Social Networks and Academic Failure: A Case Study of Rural Students in China
This study aims to explain how local contextual factors shape network influences on students’ schooling. Many studies demonstrate how network members support students to achieve academic success by providing different kinds of resources. However, literature also shows that sometimes network members refuse to provide the assistance students need. Why are there these variations in network effects? This thesis argues that social structural factors within local communities may influence the effects that social networks have on the academic performance of students. This study employs a case study method to explore how the social structure of a local community influences network effects on students’ educational pathways. The research is focused on a group of youth who dropped out of school before completing their junior high school education in a coastal rural community in Fujian, China. Data are drawn from interviews with eight former students and two teachers in the community, as well as documents and other contextual information from the study site. Participants’ stories demonstrate how social structural factors in the local community shape the impact of social networks on students’ schooling. Due to globalisation, an increasing number of manufacturers are moving their production lines or assembly lines to China, creating extensive employment opportunities in factories and service industries, especially in the Coastal region. This labour market structure shapes the network influences on students in two ways. Firstly, the lack of a middle class in the community constrains local residents from aspiring to middle class life. Secondly, because the community has few highly skilled jobs that require advanced educational credentials, local people devalue education and have no motivation to mobilise resources to support students’ schooling. Since education is perceived to have limited value in this community, members of the networks with which these eight students associate discourage them from studying hard and do not offer resources they need to sustain their schooling; instead, they encourage respondents to get a job before completing their compulsory education. In this case, the labour market structure in the local community has a powerful impact on the ways in which network members influence academic performance of students.
Social Network, Education, Rural Area, China Study
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)