Learners' educational aspirations in South Africa: the role of the home and the school
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An extensive body of research exists on the background characteristics that predict learner achievement. However, in South Africa, little attention has been paid to the level of educational aspirations and the factors that shape the level of aspirations. Using a bio-ecological systems theory of development, we explored the role of gender, socio-economic status (determined by resources at home and school), parental involvement and school climate in determining educational aspirations. Using a nationally representative sample of 11,969 learners (females = 5,248; mean age = 15.7 years) from the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and the statistical analysis technique of structural equation modelling (SEM), we investigated the relationships between parental involvement, school climate and learner educational aspirations. Our study showed that students from low socio-economic status (SES) homes and schools had lower educational aspirations. We also found positive relationships between both positive and negative school climate and learner aspirations. A surprising finding was that parental involvement did not have any influence on shaping learner aspirations. The findings indicate a need to improve educational resources at schools as well as the school climate, as schools matter for learners in low-income countries. Furthermore, it is important to inform learners of the requirements for tertiary education, so that they develop more realistic aspirations.