An Study of the Factors Influencing the Educational Achievement of Institutionalized Children in Sri Lanka Srini De Zoysa, Faculty of Education, Open University of Sri Lanka. The study focuses on disadvantaged children who are being compelled to spend their childhood in Children Voluntary Homes. These children are socially and economically deprived and have faced a variety of problematic experiences in their lives. Education represents perhaps the only promise for a better future for these children.

The main objective of the study is to identify the factors influencing educational achievement of institutionalized children. Documentary surveys, interviews, observations, check lists, Emotional and Behavioural Scales and the Socio-Metric method were used for data collection.

The study showed that the educational standards achieved by institutionalized children are relatively low. Multiple interrelated factors, both facilitating and hindering, which influence educational achievement of institutionalized children were identified.

It was suggested that Care services should be based on a clear philosophy, so that administrators, care and teaching staff could make a commitment to support education of these children. Care services should include the provision of sufficient physical infrastructure facilities, introduction of efficient management structures, supply of effective joint training being to carers and teachers, make intensive interactions to give priority to education, administrators, care staff and the teaching staff to make corporate commitment to promote education of the institutionalized children.

1. Introduction
In relation to children's welfare, progress and development, education is a especially difficult circumstances. The worlds over, both developed and developing countries are increasingly becoming conscious and aware of their responsibility towards uplifting the educational attainment of all children irrespective of the circumstances in which they find themselves. Sri Lanka as a country which has ratified the UN convention and adopted the Charter on Children's Rights (1992) has accepted the principle of equal access to education and also strives to provide every opportunity from primary to secondary and higher education. Further it identifies education, as the sole medium through which the potential of a child can be developed to its maximum level signifying his individuality, capabilities, physical and mental abilities. Yet it is of paramount importance to examine to what extent the deprived children in Sri Lanka have been ensured their right to equal education.
This study will focus on some categories of deprived children only, those who are compelled to spend their childhood in Children's Voluntary Homes that are run by the Department of Probation and Child Care Services.
In order to provide `equal opportunities' stated in the Department's mission, all children belonging to school going age who are in Children's Voluntary Homes are admitted to the formal education system so that they would acquire necessary knowledge, skills and attitudes that would help them to blossom as effective citizens with great social acceptance. It is appropriate, however to examine the extent to which this provision is enforced in reality and thereby the mission of the Department achieved.
The children living in Children's Voluntary Homes are socially and economically disadvantaged in several ways. Further, they are institutionalized due to a variety of problematic circumstances. Children in institutions are frequently referred to by UNICEF as one category of `children in especially difficult circumstances'.
It is generally perceived that these children are affected by distressing and damaging experiences including physical and sexual abuse and neglect. If this general perception occurs in reality it is possible that they have to cope with various social, economic, psychological and emotional problems while living in Children's Voluntary Homes. The findings of .Jackson (1987),Morgan (1999),Utting (1997),Biehal et al (1995),Fletcher et al (1992),Dewendra (1962) and Wijetunge (1991) have highlighted various problems faced by institutionalized children and their levels of educational underachievement .
Therefore, the main aim of this study, it is to ascertain whether the institutionalized children in Sri Lanka suffer from any handicaps and to what extent such handicaps have exerted an adverse influence on the educational achievement of such children.
The present study is focused on institutionalized children an extremely deprived group of children in Sri Lanka. Institutionalized children are provided with facilities to attend school. However, it is important to examine whether institutionalized children gain the opportunity to participate fully in the educational process. It is also worthwhile examining whether these children are treated with dignity and as a result of their school experience develop self-esteem, self-discipline and experience the sheer enjoyment of learning that will stand them in good stead throughout their lives. It is important to investigate not only the participation in education but the standard of educational achievement they have obtained.
2. The Objectives of the Study
•    Identify the factors that led to the institutionalization of children in the sample
•    Compare the educational achievement of institutionalized children and home based children Identify the factors influencing the educational achievement of institutionalized children.
•    Propose a framework to improve educational achievement of institutionalized children to overcome their difficulties in education.
