Project Materials

GENERAL

EFFECT OF NUTRITION ON THE ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE OF PRIMARY SCHOOL PUPILS

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PROJECT INFORMATION

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

BACKGROUND OF STUDY

The EFA Global Monitoring Report (UNESCO 2011) states that more than a quarter of children below fifteen years of age in sub-Saharan Africa are underweight due to poor diet and malnutrition, making them more vulnerable to disease and less able to concentrate at school. Malnutrition is generally defined as a chronic condition which is a consequence of over- or under-consumption of any or several essential macro- or micronutrients relative to the individual’s physiological and pathological requirements (Ecker and Nene 2012). Malnutrition is also a dangerous condition that develops when your body does not get enough nutrients to function properly. Poor nutrition can be caused by a lack of food or an unbalanced diet that’s missing or insufficient in one or more nutrients (Chinyoka and Naidu, 2013). Children who do not consume adequate amounts of key nutrients, including calcium, potassium and vitamin C may be unable to work to their full potential at school (Nabarro et al. 2012). A study by Connell (2010:127) revealed that 34 percent of low birth weight children were either repeating grades or placed in special education classrooms while only 14 percent of normal birth-weight Children experienced the same outcomes. Another research also reports elevated levels of grade repetition as a result of low birth weight due to poor nutrition (Bray et al., 2010, Duncan et al., 2008). Knowing more about what nutritional deficiencies can lead to, in terms of learning, will help families to feed their children adequately to succeed in class. This shows that nutrition is of paramount importance in the academic performance of grade seven children.

Shrestha & Pathak (2012) as well as Brauw et al. (2012) concur that underfeeding in childhood was thought to hinder mental development solely by producing permanent structural damage to the brain. A child’s brain during the first three years of life is rapidly developing through generation of neurons, synaptogenesis, axonal and dendric growth, and synaptic pruning each of which build upon each other (Orazem et al., 2007:25). Any interruption in this process, such as trauma, stress, under nutrition, or lack of nutrients can have long-term effects on the brain’s structure and on the child’s socio-emotional development and academic performance. Thus, research has established that poor nutrition in early life can limit long term intellectual development (Lacour & Tissington 2011:525). Implicit to the above, children should not be exposed to malnutrition even at an early age for it has detrimental effects to their academic performance and their holistic development.

A number of studies in Latin America, Africa and the U.S reported that on intelligence tests, children with a history of malnutrition attained lower scores than children of similar social and economic status who were properly nourished (Fanzo 2012). Thus protein energy malnutrition, iron deficiency, anaemia, Vitamin A deficiency, these poverty related conditions decrease resistance to disease in general. Malnutrition therefore causes illness, brain damage, delayed physical growth, delayed development of motor skills and delayed intellectual development.

Recent studies have demonstrated that nutrition affects students’ thinking skills, behavior, and health, all factors that impact academic performance. Research suggests that diets high in trans and saturated fats can negatively impact learning and memory, nutritional deficiencies early in life can affect the cognitive development of school-aged children, and access to nutrition improves students’ cognition, concentration, and energy levels.

For example, one study found that primary school students with less nutritious diets performed worse on a standardized literary assessment (Florence, Asbridge, & Veugelers, 2008). Another study discovered that 5th grade students who ate more fast food fared worse on math and reading scores (Li & O’Connell, 2012). Similarly, a study that analyzed a healthy eating campaign that banned junk food from schools and introduced healthier, freshly prepared school meals found that participating students scored higher on English and science tests than students who did not take part in the campaign (Belot & James, 2009).

Nutrition also indirectly impacts school performance. Poor nutrition can leave students’ susceptible to illness or lead to headaches and stomachaches, resulting in school absences (Brown, Beardslee, & Prothrow-Stith, 2008). Access to nutrition that incorporates protein, carbohydrates, and glucose has been shown to improve students’ cognition, concentration, and energy levels (Bellisle, 2004; Sorhaindo & Feinstein, 2006).

In contrast, nutritional deficiencies (particularly zinc, B vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids, and protein) early in life can affect the cognitive development of schoolaged children (Sorhaindo & Feinstein, 2006). Studies also suggest that diets high in trans and saturated fats can negatively impact the brain, influencing learning and memory (Gómez-Pinilla, 2008).

STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM

This research work attempts to look at research that addresses the relevance of nutrition and its effects on the academic performance of primary school pupils. The question remains concerning the various schools in Nigeria and if their nutritional guidelines closely follow the latest research in nutritional health and its effects on brain development and cognition of the primary school pupils.

According to the state of the word’s children (1988), the primary school children are faced with poor growth or malnutrition which results from deficiency of protein and energy inadequate intake of vital minerals, such as Iron, Calcium, Iodine, Zinc and Phosphorous, in addition with vitamins such as Vitamin A, D, E, and K and some essential Amino Acids.

An open interaction with the primary school pupils revealed that primary school pupils are faced with poor nutritional needs which affects negatively on their academic performance. These problems are what necessitated this research to examine and take a critical study on the effects of nutrition on the academic performance of primary school pupils.

AIMS AND OBJECTIVES

The main aim of study is the effects of nutrition on the academic performance of primary school pupils. Other specific objectives include:

1. to determine the relationship between nutrition and academic performance of primary school pupils.

2. to examine the effect of nutrition on the academic performance of primary school pupils.

3. to identify means of helping the pupils with poor nutritional status which affects their academic performance.

4. to examine factors responsible for poor nutrition and academic performance of primary school pupils.

5. to examine the role nutrition play in students’ cognitive development, learning, academic performance, and social behaviors in the school setting.

RESEARCH QUESTION

1. what is  the relationship between nutrition and academic performance of primary school pupils?

2. what is the effect of nutrition on the academic performance of primary school pupils?

3. what are the means of helping the pupils with poor nutritional status which affects their academic performance?

4. what are the factors responsible for poor nutrition and academic performance of primary school pupils?

5. what is the role nutrition play in students’ cognitive development, learning, academic performance, and social behaviors in the school setting?

STATEMENT OF RESEARCH HYPOTHESIS

1. H0: nutrition has no significant effect on the academic performance of primary school pupils.

2. H1: nutrition has a significant effect on the academic performance of primary school pupils.

SIGNIFICANCE OF STUDY

From the findings of this study, it is hoped that schools and parents will understand the importance of healthy nutrition so that children have the opportunity to be as nutritionally healthy as possible for optimal brain function, cognitive development, positive social behaviors, and energy to carry out school activities and increase academic performance.

This research will help by developing possible steps that schools can take to ensure that their food programs adhere to the high standards of federal nutrition guidelines that are based upon the latest research.

The study will further assist the teachers, parents and other stakeholders in the education sector to find solutions to the problems of poor nutrition as it affects the academic performance of primary school pupils.

The findings of this study will significantly be used at national, state and local levels, to help plan effective ways to improve nutrition problems in pupils and help identifying the most appropriate ways of solving the problem.

Lastly, the study will be a research material for further study by other researchers on the effect of nutrition on the academic performance of primary school pupils.

SCOPE OF STUDY

The study will cover the effects of nutrition on the academic performance of primary school pupils.

LIMITATION OF STUDY

1. Financial constraint- Insufficient fund tends to impede the efficiency of the researcher in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature or information and in the process of data collection (internet, questionnaire and interview).

2. Time constraint- The researcher will simultaneously engage in this study with other academic work. This consequently will cut down on the time devoted for the research work.

DEFINITION OF TERMS

Effect: a change which is a result or consequence of an action or other cause.

Nutrition: Nutrition is the science that interprets the nutrients and other substances in food in relation to maintenance, growth, reproduction, health and disease of an organism. It includes food intake, absorption, assimilation, biosynthesis, catabolism and excretion. 

Academic performance: Academic performance or “academic achievement” is the extent to which a student, teacher or institution has attained their short or long-term educational goals. Completion of educational benchmarks such as secondary school diplomas and bachelor’s degrees represent academic achievement

Primary school pupils: A primary school, junior school (in UK), elementary school or grade school (in US & Canada) is a school for children from about four to eleven years old, in which they receive primary or elementary education.

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