The Positive Relationship Between Extracurricular Activities and Student Achievement


Today a post over on OECD educationtoday highlights an examination of PISA survey results on the relationship between extracurricular science activities and student performance in science. The results indicate that “students in schools that offer more science-related extracurricular activities tend to perform better in science than do students in schools that offer fewer such activities.”

When the school is viewed as an ecosystem, and we look at students as a whole child, the importance of a well-rounded education that offers enrichment and opportunities for delving into extracurricular activities becomes quite clear.

This positive relationship mostly held after controlling for students’ socio-economic background, except in the United States, where “students in schools that offer fewer of these kinds of science-related activities tend to perform better in science.” Huh? Why would that be?

I have one idea. The fact that most high performing nations have a strong, coherent national curriculum is one thing the US sorely lacks. We have traditionally had little to no guidance for schools in curricular matters. Unless you count the materials of giant textbook corporations as guidance. So given the anemic drivel that constitutes much of our everyday science lessons, it’s no surprise that if our students spend more time doing extracurricular science activities that fail to build on a core foundation of essential facts and knowledge, they perform less well on PISA exams.

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