3.Research Method
The research was conducted in two phases. Phase 1 was designed in order to achieve two main objectives, to identify the factors that led to the institutionalization of children and to examine the educational achievement of institutionalized children and home based children. In order to achieve the above objectives the survey method was selected as the most appropriate method. In phase 1 a documentary survey was also employed. Records of test results and Perusal of Case Files of the Institution Based Children were carried out. Phase 11 was an in depth study of a smaller proportion of the sample which was selected for phase 1. Hence at this stage, the more qualitative case study method was employed.
4. The Sample of the Study
In Phase 1 the purposive sampling method was employed. The total numbers of children (180) who attend Junior Secondary Level in school in these homes were selected as the sample for the Phase 1 of the study. The sample was drawn from six homes as it is not feasible to have too large a sample for this phase.
One of the objectives in Phase 1 was to do a comparison of educational achievement of institutionalized children and home-based children. Hence a sample of home-based children similar to the number of institutionalized children was also drawn.
The systematic sampling method, a modified form of simple random sampling, was used when selecting the sample of HBC. For the Phase 11 of the study qualitative method of research was used. Two cases from each CVH were selected from among high achievers and low achievers.
Further to identify the factors influencing the educational achievement of IBC, a school based, Voluntary home based and Probation Unit based, sample was drawn. All the principals of the schools attended by the selected cases were included in the principal sample. All subject teachers of four core subjects Sinhala, Mathematics and Science and Social Studies and class teachers of Grade 7 were selected as the teacher sample. The chief matrons of the six voluntary homes and carers of the selected cases were also included in the sample. The probation officers of the probation units who hold responsibilities of voluntary homes, which were selected for the study, were also included in the sample.
5. Data Collection Methods and Instrumentation
Perusal of recorded evidence at voluntary homes and examination of Test Results were carried out in the stage 1.Multiple data gathering strategies were employed and triangulation of data was carries out to achieve the in-depth investigation. Multiple data gathering methods such as questionnaires, interviews, observations, scales and socio metric method were used in conjunction to complement each other.
6. Analysis of Data
T-tests were conducted to find out whether there is a significant difference between the marks obtained by the twogroups, IBC and HBC. The analysis was conducted using the marks obtained for subjects Sinhala, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies and also using the overall marks of all subjects as per the syllabus. Further, an analysis of variance was selected to test whether there is a significant difference among the 6 CVH s also. In Phase 11 the case study method was employed and the emphasis was on the qualitative aspect. When collecting and analyzing data on factors influencing the educational achievement of IBC five broad areas were identified. They are school related factors, voluntary home related factors, family related factors, children related factors and administrative system related factors. The data were coded and categorized and examined for identifiable patterns.
7. Conclusions
The study disclosed that many and varied factors such as social, economic, natural, child rights violations and political factors have contributed to the institutionalization of children independently or in combination. It was revealed that all institutionalized children come from extremely disadvantaged family backgrounds. These family backgrounds and traumatic incidents may have affected negatively on IBC and also influenced the low achievement level of the total sample
The analysis of data on educational achievement of IBC in comparison with HBC support the view that there is a significant difference in the achievement of the two groups. IBC and HBC. The creation of an atmosphere conducive to the educational achievement of children in Voluntary Homes requires the proper amalgamation of several key factors. Especially, physical and the human environment of the Voluntary Home must be designed to facilitate the educational achievement of children. However, special mention must be made of the fact that such an excellent model set up was not encountered in any of the CVHs in our study.
Carers in most Voluntary Homes do not appear to possess the professional qualifications and training needed for the task. Lacking in requisite training and facilities, they are not in a position to provide any quality care for the children and many of them are devoid of skills needed to impart the guidance and counseling necessary for the inmates.
All Children's Homes maintain individual personal files for every child. They help to gain some understanding about them. In Sri Lanka, the situation is different Many shortcomings are visible in the maintenance of these case files. Case files maintained in Children's Voluntary Homes in Sri Lanka do not contain the essential documents viz. educational records, detailed reports on the family background , behaviour of the child, problems faced by them, qualitative records about their skills and weaknesses.
Schools providing education for institutionalized children possess physical resources of varying levels. Some schools were replete with excellent physical facilities while some others were maintained by very meager resources. However, some instances were encountered where children of schools with fewer facilities displayed better educational achievements than those of lavishly endowed schools. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that physical resources possessed by schools have not made any substantial direct impact on the education of institutionalized children.
