Climate course, are emerging qualities of positive school

Climate is a multifaceted concept where defining it is becoming an exciting and a hot topic for researchers (Vasquez, 2011).  In a normal and literal context, climate is more familiar in the sense of weather or atmosphere.  Whenever the weather changes to warm or normal temperature, most of the people feel good and usually comfortable having a normal dressing. If the weather gets very cold, hot, cloudy, rainy, chilly or sunny, they need to regulate and use mechanisms that can help them adjust or adapt to the existing climate like a change in dressing, staying in rooms, use of air conditioning, umbrella, bathing, etc.  Similarly, school climate influences how the school community senses and feels, willingness to get involved, excitement to contribute and their sense of self, trying to control the climate, avoiding or adapting oneself to the existing climate.


Like personality of an individual, climate is for the organization that refers to the social, academic and emotional contexts of a school, the “personality” of the learning context (Forsyth et al., 2011; Blum, 2007). Hence, school climate is a psychological threshold on how the school community perceives it. According to Doctor (1997), “a positive school climate exists when the school community feels comfortable, wanted, valued, accepted, and secured in an environment where they can interact with caring people they trust” (p.3.3).  It is quality and character of school life (Smith et al., 2014).

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A healthy climate is the result of collaborative effort of the school community where everyone is expected to contribute its share positively.  It depends on the physical environment that is welcoming and conducive to learning, a social environment with smooth communication and interaction, an affective environment that promotes a sense of belonging and self-esteem and an academic environment that promotes learning and self-fulfilment (Marshall, 2004; Gonder & Hymes, 1994).  For Doctor (1997), a positive school climate is an equitable, safe, friendly, caring, supportive, nurturing, empowering, and mutually respectful setting. These, of course, are emerging qualities of positive school climate.  In a similar fashion, Loukas (2007) perceived school climate as “the feelings and attitudes that are elicited by a school’s environment” (p.1).


1.3.1.   School Community Trust

A school community functions as a group sharing common values about the education of children with its constituents of students, parents, teachers, principals and other support staff (Redding, 1991).  The school community in this study is confined to faculty (principals and teachers) and clients (parents and students) (Forsyth et al., 2011; Tschannen-Moran, 2014).  Thus, it encompasses a two-way trust between   teachers-principal; teachers -teachers; teachers –students; teachers –parents and principals trust in students and parents.  It is at collective level (Forsyth et al., 2011) as it addresses the workgroup in which they have expectancy and reliance on the words, promises and actions of members and act in the best interest of the members.


According to Robbins et al. (2009), trust is “a positive expectation that others will not act either through words, actions, or decisions opportunistically” (p.464).   On the other hand, Brown (2014) viewed trust as safety, comfort and feeling that someone has on your back and an environment where individuals can be their best selves.   For Mineo (2014), “trust is the glue that binds the leader to her/his followers and provides the capacity for organizational and leadership success” (p.1).


Ezekiel (2005) explained trust as a psychological threshold within an individual of being   willing to engage in co-operative behaviour entailing risk and uncertainty.  Likewise, “trust is a person’s willingness to accept and/or increase their vulnerability by relying on the implicit or explicit information.” (Todd, 2007, p.9).  On the other hand, as stated by Hoy and Tschannen-Moran (2003) “trust involves taking a risk and making oneself vulnerable to another with the confidence that the other will act in ways that aren’t detrimental to the trusting party” (p.183).


Many researchers and educators (Robbins et al., 2009; Brown, 2014; Hoy & Tschannen-Moran, 2003; Goddard et al., 2001; Forsyth et al., 2007; Savolainen, 2008) and others have come with different phrases in defining trust.  They viewed trust as safety, comfort and feeling that someone has on your back, an environment where individuals can be their best selves, teachers talking to their colleagues, discuss how to improve and learn from what is working and observe other classes, embedded in relationships, multifaceted construct, a lubricant for cooperative activity, free information and knowledge sharing, precondition for innovation, etc.  Likewise, “Trust is a subjective condition that allows an entity (a person) to take a consequential action as a result of accepting some (subjective) level of uncertainty” (Todd, 2007, p.11). For all these, the principal is the key team player in building trust at a school level.


The Cambridge Encyclopaedia (1990) viewed trust as an “arrangement that a person (the trustee) holds property for the benefit of another (the beneficiary)”. The trustee in violation of trust is liable for the damage experienced.  Oxford English Dictionary (1989) has also defined trust as the “quality of being trustworthy, fidelity, reliability, loyalty and trustiness”.  The new Oxford Thesaurus of English dictionary (2000) described trust as “a relationship built on mutual trust and respect, confidence, belief, faith, freedom from suspicion/doubt, sureness, certainty, certitude, assurance, conviction, credence, and reliance”. It is viewed as the opposite of distrust, mistrust, or scepticism. Overall, it is viewed as a relationship or confidence in someone or something as a result of the qualities observed in it or her/ him.


