Comparing academic performance of students in mainstream and extended programmes at a Higher Education Institution in South Africa.
Lekhehle, Remaketse Goodness.
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In the recent decade students’ academic performance in higher education has become a great concern globally and in South Africa particularly. Failure or dropout rate affects most higher education institutions (HEI) in South Africa and has a negative impact on an institution’s funding as well as the economy of the country. The development of the country depends highly on the number of well trained and highly skilled graduates to impact the economic growth of the country. South African universities have responded to the trend towards massisfication of higher education by public policy imperatives to redress the legacy of apartheid. Extended Programmes are used in South African HEIs as a remedy to limitations of disadvantaged primary and secondary schooling to enable students to have access in higher education. Based on the above statements, the objectives of this study were as follows: to compare academic performance of Mainstream and Extended Programme students and to critically examine the reasons for similarities and/or differences in academic performance of students in Mainstream and Extended Programmes at higher education institutions. The research questions were as follows: How do Mainstream and Extended Programme students perform in their first year of university studies at a higher education institution? How do Mainstream and Extended Programme students perform the way they do in their first year of university studies at a higher education institution? The study was aimed at comparing the academic performance of Mainstream and Extended Programmes students from 2017 and 2018. A sample size of 20 for both Extended Programme and Mainstream students was purposively selected based on the test scores which were previously collected from the department so as to reach that sample size. A qualitative approach was used to collect data using focus groups interviews in which only 15 students participated. The test scores were analyse and presented in graphs. Data collected during focus group discussions were recorded, transcribed and analysed based on the themes and the two theories. The findings were discussed and interpreted based on the literature reviewed. The study recommended that Extended Programmes as support be extended to all first year students as the findings of the study revealed that they are all affected by the issue of under-preparedness and therefore need equal support. This would improve student retention and student success.