Significant differences were observed in the attitude of principals and teachers, towards institutionalized children. With the sole exception of one principal, all the others held a negative attitude towards these children. Even among teachers, the majority share a negative attitude. Teachers do not possess the skills needed to provide guidance and counseling so badly needed by children. Therefore, institutionalized children have become isolated groups without any protection. This is a critical factor bearing on the education of these children.
Institutionalized children living in limited monotonous societies at their Voluntary Homes get exposed to wider society in the school. This provides an opportunity for them to enrich their lives through the contact with broader society. Students who have been able to build proper relations and establish communication with home based children show better prowess in education. They make use of their contacts with the social groups to enhance the level of their education.However, this study has shown that the greater majority of institutionalized children had formed `isolated social circles' confined to themselves at school.
Before admission to institutions, these children had been exposed to various types of problems impinging on their lives. Some situations had been traumatic and some others highly depressing. These past problems continue to affect the children's present as a result of which many children suffer from emotional and behavioural disorders. Neither the schools nor the Voluntary Homes have guidance and counseling units that can provide proper scientific solutions and treatment to these problems. Hence there appears to exist a corresponding relationship between the problems encountered in the past, current emotional and behavioural patterns and educational achievement.
The unit in charge of Voluntary Homes is the Probation Unit. Administrative officers viz. the Probation Officers are interested in the education of children only in the primary stage of admission to a school. The Probation Officer is interested in securing the admission of every child to a school and to ensure his/her daily attendance. The officer's educational responsibilities come to an end with those events. Probation Officers have not been vested with the responsibility of monitoring educational progress or taking steps to enhance the level of education. Therefore, the Probation Officers are unaware of the educational achievement of children.
8. Recommendations of the Study
The following recommendations are presented with a view towards offering solution of the problems encountered by institutionalized children in the course of their education and enhancing their level of educational achievement.
Maintenance of financial stability of CVHs appears to be of paramount importance. There should be an appropriate monitoring mechanism to ensure the efficient utilization of assets and resources. The provision of adequate and stable financial resources will certainly promote operational efficiency of all aspects of the CVHs.
Provision of sufficient physical resources especially resources leading to better and continuous educational facilities to all CVHs is bound to have a salutary effects in the welfare of the inmates. CVHs can very easily be transformed into educational resource centers. A learning culture can be created within the CVHs by providing them with quality library facilities, updated reading material and such other aids. If the carers personally get involved with the educational activities of children they can help the children's educational efforts. In order to ensure the educational development of children, it is absolutely necessary for the carers to build and maintain fruitful contacts with the teaching staff at schools.
It is important for various development programmes implemented by the CVH to be at a very high level of efficiency. Self esteem, mental stability and social skills of children can be developed through such programmes. Vocational training programmes conducted by some CVHs should be conducted in an efficient manner where they will not become a hindrance to the formal education of children. It is preferable for the development programmes maintained by the CVHs to be expanded to embrace the outside society as well. Disappearance of social isolation will lead to the establishment of proper relations with the peer group and the development of social skills. This social development will also serve as a foundation for educational development as well.
Properly maintained case files of children can be used as educational databases of children. A qualitative growth in CVH carers can be brought about through the provision of continuous training and by the creation of opportunities for them to achieve higher educational and vocational qualifications. It is important to use personality and occupational diagnostic tests in selecting carers for CVHs. An appropriate salary scale for carers would certainly go a long way in attracting persons with proper skills, abilities and qualifications. Both pre- service and in-service training must be made available for carers... Institutions providing training for carers should take special steps to inculcate positive attitudes towards institutionalized children in the minds of carers.
There are specific measures that could be taken at school level to enhance the educational progress of institutionalized children. The motivation of the staff to be aware of, and sensitive to, the special background of these children, development of positive and optimistic attitude towards them, the maintenance of constant supervision, , rank among the foremost pre - requisites. Special programmes intended to enlighten the staff and equip them with the skills needed to deal with institutionalized children will certainly lead to very good results. The development of guidance and counseling skills of teachers will help them to tackle various behavioural problems of children.
