction
among the classes. The only exception is in SAT and is
52

expressed between 4A and 4D.

5.19

Dissatisfaction

grows, however,

at

S5

level

(Table 5, Secondary 5). S5 students as a whole express the


lowest overall satisfaction towards school life. Among the
three classes, 5B, the Science stream, registers the lowest
satisfaction in the whole school. This may have been the
effect of a greater turnover of teachers for them in the
past year. The presence too of fairly critical students in
this class may also have contributed to their greater
dissatisfaction. 5A is significantly different from 5B and
5C in their SAT and COM. Anxiety over the imminent public
examination

might

have

adversely

affected

their

participation in school activities as evidenced in the low


SOC satisfaction across the level.

5.20

There

are

significant

differences

in

their

satisfaction with school life between the A and B classes


at S6 and S7 level (Table 5, Secondary 6 & 7). Basically
the two classes of S6 and S7 are the same, taking similar
Arts subjects. However, it is no coincidence that both B
classes show a greater degree of satisfaction towards
school life. In fact, judging by the Composite scores, 7B
and 6B are next only to 1A and IB students in their
satisfaction with school life. Their degree of satisfaction
seems to have been affected by two factors. The first one
is the spread of new and old students. In 6A there are 11
new students and in 6B, 9. Unlike the new students at S7
53

who are from at least four different schools, the new


students at S6 all come from the same school. In 7A there
are 13 new students and 7B only 3. Hence, the situation is
even more

accentuated

at

S7, as the differences

are

apparent in all the four Constructs. A related factor is


the

concentration

of

important

leadership.

The

old

students, because of their long history in the school, are


better known among the students, and thus are more likely
to be elected into the Student Council or selected to serve
as officials of Clubs in charge of student activities.
Whereas in S6A, though there are more posts held by the
students, they may not be in charge of the more important
ones. This seems to be the case with 6B which expresses
significantly higher satisfaction than 6A in COM, TCH and
the Composite score.

5.21

Table 6 lists the most and least satisfied classes

in the school. 7B tops the most satisfied class in COM and


TCH, closely followed by 1A in both areas, while 1A takes
the lead in SAT and SOC, closely followed by 7B and 6B
respectively.

54

Table 5
The Most and Least Satisfied Classes
Most Satisfied Classes

Least Satisfied Classes

S1A
S7B
S7B
S1A
S1A

S7A
S3B
S5B
S5B
S5B

SAT
COM
TCH
SOC
COMP

(22.58)
(19.56)
(16.26)
(11.97)
(72.90)

S7B
S1A
S1A
S6B
S7B

(24.50)
(20.84)
(17.52)
(13.35)
(73.94)

(28.76)
(24.65)
(21.52)
(15.45)
(89.59)

S5B
S5B
S2C
S3B
S3B

(28.59)
(24.03)
(21.52)
(15.09)
(88.97)

Conversely, 7A leads in SAT as the least satisfied class,


followed

by

5B. As

discussed

previously

(5.20),

one

possible explanation for this marked difference between 7A


and 7B is that 7B has many more old students who held
responsible positions a year ago, while there are many more
new students in 7A with different schooling experiences
before. The sense of coherence as a class must have been
affected.

The Effects of Other Factors

5.22

Table 7, 8 and 9 list the influences of other

factors on the 4 Constructs of the quality of school life.


These include:

Factor B (R2) Whether students are from the feeder


primary
school
(confined
to
SI
students);
Factor C (R3) Whether students are new to the school
(referring to S4 and S6 students)/
Factor D (R4) Whether English was used as the
teaching medium in the previous school
55

students attended;
Factor E (R5) Whether students obtained high grades
in the last examination;
Factor F (R6) Whether students would go overseas at
the end of the year;
Factor G (R7) Whether students hold the same faith as
that of the school;
Factor H (R8) Whether
students
positions;
Factor I (R9)

hold

leadership

The
number
of
extra-curricular
activities taken up by students; and

Factor J (RIO) The number of hours spent on homework


each evening

5.23

(Table 7 Factor B) shows that in SI, the feeder

primary school experience has an impact on the students'


attitude towards school life. The students coming from the
feeder

primary

school

express

significantly

higher

satisfaction than those coming from other primary schools


in almost all the Constructs and the Composite Score except
TCH. It is highly possible too that this is also the effect
of their having been put into the better classes. The
students of the feeder primary school which has a higher
standard of English obviously

stand to gain from the

English language policy of the secondary school under


-tudy.

