Previous studies have demonstrated that participation in structured extracurricular activities (EA) promotes educational outcomes in a western context. A new research study published in the Journal of Youth Studies investigated the mechanism of the impact of participating in structured EA on educational outcomes of youth in China. The authors examined whether family SES predicted students’ participation in EA which in turn related to academic performance. In addition, they explored whether participating in EA may promote supportive social networks, which contribute to learning outcomes.
Two-wave data of about 8,000 7th grade students from the China Education Panel Survey (CEPS) were collected. A baseline survey was conducted in 2014 and a follow-up survey was taken in 2015. Students reported whether they joined any extracurricular activities (e.g., sports, chess, painting) after school at baseline. Academic achievement was assessed by total scores on Chinese reading, Mathematics, and English reading. Using students’ reported survey items, indicators for teacher praise, peer support academically, and family SES were generated. Analyses were conducted by controlling student background characteristics:
- High SES students were more likely to participate in extracurricular activities than low SES children.
- More academically-oriented peers were positively related to higher total test scores one year later.
- More praise from teachers was positively associated with higher academic results.
The study used propensity score matching to form a sample by pairing students from treatment group (EA participants) to students from control group (non-EA participants). Using the matched sample, the student background characteristics between the two groups are similar, and the results of comparison indicated:
- Academic test scores were not significantly different between the two groups.
- Teacher praise received and academically-oriented friends ratings displayed no difference between the two groups.
Authors claim that unlike in a western context, extracurricular participation does not contribute directly or indirectly to eighth grade students’ academic performance in China, which is characterized by a high-stakes testing system. Participating in EA may help children to establish supportive social networks in the future but does not promote immediate academic performance.
Source: Tan, M., Cai, L., & Bodovski, K. (2021). An active investment in cultural capital: Structured extracurricular activities and educational success in China. Journal of Youth Studies, 0(0), 1–16. https://doi.org/10.1080/13676261.2021.1939284