It is essential to take steps for the solution of problems that are specific to children, because the total task of transforming these children into ordinary human beings lies in the identification and solution of various emotional problems faced by them, analysis of their root causes and the final application of solutions. This, of course, depends on the total and concerted commitment of all parties concerned. Children with special educational needs should never be left in the lurch, because, the satisfaction of those needs is the shortest route to normalcy. The achievement in these areas is bound to provide the child with the self confidence needed for normal living.
Extremely beneficial, positive results are likely to follow from the close relationships maintained between the Probation Units and the schools. This could be achieved through the regular participation of principals and teachers in the review meetings held by Probation Officers. This will make it possible for them to arrive at collective decisions regarding the education of children.
The suggestions presented above clearly show that coordinated efforts of a number of institutions and persons are needed for the upliftment of the education of institutionalized children. They also point to the need for the development of a suitable framework that will facilitate the educational achievement of institutionalized children.
Educational success via ODL
Future success of `Children in Care' totally depends on further education. The barrios they face while targeting this goal are wide geographical distribution of their localities, tough competition they face in entering conventional higher education institutions and poor economic background. Accordingly it is suggested that the ODL system in Sri Lanka which is linked with sophisticated scholarship schemes for poor will be able to provide opportunities for further education for ` Children in Care'.
Beker, J. (1972). Critical incident in childcare: A case book. USA: Behavioural Publications.
Biehal, N. , Clayden, J. , Stein, M. and Wade, J. (1995). Moving on: Young people and leaving care schemes. London: HMSO.
Children and Young Persons Ordinance. Act No. 48 of 1939 (1956 Revision) Ceylon: Government Press.
Dewendra, T. O. (1962). Some aspects of institutional child care in Ceylon. The Ceylon journal of social work, (vi) No. 2 - 29-45.
Fletcher,F. & Campbell & Hall, C. (1990). Changing Schools?Changing people? A study of the education children in care. Berkshire: National Foundation for Educational Research
Jackson, S. (1987). Promoting the educational achievement of looked after children. In T. Cox (Eds.) Combating educational disadvantage meeting the needs of vulnerable children.London & New York: Falmer Press.
Morgan, S. (1999). Care about education. London: National Children's Bureau.
Orphanages Ordinance, Act No. 22 of 1941 and Act No. 45 of 1946, Amended in 1956.
Parsons, C. (1997). Exclusion from school: The public cost. Commission for Racial Equality.
Utting, W. (1991). Children in public care-A review of residential care, Utting Report.HMSO.
Wijetunge, S. (1991). A study of children's homes to investigate the needs of children in institutional settings. Sri Lanka: Redd Barna.
Children who are read to as babies and infants generally develop language skills earlier than other children. Being read to early helps children become proficient readers and is a factor in their academic achievement. Jacquelynne S. Eccles and Pamela E. Davis-Keane, in "The London Review of Education," say that well-educated parents speak to and read to their children more than their less-educated peers. Better-educated parents are more likely to use complex language and a wider vocabulary with their young children. Therefore, the children develop language skills, vocabulary, and cognitive skills earlier. This primes the children for academic success.
In an executive summary for Fullerton University titled "Identifying and Removing Barriers to Student Achievement," the authors mention expectations of students several times as a critical factor in children's academic achievement. Expectations for school success are placed on children in school and in the home. Parents with lower levels of education are less likely to have high expectations for the children's academic careers. While teacher expectations of students are extremely important, even more important are the children's expectations of themselves. When parents do not have high expectations for children's academic achievement, the children are unlikely to have expectations for themselves.
According to a review of research for the University of Minnesota Extension, the nature of parents' attitudes toward and involvement in their children's educations is critical. Parental involvement in education is a factor in student success. Parents with more education are more likely to get involved in the school. Better-educated parents are familiar with how schools work and are likely comfortable with school structure. Children are aware of their parents' comfort levels with education and it is reflected in their grades.
The article in "The London Review of Education" points out why children's neighborhoods are connected to parent's level of education and the children's academic achievement. Parent's level of education is a factor in what type of occupation they have. The more education they have, the higher their income-earning potential. People with more money can afford to live in more expensive neighborhoods with better schools. Children who attend better schools have access to higher-quality educational opportunities. Being in a better school gives children a better chance at academic success and achievement.
Families and schools influence academic achievements
Sue Buckley
A summary of research by Stephen Turner and colleagues which identifies both school and parental factors that influence the academic progress of children with Down syndrome through to their adult lives.