56

Table 7
The Mean of the Constructs and Composite Scores
According to Whether Students are from the Feeder Primary or
New Students
Factor B:

Whether Students are from Feeder Primary School?

Secondary

1
Yes (88)
24.51
21.78
18.73
12.81
78.38

SAT
COM
TCH
SOC
COMPOSITE
Factor C:

No (90)
25.99
22.76
19.19
13.81
82.11

F Value
6.156**
4.691**
0.742
6.407**
5.130**

Whether the students are new to the school?

Secondary

SAT
COM
TCH
SOC
COMPOSITE
Secondary
SAT
COM
TCH
SOC
COMPOSITE

Yes (31)
27.81
22.63
20.32
14.68
85.17

No (83)
26.42
22.27
19.28
14.68
83.05

F Value
4.526**
0.473
1.856
0.000
1.318

Yes (19)
26.84
21.68
19.00
14.50
82.82

No (29)
26.79
22.03
19.29
13.82
81.52

F Value
0.002
0.212
0.132
0.852
0.904

Note: Figure in ( ) indicates the number of students. There is


some variation of the number in each of the Constructs.

57

Table 8A
The Mean of the Constructs and Composite Scores
According to Other Factors
Factor D: Whether English iwas used as the Teaching Medium in the
Previous School iattended?
Yes (380)
26.04
22.26
19.83
14.05
82.31

SAT
COM
TCH
SOC
COMPOSITE

No (395)
26.62
22.91
19.79
14.43
83.97

F Value
4.376*
10.088**
.035
4.310*
5.230**

Factor E: Whether I Students obtained High Grades in the last


examination?
Obtained Higher
Grades (420)
25.80
22.43
19.67
14.09
82.26

SAT
COM
TCH
SOC
COMPOSITE

Obtained Lower
Grades (287)
27.08
22.83
20.04
14.40
84.33

F Value
19.963**
3.448
2.023
2.444
7.118**

Factor F: Whether ;Students would Study Abroad at the end of the


year?
Yes (115)
26.04
22.08
20.20
14.50
83.14

SAT
COM
TCH
SOC
COMPOSITE

No (666)
26.37
22.65
19.74
14.20
83.14

F Value
.736
3.882*
1.716
1.260
.000

Factor G: Whether students hold the same Faith as that of the school?
Catholics
(114)
SAT
COM
TCH
SOC
COMPOSITE

26.27
22.64
20.27
14.46
84.16

Christian
(56)
26.77
22.791
19.52!
15.0T'
84.421

Other
No Religion
(551)
Religion
(37)
26.24
27.11
23.08
22.50
19.73
19.58
14.12
13.85
82.72
83.37

F Value
.865
.865
1.142
3.051
1.094

Note: Figure in ( ) indicates the number of students. There is some


variation of the number in each of the Constructs.

5.24

However,

this

advantage

disappears

over the

years. In S4 (Table 7, Factor C), the distinction between


the old and the new students in their attitude towards
school life has been blurred in most of the Constructs and
the Composite Score except in SAT, where the old students

58

still express significantly higher satisfaction than the


new students. In S6, no such distinction is found.

5.25

(Table

previously

8A, Factor

D)

shows

that

those

who

attended schools which used English as the

teaching medium have significantly higher satisfaction in


the Composite score, SAT, COM and SOC. This is consistent
with the school's policy of emphasis on English. (Table 8A,
Factor E) shows that those who have obtained higher grades
in

the

last

satisfaction

examination
in the

express

Composite

significantly

score

and

SAT.

higher
It

is

interesting that the attitude towards school life does not


clearly cut across the line of academic results.

5.26

(Table 8A, Factor F) reveals that those who

indicate that they would study abroad before the end of the
year show a higher satisfaction in COM. (Table 8A, Factor
G) shows that although the school under study is a Roman
Catholic school, the Catholic faith itself does not create
marked difference in students' attitude towards school
life. On the contrary, students who profess no religion
register a slightly lower mean in every Construct and the
Composite Score than students with religious belief.

