How educational aspiration affects high school students’ well-being in the context of Gaokao


 Presenter (s) Feng Han, Celeste Yuet-mui Yuen, The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Title How educational aspiration affects high school students' well-being in the context of Gaokao

Well-being, involving not only subjective well-being (SWB) or life satisfaction (LF), quality of life, but also development and flourish (Annas, 1993; Huebner, 1994; Joseph & Wood, 2010; The National Wellness Institute, NWI, 2019; Seligman, 2011; Shah & Marks, 2004), is vital for the overall success of adolescents (Anderson, 2016; Diener & Tay, 2013; Noddings, 2003; Huebner, 2004; Yuen, 2016) and is a key area in adolescence studies. For high school students, school engagement (SE) is another core aspect of their well-being. Some studies revealed that the pressures of Gaokao, as known as the Chinese National Higher Education Entrance Examination, are the threats to students’ well-being in terms of mental health and peer relations (Chen & Sage, 2014; Sun, Dunne, Hou, & Xu, 2013; Wang, Ma, Li, & Wu, 2013; Zhang & Bray, 2017; Zhao, Selman, & Haste, 2015). If students are unhappy and cannot sleep well, they will not be able to engage in learning and achieve well, then unhappier and more stressed, which creates a negative cycle. Research should be carried out to discover related factors to support students through this crucial period.

Gaokao has direct or indirect influence on high school students via Gaokao aspiration involving satisfied Gaokao scores and post-secondary enrolment. Gaokao aspiration is essentially educational aspiration of Chinese high school students. Studies suggested that educational aspiration is highly associated with school engagement (Hill, Nancy, & Wang, 2015) and later educational achievements (Abu-Hilal, 2000; Bu, 2016; Hill, Castellino, Lansford, Dodge, Bates, & Pettit, 2004). High aspirations maybe negatively linked to life satisfaction (Stutzer, 2004) and positively related to anxiety (Emmons, 1992). From the perspective of multiple discrepancies theory (MDT) including aspiration theory and social comparison theory (Michalos, 1985, 2008), well-being is a function of reported discrepancies between what one has and what one wants (aspiration), as well as what one has and what relevant others has. Even though some research and theories have explored the relationship between aspiration and SWB, as well as between educational aspiration and educational outcomes, yet little research has examined how educational aspiration related to adolescents’ life satisfaction and school engagement. This study can enrich and broaden existing research.

In addition to the relations between aspiration and well-being, all of these are affected by individual’s background, social support, community, environment, etc (Michalos, 2008). Accumulating evidence shows that social background (Lewis, Huebner, Malone &Valois, 2011; Leung & Zhang, 2000; Yuen, 2016; Zullig, Valois, Huebner, & Dran, 2005), social support (Diener & Seligman, 2002; Gallagher & Vella-Brodrick, 2008; Kong, Zhao, & You, 2013; Tian, Zhao & Huebner, 2015) are significantly associated with well-being. Regarding educational aspiration, research also showed that individual’s background (Chung, Loeb, & Gonzo, 1996; Driessen, Ge, Elder, Lorenz, & Simons, 2005; Jordan & Plank, 2000; Laana, 2000), parental educational aspiration and involvement (Bu, 2016; Hill, Ramirez, & Dumka, 2003; Garg, Kauppi, Lewko, & Urajnik, 2002; Ozdemir & Hacifazlioglu, 2008) can predict adolescents’ educational aspiration. Although previous research has shown evidences about the association of social background, parental involvement, teacher support and peer relations in link with educational aspiration or well-being, no research has explored the pattern of educational aspiration, well-being, social background, parental involvement, teacher support and peer relations.

Research Objectives and Questions
In line with the rationale of this study, the purpose of this study is to examine the pattern of educational aspiration and high school students’ well-being, and to delineate what factors contributing to the influence of educational aspiration on students’ well-being among Chinese high school students. In response to the research objectives, the following research questions are:
1) Are there any student group differences in educational aspiration, life satisfaction, and school engagement?
2) Do educational aspiration and discrepancies correlate with students’ life satisfaction, and school engagement?
3) Do students’ background, academic stress and motivation, parental aspiration and involvement, teacher support, and peer relations associated with students’ educational aspiration and discrepancies, life satisfaction, and school engagement?

Between December 2019 and February 2020, a questionnaire survey will be conducted in a Chinese high school by convenient sampling. In each school, the researcher will select 2 classes in each grade by cluster sampling (There are three grades in high school, and 6 classes will be selected in each school). Around 300 participants will be asked to report their educational aspiration and discrepancies, life satisfaction, school engagement and related variables.

The questionnaire consists of 4 sections and 57 items: demographics information, well-being issues, educational aspiration and relevant factors. Well-being contains 2 core elements: SWB and SE. This study will use simplified 13-item Multidimensional Students’ Life Satisfaction Scale (MSLSS, developed by Huebner, 1991) containing 5 dimensions (living environment, self, school, family, and friends). Students will be asked to assess and report their agreement using a 6-point Likert scale from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree” on these items, such as “I like where I live”, and “I am happy with my school life”. In terms of SE, this study will apply modified 15-item 6-point School Engagement Scale (SES; Fredricks et al., 2005) to indicate students’ level of agreement: behavioral engagement, emotional engagement and cognitive engagement. Sample questions are “I enjoy learning new things in class” and “I pay attention in class”. Educational aspiration consists of 2 items, namely “Which tier of university do you want to take?” and “What is the discrepancy between your Gaokao goal and your current performance?”. Relevant factors involve academic performance, Gaokao stress, Gaokao motivation, parental aspiration and involvement, teacher support and peer relations.

The SPSS 25.0 and Mplus will be used for data analysis. Validity of the scales will be established through Confirmatory Factor Analysis (CFA). Internal reliability of the scales will be established through the coefficient Cronbach’s α. After descriptive statistics, T-test ANOVA, and Pearson Correlation are going to be conducted to examine the relationship between variables related to educational aspiration and students’ well-being; Multiple regression and Structural Equation Model will be involved to draw the pattern of Gaokao students’ well-being and examine the predictors.”

Han Feng is PhD student in the Department of Educational Administration & Policy, Faculty of Education, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, supervised by Prof Yuen Yuet-mui Celeste. Miss Han’s research interests are well-being, school engagement, youth development, and social network analysis.

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Yuen Yuet-mui Celeste is an Associate professor in the Department of Educational Administration & Policy, Faculty of Education, The Chinese University of Hong Kong. Prof. Yuen’s research areas include Chinese immigrant and ethnic minority education, policy studies, intercultural youth studies, life satisfaction, spiritual health and school engagement.

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