Buckley SJ. Families and schools influence academic achievements. Down Syndrome Research and Practice. 2008;12(2);92-92.
Most people probably assume that the quality and type of education that children receive in school influences academic progress but may be less clear about the ways in which parents can also influence outcomes. When a child has a developmental disability then the most people will be less confident about predicting the effects of schools or parents on that child's progress. However, these are issues of considerable importance to parents and education professionals.
In a recent paper, Stephen Turner and his colleagues report findings which identify both school and parental factors that influence the academic progress of children with Down syndrome through to their adult lives. This research team has been collecting longitudinal data on a group of children with Down syndrome born between 1973 and 1980 in Manchester, UK, since they were born. This paper analyses data collected from children, teachers and parents at 3 time points: when the mean ages of the children were 9 years 2 months, 13 years 8 months and 21 years. The group of 71 young people for whom data is available for this study vary in cognitive abilities and represent the whole range of abilities typical of a group of people with Down syndrome. Similarly, their families are diverse in educational backgrounds and occupations. The analyses conducted investigate factors that have influenced progress at each of the 3 time points.
Their findings demonstrate that, as with all children, cognitive abilities do predict progress – more able children at the start of schooling tended to make more academic progress - but school placement also had a significant effect even when starting abilities are taken into account. Children with Down syndrome who were educated in mainstream school classrooms had higher academic achievements in reading, writing and number which continued into their adult lives. As the authors of the paper point out, this finding confirms the similar findings of several earlier studies[1,2,3].
In many countries there continue to be debates on the benefits of inclusive compared to special education for children with Down syndrome, yet all the published research to date shows that children with Down syndrome have better spoken language and better academic achievements when educated in mainstream classrooms – and no studies report benefits for special education[2,3,4]. Of course, we should assume these benefits are the result of successful and well-supported inclusion, in schools where the child is wanted, is a full member of the community and where staff are able to adapt teaching and learning to the child's needs[4,5]. In most countries, there is still a considerable need for school development and staff training to enable inclusion to be successful.
In addition, progress was influenced by family factors. When parents are able to adopt a practical approach to coping with problems, look for sources of help and actively problem solve, this style of functioning helps their children to achieve their potential. In addition, if parents feel that they, themselves, are 'in control' of their lives and make their own decisions – this also has a positive effect on their children's progress.
These findings have implications for everyone involved in family support or early intervention programmes as this information can be shared with parents, enabling them to be aware that positive coping styles do have positive benefits and encouraging them to make full use of local support networks and resources.
It may also be worth noting that the children in this study were born at a time when early intervention was only just developing and when inclusion in schools was also in its infancy. Given that, in many countries, early intervention services today should be in a much better position to support families so that they do feel able to be in control and they can access solutions to their problems – more families should be better able to maximise their children's potential. Similarly, inclusion in mainstream classes was only just starting in the UK at the time these children went to school – the knowledge that has accumulated in the past 20 years means that inclusion should also be more effective for more children now and in the future.
Sue Buckley is at Down Syndrome Education International, Portsmouth, Hampshire, UK.
Original research paper
1.    Turner S, Alborz A, Gayle V. Predictors of academic attainments of young people with Down's syndrome. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research. 2008; 52(5):380-392.
Further research
1.    Cunningham CC, Glenn S, Lorenz S, Cuckle P, Shepperdson B. Trends and outcomes in educational placements for children with Down's syndrome. European Journal of Special Needs Education. 1998;13:225-237
2.    Buckley S, Bird G. Education for Individuals with Down syndrome – An overview. Portsmouth, UK; Down Syndrome Education International; 2000.
3.    Buckley S, Bird G, Byrne A. (2006) A comparison of mainstream and special education for teenagers with Down syndrome: implications for parents and teachers. Down Syndrome Research and Practice. 2006;9:54-67. http://www.down-syndrome.org/reports/295/
4.    Wolpert G. What general educators have to say about successfully including students with Down syndrome in their classes. Journal of Research in Childhood Education. 2001;16(1):28-38.
5.    Fox S, Farrell P, Davis P. Factors associated with the effective inclusion of primary-aged pupils with Down's syndrome. British Journal of Special Education. 2004;31(4):184-190.