59

Table 8B
The Mean of the Constructs and Composite Scores
According to Other Factors
Factor H: Whether students hold Leadership Positions?
SAT
COM

soc
COMPOSITE

Yes (180)
26.32
22.45
19.60
14.15
82.85

No (608)
26.34
22.61
19.87
14.27
83.24

F Value
.004
.424
.845
.273
.197

Factor I: The Number of Extra-curricular Activities taken up by the


student?
Less than 2
(255)
SAT
26.45
22.57
COM
TCH
19.93
14.39
SOC
COMPOSITE 83.52

more than 5
(174)
25.63
22.45
19.37
14.05
81.65

2 to 4
(276)
26.34
22.71
19.94
14.07
83.39

F Value
2.790
.473
1.819
1.388
2.103

Factor J: The Number of Hours spent on Homework each evening

SAT
COM
TCH
SOC
COMPOSITE

Below
2 hrs
(298)
26.52
22.80
19.61
14.06
83.31

2-3
hrs
(227)
26.30
22.40
19.90
14.12
82.77

3-4
hrs
(151)
26.42
22.50
20.18
14.51
83.77

Above
4 hrs
(107)
25.76
22.40
19.62
14.50
82.48

F Value
1.079
1.054
1.106
1.603
.472

Note: Figure in ( ) indicates the number of students. There is some


variation of the number in each of the Constructs.

* ?7

(Table 8B) shows that Factor H, I and J do not

ise any marked differences among the students as a whole


a their attitudes towards school life. A further breakdown
uf the location of leaders in different classes (Table 9)
shows that there is a rather even spread of leaders in all
classes. The posts of leadership in each class include at
least the class spokesperson, councillor, and religious
activities convenor, which are all elected by the students
60

in the same class. Then at S5 and above, students could be


elected to the prestigious Student Council which organizes
functions for the entire student body. At S4 and above, the
students could become coordinators or officials of various
Clubs, or the Houses. At a lower level, students could be
appointed Team leaders of the Athletics Club and the School
Choir. So the leadership posts are well spread in the
school. The fact that holders of leadership positions do
not create a marked difference in attitude towards school
life indicates that the impact of leadership role is less
influential than the membership of a class.

5.28

Again both Factor I (the degree of participation

in extra-curricular activities) and Factor J (the number of


hours spent on homework each evening) in (Table 8B) cover
a wide range of students from different forms. Like the
situation in Factor H on leadership role where there is a
wide spread of student leaders in all classes, it is the
class as a unit which takes more priority in promoting
student satisfaction in the school.

61

Tablei 9
The Spread of Leade:rs
Form
No

S1A
4

SIB
3

SIC
3

SID
8

S1E
2

S2A
7

S2B
10

S2C
4

S2D
6

S2E
4

S3A
7

S3B
5

S3C
6

S3D
8

S3E
6

S4A
8

S4B
11

S4C
3

S4D
10

S5A
9

S5B
13

S5C
3

S6A
26

S6B
21

S7A
2

7B
2

Findings of The Research Questions

5.29

At the outset, a list of the factors which were

thought to be of significance to student satisfaction were


drawn up for research. The findings to these questions will
be dealt with individually in the following.

5.30

On Rl (differences in perception between junior

and senior students), the questionnaire findings give full


support to this factor. It is fairly apparent that the
higher the level the less satisfied the students become,
the reason being that as the students grow up, their
critical sense is also more developed and are therefore
less easily satisfied. The observation is exactly true
62

within the first three years of secondary school. It is


roughly true up to S5. A similar phenomenon can be found in
many studies in the West. However, in the school being
studied, the level of satisfaction picks up again slightly
at S4, and more clearly at S6 and S7.

5.31

The S6 students, having qualified for Sixth Form

studies, tend to relax after the HKCE. Besides, they have


become important leaders in school and, as such, often come
into frequent contacts with their teachers while carrying
out their duties. It is understandable that they should
hold a greater degree of tolerance towards aspects of the
school which in their eyes are less desirable. All these
reasons perhaps explain their greater satisfaction towards
school life. S5 students, on the other hand, probably
because

of

the

pending

HKCE,

highly

competitive

examination, are less certain of their future and might


tend to feel negatively about school.