Trust is perceived by different fields and experts in different ways based on their philosophical underpinnings. For example, psychologists perceive trust as a belief or feeling, deeply rooted in an individual’s personality and shaped by early life experiences.  For this, the developmental stages of Erikson start with basic   trust verses mistrust as the first stage of the psychosocial development during the 12 to 18 months of the child age (Dandapani, 2010; Papalia et al., 2004; Baron, 2001).  According to them, this is the stage where babies develop a sense of reliability on   people and objects in their world. They need to develop a balance between trust which lets them form intimate relationships and mistrust which again enables them to protect themselves.


The researcher has considered the definition of Tschannen-Moran (2014) as a spring board for this study which she has defined trust as “one’s willingness to be vulnerable to another based on the confidence that the other is benevolent, honest, open, reliable, and competent” (p.19-20).


1.3.2.   Interdependence of School Climate and Trust

School climate and trust are sometimes overlapping terms where one can affect the other and one may be the cause as well, mutually inclusive.  According to Mant (1999), when the relationship or climate of the organization is healthy, its network of relationships within and out of the organization creates a climate of trust. This trust in turn acts as a kind of antibody against environmental turbulence.  In this way, trust and climate should be seen as symbiotic because there cannot be healthy climate without trust among the school community and there cannot be trust in an unhealthy climate. Thus, one buttresses the other and “open school climate and an atmosphere of trust go together” (Forsyth et al., 2011, p.8).


School improvement, more specifically the academic success of students is the cumulative result of the school management, parents, environment, students and teachers. In most of the research findings of (Brewster & Railsback, 2003; Tschannen-Moran, 2003), the quality of the relationships within a school community makes a difference in students’ performance and experience greater academic success.


There is a strong belief that relationships matter for students where achievement and trust are at the heart of strong relationship (Goddard et al., 2001) that helps students learn freely and easily in their schools.  The school is the miniature society, an epitome of life outside, lengthened arm of the family, guardian of academic freedom, living examples of freedom of inquiry, experimentation, and democracy (Dewey, cited on Aggarwal, 2013). With these, there shall be a healthy school climate and strong trust especially between teachers, students, parents and the leadership, if not it will affect the overall teaching- learning process and schools will not enjoy the expected participation of stakeholders and success in their plans. 


There is a need to establish non- toxic school environment and a trustworthy relationship among stakeholders of the schools especially the principals, teachers, students and parents to each other which led to the main concepts of the paper, ‘school climate and school community trust’.


1.3.3.   Academic Achievement

Though there are many school outcomes that might be used to measure the performance of schools, students’ academic achievement is one of the virtually agreed outcomes used to measures school effectiveness (Forsyth et al., 2011). For this, the Ethiopian Ministry of Education, its hierarchical organs and partners are struggling with reforms to improve the academic performance and achievement of students, be it at lower, middle or higher levels.  Academic achievement is usually considered as a measurement tool for knowledge gained in formal education. It is based on the achievement verse the reference set by the schools (norm or criterion) that determines the pass rate. It is assessed by   exams, tests, quizzes, projects, assignments, etc. which are again expressed in terms of marks, percentages, grades, excellent, very good, good, poor, failed, etc. Here, the achievement level of the students is judged by the marks they scored in the examinations.


School assessment tracks the performance of schools in the achievement of stated goals, mostly the performance of students in terms of promotion rate, repetition, dropout rate and marks on an average which are key indicators of   school achievement. The information generated from the assessment process is used to establish baseline data for the next planning, track trends, and make comparisons (Hoffman & Summers, 2000). Harris and Muijs (2005) clarified that teachers’ effectiveness has been a matter of some debate but effectiveness is measured essentially in terms of students’ academic achievement using either value-added or raw score measures, and a teacher is effective if students test scores rise. 


Achievement is one of the basic elements in defining the healthy school climate under the academic dimension.  The academic   achievement is the result of the teaching- learning process. It is the extent to which students, teachers and institutions have achieved their common educational goal. 

 School climate is a significant element in discussions about improving academic performance and school reform (Michigan State University, 2004) and a healthy climate is an academic environment that promotes learning, emphasis on academics, achievements and performance are rewarded and praised.   On the other hand, a relationship among the school community in the school has more impact on the quality and character of the school and the accomplishment of students than any other factor (Barth, 2001 in Redburn, 2009).  The relationship leads again to trust which will have an impact on the performance of students thereby determining their achievements. 


