AN EXAMINATION OF SOURCES OF STRESS AMONG SECONDARY SCHOOL STUDENTS IN BENIN CITY AND ENVIRON
Background to the Study
Stress is inherent and inevitable in a social system. It creates physiological and psychological changes in the individual. When one talks about the “stress and strain” of modern life, most especially in schools, one means simply the pressures caused by competitions in schools and in the working world. Social demands worries about economic security and frustration of expectation not achieved due to stress and strains. Qualitative approaches have gone further in exploring the meaning of these stressful events for students concerned, highlighting theme such as an over identification with academic success and the perception of GCSE examination as constituting a crucial moment in determining the future life trajectory of a student.
However, this area has been neglected by researchers working on the educational psychology disciplinary boundaries, and a number of important features have yet to be specified regarding the development, antecedents and educational consequences of examination stress. The concept of the sources of pressures faced by young people and adolescents, Kyriacou (2003) and Seiffge-Krenke (1993) suggests that school assessments and examinations represent a number of sources of change and insecurity that leads to stress; others include school transfer, bullying relationships and identity. This is also a popular theme in the National Press, where a number of recent articles have voiced concerns of students, parents and teachers that the frequency and importance of examinations is resulting in an unacceptable degree of stress in school children and subsequently contributing to a range of derogatory consequences (e.g. Times Educational Supplement, 2005, 2007, 2008). A number of survey-based studies have provided evidence for these claims indicating that assessments, and in particular examinations are perceived by secondary school students as stressful, worrisome and anxiety provoking events in Benin City and environ (e.g. Gallaghe & Miller, 1996) and (Kouzma & Kennedy, 2004).
The tension and strain experienced by individuals be it in their homes, in their schools have been proved as the by-product of stress by many psychologists. Aherne (2001) Executive stress and its management emphasized that stress occurs when nervous tension reaches a degree of intensity that interferes with normal physiological process in the body. He looked at these as a perceived substantial imbalance between demands and responses capability under the condition where failure to meet demands has important or perceived consequences. This type of survey-based research is useful in providing an empirical body of data to substantiate claims that school assessment/examination are a perceived source of stress, but are limited by their design in the extent to which they inform on three important dimensions of examination stress.
First, this research tells us little about subjectivity, that is how students make sense of the experience of assessment/examination stress. Second this research provides no information as to the factors which contribute to the development of examination stress. Third, the research provides little contextual information how the experience of stress is situated in schools, places (e.g. examination halls) and practices (e.g. how teachers prepare students for examinations). These sources of stress factors general stressful situations as they hinder goals and expectations. On this line Connor (2001, 2003) reported how elevated stress/anxiety was related to student’s worries about underachieving compared to peers and whether poor results would influence which group or sets they would be placed in. He classified sources of stress into various types; social, physical and economical. However, this research work is concerned with physical sources of stress.
As Hall et al. (2004) further explained the physical sources of stress are further classified into Primary or Direct and Secondary or Indirect stress. The Primary or Direct stress which is the concern of this research work involves environmental adaptive capacities of the impositions, trauma or insults which directly strains or stresses the adaptive capacities of non-physiological system, excessive noise and heat are examples of such primary source of stress. In recent times, Benin City has considerably increased in population tending towards high urbanization. The school system is an important part of society, the hustling from traffic jam, the hustle and bustle of getting vehicles to school by the students, the crowded classrooms and overloaded curriculum all emanate stressful symptoms. This is further increased as most schools are located c lose to or at the centre of the busy streets.
According to Akhagbe’s Isei (2005) finding in his project work titled school location planning a very high percentage of students travel distance lesser than or equal to five kilometers to get to school. Denscombe (2000) state that noise adverse effects on behaviour. The noise factors that could create stressful situation among secondary school students, it could also emanate from crowded school environment. Putwain (2007a) found out that there has been a rapid growth in the development of education at all levels particularly in the approach adopted by Denscombe (2000) was the second of these, ascertaining student’s views on the factors associated with the GCSE that caused stress. This phenomenon resulted to rapid growth in secondary schools, and this led to crowded number of students in the classrooms, playgrounds, laboratories without a corresponding increase in buildings, seat, staff and other physical facilities because of the general economic depression. This idea brought with it many problems which are causing emotional and physical distress in students. Against this background students in Benin City and environ are faced with the problems which tend to militate against their effective and efficient learning.
Pekrun et al, (2002) noted that stress symptoms which could be observed among this type of individuals includes anxiety, worries, feeling of guilt, uneasiness, some psychological responses, and increased tension. The awareness of the importance of education had encouraged the Federal Government of Nigeria to adopt education as an instrument of per excellence for effecting national development. As a result the Nigerian Education Research Council was initiated in 1969 to review the nation’s school curriculum. The National Curriculum Conference addressed the issue of the relevance of the curriculum at all levels of education. The outcome of that conference was a production of an educational structure known as the 6-3-3-4 system. But as Ekpo (1992) viewed in his contribution of the analysis of “Educational Policy and Implementation in Nigeria” the 6-3-3-4 system now in vogue is not workable because of high cost, lack of prior evaluation and heavy workload on the students and the teaching personnel.