5.32

The questionnaire findings to R3 (differences in

perception between new and old students) reveals that there


is a significant difference in student satisfaction at SI
but not thereafter. At S4, the differences are less clear
and by S6, have become altogether insignificant. At SI, all
the students are new to the school, so to speak. But the
students from the feeder Primary already know one another
quite well, and are no strangers to the school. The rest of
the

SI

students,

coming

from
63

different

schools

and

cultures, would be quite lost for the first year. Hence,


the

old

students, by

virtue

of their higher English

standard, get assigned into the 'better classes' of 1A, 1B,


and 1C and find greater satisfaction in school than the new
students in 1D and 1E.

5.33

At S4, the grouping of students are based more on

the students' choice of subjects. The old and the new are
no

longer differentiated by their English attainment.

Except for the SAT Construct, where the old students show
a more favourable attitude, the same cannot be said for the
other Constructs. The new students, at this level, are
mostly grouped into 4C, but their satisfaction towards the
school is not significantly different from the other S4
classes, perhaps because they feel their needs have been
adequately met by the school.

5.34

At S6, there is no significant difference between

the satisfaction of the old and new students. They are


quite evenly mixed in the two classes. Most of them, old
and new alike take on leadership positions in the school.
It seems to be the case that, the new students, even at S4
and S6 level, have been assimilated into the school and do
not feel they suffer any disadvantage, or are any less
cared for in the school.

5.35

R2

(differences in perception between the S1

students who are from the feeder primary and those from
64

other primaries) and R4 (differences in perception between


students who studied in primaries that used English as the
medium of instruction and those who did not) turn out to
overlap somewhat. Students from the feeder primary, because
of their exposure to English as the medium of instruction,
have a better standard of English. And because of the
English Placement Test in S1, students with better English,
no matter they are from the feeder primary or other
primaries that use English as the medium of instruction,
are allocated to 1A, IB, and 1C, whereas those with less
proficiency in English gets assigned to ID and IE. The
questionnaire reveals that students' satisfaction at this
level has a great deal to do with where they are in the
form. There is a clear pattern of greater satisfaction in
classes A, B, and C than in D and E. This distinct pattern
disappears already by S2 even though the same principle is
used for the allocation of students. There are, no doubt,
differences from class to class, with the 2A taking the
lead in SAT, COM, and SOC; but the difference is by no
means significant. However, the significant differences in
satisfaction towards SAT, COM, SOC, and Composite score
except TCH between those who were instructed in English and
those who were instructed in Chinese in the primary school
reflect that the school's policy of emphasis on English has
lirect bearing on their perception of school life.

5.36

The

difference

in

perception

between

the

academically strong and weak students, a factor posed in


65

R5, is not as great as might be expected. The questionnaire


findings in this case study reveal that the significant
difference is marked only in SAT and the Composite score.
Although the academically more able students still find
more satisfaction towards school life in all the aspects
under study, the findings do not seem to fully support the
belief that the school climate affects student outcome in
terms

of

academic

results.

In

this

school

which

traditionally discourages academic success at the expense


of all

other achievements (the use of grades instead of

marks in the report card: 2.15, and open dislike of


'bookworm' by some students: 2.10), the present findings
could

not

have been more consistent

with the school

climate.

5.37

None of the following factors: R6 (differences in

perception between those who have immediate plans to study


abroad and those who do not), R7 (differences in perception
between

those

who

hold

different

faiths),

and

R9

(differences in perception between those more and less


involved

in

significant

extra-curricular

activities),

have

any

effect on the students' satisfaction with

school life. Students who have more definite plans to study


abroad show they are significantly more satisfied towards
COM than those otherwise. Perhaps they find class work
helpful in getting them accepted by schools outside Hong
Kong, or some might have actually started to enjoy class
work once they are no longer under any pressure. The degree
66

of difference between the students who profess no religious


faith and those who do, particularly those who hold the
same faith as the school, is not significant although the
former group of students show greater satisfaction in all
the 4 Constructs. This should not come as a surprise. As
pointed out before (2.12), the school has always given lowkey

treatment

to

religious

activities

and

has

been

consistently sensitive about the need to respect other


people's beliefs, and not to inconvenience them or to
embarrass them. Regarding participation in extra-curricular
activities, those who have taken part in more than 5
activities, show greater satisfaction in all 4 Constructs,
though the differences are insignificant.