The Michigan State University (2004, p.5), viewed a caring school climate as a key for:

§ Higher grades, engagement, attendance, expectations and aspirations, a sense of scholastic competence, fewer school suspensions, and on-time progression through grades,

§ Higher self-esteem and self-concept,

§ Less anxiety, less depression and no loneliness and,

§ Less substance abuse.


Researchers are worried about the effects of climate and trust on school’s performance.    Thus, rigorous researches have been done and going on even today. This research can be considered as one of the addenda.


1.1.    Contexts of the Research Areas

Ethiopia, with the official name of Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE) is a landlocked country in the Horn of Africa. Presently, the governance is structured with 9 ethnic-based Administrative Regional States and two Self-Governing City Administrations.  The country has a projected population of 94 ML (49.8% females) for 2017 (CSA, 2013).   The target regions of the study, Amhara National Regional State (ANRS) and Southern Nations, Nationalities and People Regional State (SNNPRS) accommodate 43% of the total population. The study has again considered South Gonder Zone of the ANRS and Gurage Zone of SNNPRS for this study.

1.4.1.   South Gonder Zone

South Gondar is one of the Zones in the ANRS where its seat of administration is Debre Tabor that is 108 Km northwest of Bahir Dar, the capital of the Region and 660 Km from Addis Ababa, the capital of the country.  The zone has a total of 2, 484,929 (49.4% females) population which was projected for 2016/17(CSA, 2013) within an area coverage of 14,095.19 square kilometres. South Gonder Zone encompasses 10 districts and 1 city administration under its governance.  

South Gonder Zone has an altitude range of 1500 – 3,600 mean above sea level with an average yearly rainfall ranging from 700-mm -1300 mm and the average daily temperature is 17°C. The study has considered Fogera and Libo Kemkem districts. Districts are the third-level administrative structures linking local administrations with the zone.     Fogera District

Fogera district is found in South Gonder Zone. It is located 55 Km to the North of Bahir Dar, the capital of the ANRS and 607 from Addis Ababa (capital of the country). The district has 32 local administrations with in area coverage of 1,028.21 square kilometres. The projected population of the district for 2016/17 was 253, 790(49.17% females) (CSA, 2013). The district is demarked by Libo Kemkem district to the North, Farta district in the East, Dera district in the South and Lake Tana in the West. The district has topography of plain (76%), mountainous/hilly (13%) and gorge (11%) with a temperature of maximum 27.2°C and Minimum 10.3°C. Rice is the main harvest/plantation covering 19,333 hectares with 32 % of the district’s production followed by Maize covering 20% (Fogera District, Finance and Economy Development Office, 2016).     Libo Kemkem District

Libo Kemkem is another district of South Gonder Zone, which is 67 km from Bahir Dar. The district has 32 local administrations covering a total area of 951.49 square km. The district is bounded by Belesa district in the North, Fogera district in the South, Ebenat District in the East and Lake Tana and Gonder Zuria district in the West. The temperature of the district is 27.9 °C maximum and 11.1 °C minimum.  Topographically, 21% is mountainous, 42% plain, 30% hilly and 6% covered with water and 1 % is gorge. Based on the projection of the CSA (2013) for 2016, the population of the district was 223, 526 (96.53% living in a rural area being engaged in agriculture).

1.4.2.   Gurage Zone

Gurage Zone is one of the zones of the SNNPRS. The zone is given its name from the name of the ethnic group (majority) who are living in the zone. The administrative centre of the zone is Walkete that is located at 155 km from Addis Ababa towards southwest direction.  The agro-ecology of the zone, out of the total land size 7% kola (warm to hot, 20°C to 30°C), 65 % weinadega (cool to warm, 16°C and 20°C) and 28 % dega (cool to cold, 10°C and 16°C).


The Zone has a total projected population of 1,535,386 (48.5% females) in 2016 (Gurage Zone, Finance and Economy Development, 2016). According to the report, the zone has a total area coverage of 5,932 square kilometres with an average temperature of 18°C (ibid). The zone has13 districts and 2 city administrations.

