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The Effects of Bullying on Academic Achievement

THE EFFECT OF BULLYING ON ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE OF LEARNERS IN HIGH SCHOOL

THE BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY

Bullying has become a challenge that numerous schools are battling with. Olweus (1995), noted that bullying happens at schools during times when a person is exposed over and over again to negative behaviour which can be either verbal or physical to one or more learners. Olweus also noted that a bullying relationship requires an inequality of strength or power over the other person.

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Dillon and Lash (2005) made a similar explanation about bullying, showing that bullying involves repeated aggressive behaviour being done by learners who have seem to have an advantage in terms strength over their victims.

Providing a precise definition as to what bullying is can be a bit difficult because bullying has evolved and continues to evolve with the societal changes taking place in the society that we now live in. With the new developments in technology, it creates more platforms for bullying to also develop and change. Cyberbullying is bullying that uses technology such as emails or social media platforms to taint and ruin the reputation of a person (Wong, 2009).

Research has shown that bullying does have a bad effect on the victim physically and socially. Learners fear being bullied so much so that they would rather stay at home (Vail, 1999). Therefore, if bullying causes learners to become absent then the effect it has on academic performance can be assessed through learners grades, tardiness and absenteeism.
A study performed by (Glew, Fan, Katon, Rivara and Kenric, 2005) pointed out that victims and bullies were prone to having poor academic achievement than by-standers. There are also emotional effects that are caused by bullying, it causes so much stress for the victim that it ends up showing through physical symptoms, which then leads to the increase in absenteeism of the learner.

Those physical effects of bullying experienced by learners or the victim of bullying along with other psychological issues caused by bullying leads to the poor academic performance.
Canter (2005) confirms bullying is a present-day phenomenon in most schools in the United States and is said to affect over 70% of learners (as cited in Beaty & Alexyev, 2008). Several researchers, Borg (1999), Boulton & Underwood (1992) and Olweus (1993), assert learners that are victims of bullying have lasting emotional, academic, and behavioural problems (as cited in Whitted & Dupper, 2005, p.167).

A recent study has shown that when learners are teased and bullied frequently the learners lose interest in school, and this then affects learners commitment and also their involvement in school activities (Mehta, Cornell, Fan, & Gregory, 2013).It has been reported by principals and teachers that when the school environment is seen as a negative place to be by the learners, it leads to poor school achievement (Cornell, Gregory, Huang, & Fan, 2013; Johnson & Stevens, 2006; Kon- ishi, Hymel, Zumbo, & Li, 2010; MacNeil, Prater, & Busch, 2009; Ripski & Gregory, 2009).

Bradshaw et al. (2007) found that over 49% of learners said that they have been bullied, while over 70% of learners witnessed bullying. While boys bully their victims physically, girls bully their victims through gossip, spreading rumours, or excluding them from social groups (Peckham, 2007).

The Statement of the Research Problem

Bullying is a problem that affects all learners either as the person being bullied, the victim, or by-stander. Bullying can take many forms from verbal to physical assaults, threats, jokes or language, being mocked and criticized, to being insulted or given funny facial expressions. These factors work either individually or together in leading to a learners being bullied. Bullying has several impacts in the school and one those is the impact it has on academic achievement.

For many years now evidence has shown that bullying does have a negative influence on a learners well-being. With so many learners experiencing the effects of being bullied, many schools in the province have decided to act on the problem.

The effects of bullying within the school environment and persistent pressure from legislators and the community as a whole for an increase in the academic performance of learners, is a concern for school administrators, teachers and the parents. This research aims to investigate the link between bullying and the academic performance of learners.

Research questions/Hypotheses

  1. How does bullying affect the academic performance of learners?
  2. Does bullying have an effect on the academic performance of learners?
  3. What are the forms of bullying that take place at the school?
  4. What are the effects of bullying on the victims, the bullies, by-standers and the school environment?
  5. What are the characteristics of a bully?

Purpose of the Study

The aim of this study is to investigate the effect that bullying has on the academic performance of learners’ achievement in schools. The more we are informed about bullying in schools the better equipped the school and district will be and also the school leaders will be able to minimize the bullying from taking place and bring about changes that are positive to the schools, district and also the community.

There is evidence that bullying is a serious problem for schools and this has been found in professional literature and the local setting. The goal of this study is to provide better understanding of the effects of bullying on the academic performance of learners in the school district.

The Significance of the Study

Bullying is a problem that affects many learners lives. Problems linked with bullying have grown over time due to the increased access to technology and social media allowing more opportunities of cyberbullying (Patechin ; Hinduja,2006).Bullying is complicated and is linked to cultural, social, family and personal aspects of our lives (Pepler et al.,2006).

This study attempts to reveal the nature of the relationship between bullying and academic achievement with the use of multiple regression technique and examine whether academic performance levels can be predicted by the frequency of bullying in a given school district.

This study is aimed to at helping the district and the schools to gain a deeper understanding of the relationship between the frequency of bullying in a school and learners academic performance.

Definition of Key Terms

  1. Academic performance: The extent to which a student , teacher or an institution has achieved their short or long-term educational goals.
  2. Bully: A person who intentionally causes harm to another person whet
  3. Bullying: Repeated aggressive verbal or physical behaviour with the intention of harming or hurting another person. This happens frequently and involves an imbalance of power between the bully and the victim.
  4. By-stander: A person who sees the act of bullying taking place.
  5. Learner: A person who is learning a skill or subject
  6. Victim: A learner who is harassed by another learner or a group of learners two, three or more learners leading to suffering physical or psychological harm.

Delimitation of the Study

The study only includes incidents that were reported in the school district and will be based only on high schools in Bloemfontein. Participation in this study will be delimited to Grade 10 learners and their teachers. The amount of unreported bullying is beyond the scope of this study. Bullying might affect other variables but for this study only academic achievement will be measured.