5.38

R8 (differences in perception between those who

hold leadership posts and those who do not) raises rather


interesting
register

findings. Although

any

significant

this

difference

factor

does

not

in the students'

satisfaction in the questionnaire findings, it was found


that the leaders were quite well spread throughout the
school in all the classes. This phenomenon might have
accounted for the insignificance of leadership as a factor
influencing student perceptions in the school under study.
Earlier on it was also made clear that factors like
academic attainment and participation in extra-curricular
activities do not produce distinct differences in student
satisfaction. Rather, the class as a unit, together with
its

attending

characteristics
67

take

more

priority

in

affecting

student

interactions

of

the

satisfaction.
same

group

The
of

constant

daily

people, the

peer

interactions, the teacher-student interactions have built


up such a strong bond of experience, whether positive or
negative, that the class as a cohesive unit, is far more
influential

in determining

student perceptions of the

school climate.

68

CHAPTER VI

INTERVIEW ANALYSIS

6-1

In this chapter/ perceptions generated from the

long interviews of representative student groups in support


of the questionnaire findings are discussed. It is not the
purpose

of the present

materials

covered.

The

study

to

discussion

report
will

in full the
focus

on the

satisfaction or otherwise of the students towards the


quality of school life, especially towards some of the
basic values embraced by the school over the years.

General Satisfaction

6.2

All of the groups interviewed showed a positive

response to life in the school with the exception of S5


students who were more critical (this is consistent with
the findings from the questionnaire survey). The 'old'
students in S6 and S4 in particular expressed a strong
sense of belonging and pride in the school (although this
is not significantly shown in the questionnaire). Even the
'new' students in S6 and S4 had plenty of good things to
say about the school. The S2 students, in spite of their
greater dissatisfaction

than the

SI according to the

questionnaire findings, nonetheless spoke of a 'happier'


experience all round when compared to the previous year
69

largely because of greater familiarity with the school.

Respect for Student Needs

6.3

In terms of respect for students, the interviews

show that the students are generally aware of it and


appreciative of it. They commented favourably on the choice
of

subjects

at

S4 and

S5

level, in particular, the

available channels whereby they could seek advice. Students


of S4 and above could point out specific concessions (like
allowing very weak students, especially the 'new' students,
to drop certain subjects; or the permission to wear anklelength

socks

in

winter),

and

improvements

(like the

provision of soap in the washrooms) made as a result of


student

requests.

The

overall

impression

from

the

interviews is that the students think the school is quite


democratic.

Discipline

6.4

On discipline in the school, there was unanimous

outcry that students are less well-behaved than before. The


'we'-'they' categorization was apparent in the minds of the
students at all the levels, but more so among the S5
students. They spoke of some of the S4 'new' students as
being "not refined, not decent", that "they' "have tinted
hair, long finger nails, and wear short dress". That they
70

are the group most dissatisfied with this aspect of school


life could perhaps be traced to larger intakes of 'new'
students through the Junior Secondary Education Assessment
(JSEA) at S4 level in recent years. The fact that they too
are senior students might have given rise to occasions when
their good name was implicated and "tarnished". Towards the
more childish pranks, the students seemed to be tolerant so
long as they are not mean and malicious. The S4 'new'
students interviewed, on the other hand, were quite aware
of the higher standards of behaviour that is expected of
them in the school compared to their previous schools. They
knew they were different, but did not express resentment
towards the school. It is interesting to note that as the
students pointed the accusing finger at other students for
misbehaving, they all came up with ready attributes of the
school's traditional student profile - that students should
be lady-like, kind, considerate, and self-disciplined. In
the course of the interview, the S6 students, while voicing
their concern for student misbehaviour, were quick to point
out that most of the young ones in the school are very
sweet and innocent. The S2 students too did appreciate the
helpfulness of the "big sisters", so there is mutual
appreciation between the senior and junior students on the
whole.

The warmth of feeling about one another is a

further confirmation of the 'we' spirit in the school.

Attitude towards Studies (in general)


71

6.5

Over the years, another aspect of the profile of

the typical student is that she is definitely "not a bookworm" . This perception came out again and again in the
interviews. In fact, the questionnaire findings (5.25) also
show that the students who score high on academic studies
are not distinctly more satisfied than those who do less
well. While they readily repudiated the stigma of a "bookworm", on the other hand, they expressed mild misgivings
about students not working hard enough on the academic
subjects, (except the S2 students who complained of too
many tests). The dilemma is keenly felt by those from S5
and S6. This fact coincides with the questionnaire findings
that point to the S5 and S6 especially for being most harsh
in their

criticism

of their

fellow

students

in this

respect, although the mean score for Q3 stands at 2.09,


well below the mean average. The students who did not
attend the feeder primary school from among the S2, and S5
chosen for the interview were fully aware of their poorer
English foundation, and expressed frustration at having to
learn fast to cope with the English standard.