At zonal level, the class students-ratio was 1:55 for grade 1-8 and teacher-student ratio was 1:47 which were above the standard set by the country as 1:50 and 1:40 respectively (Gurage Zone, Finance and Economy Development, 2016).  Abeshege District

Abeshege is one of the districts of the Gurage zone having 29 local administrations. The district has a total population of 72,917 (47.1% females) with in area coverage of 604.2 square kilometre (Gurage Zone, Finance and Economy Development, 2016). Kebena and Cheha districts of Gurage Zone in the west bound the district and the rest is surrounded by Oromia Regional State.  The annual average temperature of the district ranges from 18.0 and 28.3 °C, while the total annual rainfall varies between 801mm and 1400 mm with in the topography of from 1000-2000 mean above sea level.  Walkete City Administration

Walkete is both the seat of the Administrative Zone and City Administration. The projected population of the city administration for 2016 was 38,241(49.8% females) having total area coverage of 11.3 (Gurage Zone, Finance and Economy Development, 2016).  The city administration has 6 local administrations (3 urbans and 3 rural) surrounded by Kebena district of the zone.  This town has an elevation between 1910 and 1935 meters above sea level with an average temperature of 28.3 °C. 




Map 1. 1.  Location of Study Regions, Zones and Districts

1.2.    Rationale

This research has focused and selected Ethiopia, as it is the home of the researcher where he knows the education system, culture and language of the country. In Ethiopia, there are studies on leadership style, gender and effectiveness in Ethiopia (Dejenie, 2011), enhancing leadership capacity of principals and the implications of school improvement and school effectiveness of primary school principals in Ethiopia (Mitchell, 2015), the practices and problems of principals’ leadership style and teachers’ job performance in secondary schools of Ethiopia (Roul, 2012), the current status of trust between principals and teachers in government preparatory schools of Gambella Peoples’ National Regional State (Obang, 2014), school leadership effectiveness on students’ academic achievement in secondary schools of Jimma Zone  (Teshale, 2015), an assessment of leadership styles towards students’ academic performance in government secondary schools of Wolaita and Dawro Zones, South Ethiopia (Endale et al., 2015),  practices and challenges of enhancing school leadership in Gambella Regional State (Abebe et al., 2015),   job satisfaction of secondary school teachers in Ethiopia( Gedefaw, 2012), etc. However, a study has not been found that assessed or examined the school climate, school community trust and their impact on the academic achievement of primary school students in Ethiopia.

Primary schools being the foundation for all educational careers (Ramani, 2013), there has not been found a study that assessed the school climate and school community trust that may exist between primary school teachers, students, parents and principals.  Thus, the researcher is motivated by this hollowness of information and courageously started to intervene on this gap auspiciously.  It is also more important to know the existing school climate and the level of trust that prevails between teachers, principals, students and parents and their impact on the academic achievement of students.

School climate and trust being key factors in the improvement of schools, students’ achievement, school attendance, school discipline, good governance in school and in general quality of education, no serious attention   has been given to it.   This void of information can gear attention for researchers, as it is important to know the present scenario of school climate and level of trust between school community   that may have either positive or negative impact on the academic achievement of students.

Henceforth, the investigator is interrogating a question on the ascribed school climate and trust of the school community (teachers, principals, students, and parents). This can be examined through assessment tools that can address each dimension of school climate   and trust (Tschannen-Moran, 2014; Hoy & Tschannen-Moran, 2003; Robbins et al., 2009). These school climate dimensions (collegial leadership, teachers’ professionalism, academic press and community engagement) and trust facets (benevolence, reliability/consistency, competency, honesty, and openness) are going to be again more specific with sub-indicator statements. The trust of each party and the healthiness of school climate are going to be assessed against the academic achievement of students.  

1.3.    Title of the Study

The area of the research is about school leadership in Ethiopia focusing on school climate, school community trust and their relationship with academic achievement of primary school students. Consequently, the topic has come to be school climate and trust: status and impact on the academic achievement of primary school students in Ethiopia.

1.4.    Objectives

The overall purpose of this research is to examine the school climate, school community’ level of trust and their impact on the academic achievement of primary school students in Ethiopia.  It looked school climate, teachers’, students’, parents’ and principals’ level of trust towards each other in relation to some select variables (experience, location and gender) and their implication on students’ academic achievement. This general objective subsumes the following specific objectives:

1.      To study the existing climate of schools,

2.      To study the school community’s level of trust in relation to gender, location and experience, and

3.      To examine the impact of school climate and school community trust on the academic achievement of primary school students.

1.5.    Research Questions and Hypothesis

In comprehending the stated objectives of the study, the researcher looked answers for the following key research questions and hypothesis based on the nature of the objectives set.

Objective 1: To study the existing climate of schools

1.1. Do schools follow collegial leadership to have healthy school climate?

1.2. Is there teachers’ professionalism in schools?

1.3. Is there any academic press in schools?

1.4. Is there any community engagement / participation in schools?

Are there any significant differences in the perception of