6.    Investigations that have adopted refined measures of family influences have tended to show that they are related more strongly to academic outcomes than are more global measures of family background. Kellaghan and this colleagues (1993) conclude, for example, that family social status or cultural background need not determine a child's achievement at school. They propose that for academic success, it is what parents do in the home, and not children's family background, that is significant. Similarly, Sam Redding (1999) indicates that in relation to academic outcomes, the potential limitations associated with poor economic circumstances can be overcome by parents who provide stimulating, supportive, and language-rich experiences for their children.
7.    It is important, however, to recognize the nature of the interrelationships between family background characteristics and more refined family influences. In the development of a model of human development, for example, Stephen J. Ceci and his colleagues (1997) propose that the efficacy of a family influence for academic success is determined to a large degree by a child's family background. They observe that parent-child interactions are the forces that lead to academic performance. In addition, they claim that academic success is achieved only if family background resources can be accessed to maximize the association between family influences and outcomes: relationships between family influences and academic achievement need to take into account the potentially constraining or expanding opportunities provided by children's family backgrounds. Analyses of the relations between families and academic achievement also need to consider children's family structures, A mother does homework with her children. It is generally acknowledged that family environment is the most powerful influence in determining a child's academic motivation and achievement. HUREWITZ CREATIVE/CORBIS such as the influence of single-parent families and the effect of sibling structures.
8.    Single-parent families. Research that has examined relationships between changing family structures and students' school-related outcomes, has tended to show that in relation to two-parent families, children in single-parent families have lower academic performance, are more susceptible to peer pressure to engage in deviant behavior, have higher dropout rates from high school, and have greater social and psychological problems. Although the differences are generally small, a number of theories have been proposed to explain the variations. The no-impact perspective claims, for example, that the association between changing family structures and children's academic outcomes can be attributed to a combination of family background factors such as parents' education and incomes and the ethnicity/race of the family. Further, some researchers propose that much family structure research is inconclusive because it has failed to differentiate among various types of single-parent families such as whether they result from marital disruption (divorce or separation), parental death, or a never-married parent. In addition, it is suggested that many studies fail to take into account the timing in a child's life of a family disruption, the duration of the effects of that disruption, and whether the lone parent is the father, mother, or a guardian. An economic deprivation theory suggests that economic hardship in single-parent families is likely to require adolescents to work long hours and to take greater responsibility for younger brothers and/or sisters. As a result, these time-consuming activities are likely to be related to lower school achievement. In a family socialization perspective, it is proposed that the absence of a parent is probably associated with a decrease in total parental involvement, which in turn is related to poorer school outcomes. It is often claimed that the absence of fathers has particularly negative socialization influences, which may be especially detrimental for boys.
9.    In general, research suggests that differences in the academic achievement of children from single- and two-parent families can be related to changes in the economic circumstances of families and to variations in the quality of parent-child interactions in the different family structures.
11.    Sibling structure. There has been a long-standing fascination with exploring associations between sibling variables, such as the number of children in a family and a child's birth-order position in the family, and children's academic achievement. Typically, these sibling variables have small but significant inverse associations with academic outcomes, especially verbal measures of achievement. A number of theoretical perspectives have been proposed to explain these relationships, including the resource dilution hypothesis and the confluence model.
12.    The resource dilution hypothesis proposes that sibling variables are related to the quality and quantity of parent-child interaction in families, and that such variations in parent resources are associated with sibling differences in academic achievement. That is, the greater the number of children in a family or the later the birth-order position, the more those children have to share family resources. As a result, children have lower scores on those academic outcomes affected by the diluted family influences. An alternate perspective is the confluence model which proposes that children's academic development is affected by the number of children in families, the age-spacing among children, and whether children are only, first, or last born in families. The model claims, for example, that with short birth intervals between children, increasing birth order is related to lower academic performance. In contrast, with sufficiently large intervals, the birth-order pattern may be mitigated or even reversed.
13.    Generally, sibling research suggests that relationships between sibling structure variables and children's academic performance can be attributed to differences in family background, variations in family economic resources, and variations in the quality of parent-child interactions.

Source: http://family.jrank.org/pages/11/Academic-Achievement-Family-Background-Family-Structure.html#ixzz3HzgYLyVb
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