Attitude towards Studies (the S5 students)

6.6

The S5 students' response has been particularly

noticeable. They commented on the lack of an English


speaking atmosphere in the school. They felt it was easier
to speak English in the junior forms, but as they grow
72

older, they have found it increasing difficult to insist to


do so. The science students in the group are the most
dissatisfied ones towards school work and their teachers
(5.19). In the interview, they revealed their anxiety over
the imminent HKCEE, and their frustration that they had not
been as adequately "drilled" on the sciences as their
counterparts in some other schools. They felt they had not
been sufficiently challenged over the years, and that they
had not been made to feel competent in their science
subjects. Some of them even suggested creating awards for
the highest student achievement in individual subjects as
a

way

of

stimulating

competition,

much

against

the

traditional school spirit.

Attitude Towards the Teachers

6.7

When some students started to find fault with the

teachers, and their teaching, others were quick to observe


that many of the teachers are "very nice, and friendly",
that some would sacrifice their short lunch hour to listen
to their problems. This view is shared by the new students
in

S6, and

especially

those

in

S4. The

S6 students

tactfully suggested that if the teachers were too friendly,


it would be difficult for them to enforce discipline. Most
students agreed that if the teacher were good at teaching,
their

interests

in

the

subject

would

automatically

increase. Contrary to the questionnaire findings which


73

reveal that they like most of the teachers (Q25 with a mean
of 2.16), the students in the interviews were rather vocal
about what they considered to be bad teaching.

School Activities (weekly assembly)

6.8

On the weekly assembly, the 'new' students said

they were very impressed as many of the programmes are run


by the School Guidance Team composed of S6 students. The
prayers and singing are led by students too. The figures of
authority, like the principal or the Discipline Mistress do
not take a high profile except on some occasions. All this
is different from their previous experience and therefore
appeals to their sense of a democratic spirit in the
school. The 'old' students, on the other hand, did not seem
to be equally enthused. They might have already taken it
for granted. Some students expressed boredom at the same
faces appearing regularly at assembly, and the S2 students
thought the half-hour assembly was too long especially when
they had to be seated on the floor.

School Activities (Talent Quest & Fun Fair)

6.9

Towards the many traditional school activities,

the students have a strong feeling of identity. Like the


annual Talent Quest, for instance, they saw it as "the most
74

important function" of the year - something to look forward


to even from the beginning of the school year. And it does
not

matter

how

they

participate

in

it,

whether

as

competitors or as audience, it is equally important to


them. It is one of those functions over which they would
"fight" for an admission ticket. Equally important in their
eyes is the end-of-the-year Fun Fair, a function held to
raise funds for charity and student welfare, and open to
the Primary

school and

families

and

friends. The S6

students looked forward to the experience of organizing


such a large function, "applying the economic concepts
learnt from books". The senior students confessed they had
been waiting for the chance to organize the function for
others since Primary school days.

School Activities (various Festivals)

6.10

The students interviewed all expressed positive

feelings about the annual English Festival that allows the


students from SI to S4 to have the chance to put to use
their creativity in the English language. They appreciated
the chance given to them to write or adapt scripts, act
them out, learn about lighting and other stage effects, and
to cooperate with one another in the production. In their
own words, they welcomed the opportunity to "have something
different in their regular English classes". They did not
see anything wrong when the drama production sometimes took
75

priority over the use of English. It is an experience they


would not want to miss.

They were equally enthusiastic

about the Schools Speech and Music Festivals which draw a


large number of participants from the school every year.
Some of them joined every year, trying to outdo their last
achievement. Some joined simply because their friends did.

Learning Opportunities

6.11

The

questionnaire

findings

reveal

that

the

students of S6 are only lagging behind those of SI in the


overall

satisfaction

towards

school

life.