On the aspect of secondary school curriculum, this research work will also look at the area of the implications of ‘over’ widened curriculum of the 6-3-3-4 system. Very often, students see their problems as centered on having too much to do during the six crowded hours of school period, it is not unusual to hear students complain of lack of time as they may have too many assignments from numerous core and vocational subjects are expected to offer. The student’s sources of stress is their attempt to cope with situations which affect their physical and mental energy. As a result, students may undergo a lot of strains such as anxiety, fear and uneasiness when they cannot complete their numerous assignments or class work. Every student has always attempted to maintain a good standard so as to satisfy their school authority and parents.
This conscious creates frustrations especially when students are unable to meet these objectives. As Thompson & Gunter (2006) revealed, stress is non-specific responses of the adaptation to any demand i.e. all human beings may adapt to the physiological response to stress in three reactions:
(1) The Alarm reactions
(2) Stage of resistances which has to do with increase in the capacity for the organization to respond
(3) Exhaustion which is characterized by the loss of functional capability to continue.
These issues discussed above are tentative non-definitive statement which can only be empirically validated. Therefore this present study is determined to know whether the referred to above are stressful, distressful or frustrating or get stressed out.
Statement of Problem
The level of stress that is generated from the school environment can be attributed to noise, class size and heat perception which emanates from increased urbanization and class size as a result of school population explosion. Another problem is that students are faced with academic work load from broadened curriculum of the 6-3-3-4 educational structure. The students are invariably faced with demand to cope with these environmental factors, and responsibility to satisfy their parents and school authority with excellent academic success. Invariably noise, class size, heat worries and anxiety and the pressures arising from General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) course work and examinations are the sources of stress and strains of secondary school students in Benin City environ.
The following research questions were raised to guide this study:-
(1) Are there any stressful situations in the school environment that can be a source of stress for the students in the school?
(2) Does noise act as source of stress among students in the school?
(3) Does class size in the school environment act as source of stress among secondary school students?
(4) Is assessment in particular examinations, perceived by secondary school students as source of stress?
(5) Does learning workload act as source of stress among students in the school environment?
Purpose of the Study
The study is aimed at finding out the sources of stress among secondary school students in Benin City and environs specifically the study aims at ascertaining factors like development assessment, examinations as anxiety provoking events and class size that can cause sources of stress in the secondary schools. The study also evaluates the level at which these stressful situations exploring the meaning of these stressful events for students concerned, highlighting themes such as an over-identification with academic success and the perception of GCSE examinations as constituting a crucial moment in determining the future life trajectory of a student. Furthermore, the study investigates how positively or negatively students react to stressful factors in the school environment and lastly, the study will help to analyze the level at which stress affects student’s academics.
Significance of Study
The school is an instrument of national and technological advancement. If the school is to meet these expectations of the parents society and the nation at large, or if the school is to achieve its own aims and objectives, attention must be paid to everything that will enhance the effective performances of the academic pursuit. Most studies on studies on stress tend to deal with the sources and symptoms of stress as experienced by managers, or administrations of institutions. They had also gone as far as to how stress factors could be managed, depending on the characteristics of the individual. Every person who has a job knows that on the job pressure is one of the major sources of stress people encounter. When stress is handled effectively it provides the motivation which encourages one to overcome obstacles that separates an individual from hope and goals. But when it is allowed to get out of control, it lead to sickness low level performances and even death.
This research is of the opinion that if the environmental factors that affect academic performances in the educational institution are found, they should be manipulated to improve the students educational achievement. The study is therefore significant because:
I. It would help greatly to a better understanding of the sources of stress in secondary school students’ in Benin City and environs.
II. An understanding of the nature of students’ stress will help school authorities to be more effective.
III. The understanding of stress experienced by the secondary school students will help policy makers in educational decision.
IV. It would help the ministry of education on catchment into secondary schools.
V. The understanding of the nature of stress in secondary school environment would help students to improve and control their environment avoid stress as much as possible.
VI. This study could also encourage parents to help their children to know the area to avoid or concentrate.
Scope of the Study and Delimitation
The study is designed to cover all the secondary schools in Benin City and environs. But as a result of time limit and financial constraints, some secondary schools were selected for the study.
Definition of Terms
Sources of stress in this study refers to as an over-identification with academic success and the perception of GCSE examination as constituting a crucial moment in determining the future life trajectory of a student, tension and strains generated in student’s learning environment such as noise, heat perception, pressure, class size, anxiety, worries and academic workload. It also includes school population which sometimes may affect mental and physical energy.
Noise: is defined as an unpleasant sound, a loud surprising irritating or unwanted sound.
Learning Workload: is defined as the total of work to be done by students in terms of learning and reading with assignments, homework and class work.