They

are

particularly positive about their social involvement. The


interview

with

the

S6

students

revealed

that

their

satisfaction came mainly from their leadership roles in the


school. They found the leadership orientation organized by
the school at the beginning of the school term very
helpful. Though admitting

to times of frustration in

organizing functions for the rest of the students, they


found friendships have been fostered, and their selfconfidence has also taken an upturn as a result.

76

CHAPTER VII

CONCLUSION

7.l

The present study sets out to investigate the

perceptions of students towards the school climate in terms


of the quality of school life. Some very interesting
findings have emerged.

7.2

Contrary

to

many

studies

in the West, the

students' satisfaction towards the quality of school life


in the case study does not follow a straight line of
decline over the years. Instead, the decline is arrested at
two levels, S4 and S6. One wonders whether this is a
phenomenon peculiar to Hong Kong because of the regrouping
of students caused by the public examinations at S3 and S5
level.

One

also

wonders

whether

the

effect

needs

necessarily arrest the declining satisfaction.

7.3

The students in the school under study are

streamed at SI and S2 level according to their English


language ability. This early streaming together with the
school's traditional emphasis on English activities have
been instrumental in influencing the students' perceptions
of school life as indicated in the questionnaire findings.
The

students with

a higher English ability

show a

distinctly favourable view of the school covering all 3


Constructs except their reactions to the teachers.
77

7.4

The academically bright students are not clearly

different from the less able ones in their satisfaction.


This phenomenon may be unique to the school under study
since the school does not emphasize academic results alone.
Such an attitude is clearly reflected in the interviews
where

the

typical

student

profile

of

the

school

is

identified as 'not a book-worm' (6.5).

7.5

The new students are able to assimilate with the

old students rather quickly. The difference in satisfaction


between the students from the feeder Primary and those from
other primaries

is significant

only

at

SI, and soon

disappears from S2. At S4 and S6 levels the new students


are

even

more

quickly

assimilated.

No

significant

difference in student satisfaction is found at these two


levels.

7.6

It is perhaps a bit surprising to find that the

other factors have little or no significant impact on the


students' satisfaction. There is hardly any significant
difference between the satisfaction of those who hold the
same faith as the school and those who hold other religions
or no religion. The same is true of the factors like
immediate plans to study abroad, involvement in extracurricular activities, the hours spent on homework, and
leadership posts. It is perhaps again unique to the school
under study that leadership posts, because they are so well
spread throughout, that the role of leadership does not
78

constitute an influential factor in student satisfaction.

7 . 7
most

fact, it is the unit of the class which is the

significant

factor

in

influencing

the students'

perceptions of school life. Perhaps this should not be


surprising. As explained in (5.37), the class unit has
provided a basis for constant daily contacts among the same
group of peers, and teacher-student interactions of the
same groups of people, which no other factors such as
membership

of

extra-curricular

activities

or

role

of

leadership could provide. Further research could be carried


out to see how far this is true in other schools and the
extent its influence has over other factors.

7.8
not

One feature worthy of commenting is that it is


sure

how

far

the

degree

of

satisfaction

or

dissatisfaction towards school life is affected by reasons


of a temporary nature. In other words we are not sure,
particularly

because

this

is

assessed

through

the

questionnaire survey, whether some temporary factor, such


as a short-term measure introduced in the school, has
affected the degree of satisfaction of the students. There
is perhaps a need to mount a longitudinal study, an
ethnographic study, for the better understanding of student
satisfaction.

7.9

The interviews which were conducted with a good


79

mix of old and new students from a wide range of levels


also supported many of the findings in the questionnaire
data. In particular, the interviews found that the students
appreciate the school's effort to meet the needs of the
students; some found the teachers nice and friendly; the
students like the many school activities, and appreciate
the learning opportunities provided. On the negative side,
the

students

feel

that

there

is

decline

of

good

behaviour. This feeling is particularly strong among the


old students.

7.10

Taking the case study as a whole, there are a few

shortcomings encountered in the study. The first misgiving


is about the timing of the interviews. Owing to the short
school

term

in

S5

and

S7,

the

questionnaires

were

distributed to them just before their Mock Examinations,


and the interviews conducted shortly before the S5 students
sat the HKCE. The timing was no problem for the other
classes, but for the S5 students, their anxiety of the
public examinations took dominance over other issues. There
was also the problem of insufficient time to include more
levels

of

students

questionnaire

and

findings

to

thoroughly

before

launching

analyze

the

into

the

interviews, otherwise the discussions could have been more


focused.

7.11

As a case study, it is not sure how far the above

observations hold true for the time under study. Some of


80

the findings may only have a temporary existence; given a


different set of circumstances or combinations of factors,
the perspectives may change. It can be envisaged that a
more

lasting pattern can only emerge with continuous

research into the issue.

81

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84

APPENDIX
QUESTIONNAIRE ON STUDENTS'PERCEPTION OF THE SCHOOL CLIMATE
Dear Student,
This is a research study on students'perception of the school clinate.
Tour sincere response to the following questions will be deeply
appreciated. Please feel free to be as frank as you can. Tou need not put
down your nane.
I wish to take this opportunity to thank you for your help and
co-operation and I wish you every success in your studies.
PERSONAL DATA:
Please attempt the following items:

7.

1.

I an now studying in

Forn

2.

I have studied in this school since Prinary

3.

In ly previous school most of the


lessons were taught in English.

Yes
No

4.

I intend to do further studies after Form 7.

Tes
No

5.

In ny studies I am doing

Very well
We 11
Not so well
Poorly

6.

I an a

/ Form

Catholic
Christian
other religion
non-believer

This year, I hold the post of (please state)

8.

This year, I have joined the following activities:

choir / school tean / drana / speech festival / athletics /


nusic festival/ swinning gala / House activity / service groups /
club activities / talent quest / R.A.C. activities /
other Student Council activities
please list how nany

Please CIRCLE the nunber that best represent your view on the following
statenents.
Key

1 = very true
2 = true
3 = untrue
4 = very untrue

SATISFACTION
1.

I like to go to school every day.

1 2

2.

My school enjoys a good nane in the connunity.

1 2

3.

I would reconoend this school to ny friends.

1 2

4.

The students of this school are well behaved.

1 2

5.

Most people at this school are kind.

1 2

6.

The students of this school are hardworking.

1 2

7.

The school cares for those students who don't do


so well in their studies.

1 2

8.

I feel accepted in this school.

1 2

9.

I an proud of this school.

1 2

10.

The student's complaints are ignored.

1 2

11.

The students are not keen in their studies.

1 2

12.

The students are divided into snail groups which


quarrel with one another.

1 2

13.

I would rather transfer to another school if I had


the choice.

1 2

New students and teachers are Bade to feel welcone


and part of the group in this school.

1 2

The students of this school get along well with one


another.

1 2

16.

There is a "we" spirit in this school.

1 2

17.

There is soneone in this school that I can always


count on.

1 2

3 4

18.

My best friends are in this school.

1 2

3 4

19.

I feel lonely in this school.

1 2

3 4

20.

I often invite classmates to ny hone.

1 2

COHESIYENESS
14.

15.

CURRICULUM
21.

What we learn in class is suited to our needs.

1 2

22.

The things I get to work on in nost of ny classes


are interesting.

1 2

23.

In class, I often count the ninutes till it ends.

1 2

3 4

24.

Tests are very frequent.

1 2

25.

Work in class is just busy work and a waste of tine.

1 2

27.

In Fori 4 and above, we are allowed to choose the


subjects we want to study within the given options.

1 2

1 2

REACTIONS TO TEACHERS
28.

The teachers are harsh in their criticisn.

29.

The teachers are available to students who need help.

1 2

30.

The teachers in this school are working hard.

1 2

31.

Thinking of ny teachers this tern, I really like nost


of then.

1 2

their studies.

1 2

33.

The teachers listen to our problens.

1 2

34.

The teachers treat all the students alike.

1 2

35.
36.

The teachers are fair to students.


The teacehrs are 'alive', they are interested in
life around then.

1 2

1 2

The teachers are actively learning too.

1 2

3 4

their talents and interests.

1 2

39.

I look forward to the school assenbly every week.

1 2

40.

The student council looks after our interests.

1 2

41.

The school extra-curricular activities are quite


boring.

1 2

42.

There is not nucb religious atnosphere in the school.

1 2

43.

Our suggestions for school inprovenent will be heard.

1 2

44.

The acadenically bright students are not given


enough recognition.

1 2

The grading systei in the report card is fair.

1 2

32.

37.

The teachers praise students who have done well in

SOCIAL GROWTH AND SCHOOL ACTIVITIES


38.

45.

The students have a lot of opportunities to develop