Self-Concept and Academic Achievement among Pre-University Students


Self-concept is a dominant element in personality pattern; therefore, the measurement of self-concept becomes essential. Saraswat and Gaur (1981) described self-concept a “The self-concept is the individual’s way of looking at oneself. It also signifies his/her way of thinking, feeling and behaving”.

The term self-concept is a general term used to refer to how someone thinks about, evaluates or perceives themselves. To be aware of oneself is to have a concept of oneself. According to Baumeister (1999), self-concept is "The individual's belief about himself or herself, including the person's attributes and who and what the self is".

The concept of self is probably the most distinctive and indispensable concept in psychology. As a theoretical construct, the self has been an object of interest since the 17th century, when Rene Descartes first discussed the cogito, or self, as a thinking substance. Throughout the ages, theories of Sigmund Freud, Carl Rogers, Abraham Maslow and others have been directed toward understanding the conduct of human beings by examining the feelings and beliefs that individuals hold about themselves.

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All port (1961) has described "self-concept as, something of which we are immediately aware. We think of it as the warm, central private region of our life. As such it plays a crucial part in our consciousness (a concept broader than self), in our personality (a concept broader than consciousness) and in our organism (a concept broader than personality). Thus it is some kind of core in our being".

Self-concept may be defined as the totality of a complex, organised and dynamic system of learned beliefs, attitudes and opinions that each person holds to be true about his or her personal existence.

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Young children describe themselves in terms of physical traits, whereas older and adolescents use psychological traits (i.e. intelligent, trustworthy, caring etc.) and abstract concepts (e.g. devout catholic). In addition, as children mature, their self-concept becomes more differentiated and integrated. They begin to see links between their past, present and future selves. As children become more introspective with age, they can become more self-conscious and self-critical.

The self-concept is the individual’s perception of her abilities and her status and roles in the outer world. Self-concept includes past, present and future selves. The ideal self is important for higher aspiration and high future performance. The students’ self-concept will decide what goals suit him and how she should strive for their realization and it will also determine his/her level of aspiration. Self-concept is distinguishable from self-awareness which refers to the extent to which self-knowledge is clearly defined, consistent and currently applicable to one's attitudes and dispositions. Self-concept is made up of one's self-schemas.

Additionally, self-concept interacts with Self-esteem, self-knowledge and social self to form the self. The self-concept is the individual’s way of looking at himself and the dimensions of self-concept involve physical, moral, temperamental, educational, intellectual, and social self-concept. The physical self-concept which deals with the individual’s view of their physical appearance, health and strength. The social self is the individual’s sense of worth in social interactions. Individual’s view of their prevailing emotional state or predominance of a particular kind of emotional reaction is the temperamental self-concept. Individual’s estimation of their moral worth, right and wrong activities are dealt with by the moral self-concept. The self-awareness of their own intelligence and capacity of problem solving and judgments is known as the intellectual self-concept. The individual’s view of themselves in relation to academics is the educational self-concept. The self-concept is influenced by both internal and external factors. The internal factors involve the hereditary and the external factors namely family, peer group and the society in which they belong to.

Rosenberg defines the self-concept broadly as "the totality of an individual's thoughts and feelings having reference to himself as an object

Self-concept is an organisation of beliefs about the self. Self-concept is individuals‟ overall perception of their abilities, behaviour and personality. Self-concept is one of the most popular ideas in psychological and educational literature which is considered as a key to success. It shapes how the individual views his relations with the world and reflects his overall quality of being. The self-concept is basically a set of ideas about oneself: who you are as a person, and your place in the world, society, and the lives of people around you. Self-concept is an important phenomenon for the healthy and sound personality of an individual. Raimy (1943) was the first person who defined the self-concept, “the self-concept is the more or less organized perceptual object resulting from present and past self-observation… (i.e.,) what a person believes about himself.

The self-concept is the map that each person consults in order to understand himself, especially during a moment of crises or choice”. Hattie (1992) viewed self-concept in terms of the cognitive appraisal one makes of the expectations, descriptions, and perceptions that one holds about one’s self. The success and failure of one is largely dependent upon one’s perceptions of him/her and what others think of him or her. It is dynamic, unique, and always evolving. No person is born with a self-concept. Self-concept develops as a person grows old. It means that our perceptions towards our selves can be shaped, reshaped, and can also be affected by environmental factors. Self-concept develops through interaction with people and environment. As pointed out by Gerger (1955) social interaction does such for this i.e. to understand himself and to guide his conduct. These interactions continue to affect the self concept. In the words of Sood (2006) self-concept is the sum total of a person’s perceptions about his /her physical, social, temperamental, and academic competence. It covers beliefs, convictions and values the person holds.

Guilford (1966) defined self-concept as individual perception, attitude and feeling about himself. There seemed to be two dimensions positive and negative of self-concept i.e. to perceive self and ideal self-discrepancies. Self-concept and behaviour mutually go on influencing each other and according to Sagar Sharma (1967), “it is a by-product of learning experiences and with this point of view, it is an apex and the culmination of all social and personal experiences the child has had.” Self-content is a dominant element in personality pattern, therefore, the measurement of self-concept becomes essential. The problem of measuring the self-concept to a large extent still remains unsolved. The difficulty in conducting research in such an area is that the concept of self is not very well defined. Self-concept has been referred by Lowe (1961) as one’s attitude towards self and by Paderson (1965) as an organized configuration of perceptions, beliefs, feelings, attitudes and values which the individual views as a part of characteristics of him.

Self-concept is the core of human personality. It refers to the totality of people’s perception about their physical, social and academic competence. It is the set of perceptions that the person has about himself, the set of characteristics, attributes, qualities, deficiencies, capacities limits, values and relationships that the subject knows to be descriptive of him.

Self-concept is a theoretical term that has numerous synonyms and numerous definitions. In the literature, it is also identified sometimes as self-schema (Cross & Markus, 1994; Markus & Wurf, 1987), self-representation (Cross and Markus, 1994), self-image (Offer et al., 1988), self-perception (Evans & Poole, 1991), self-esteem (Rosenberg, 1965), self-evaluation, etc. In practice, these terms have been inconsistently used, sometimes distinctively in scope or extension and sometimes synonymously. It is really hard to distinguish between different psychological self-generalisations building the comprehensive conception of ourselves.

According to Burns, self-concept is a psychological entity which includes our feelings, evaluations and attitudes as well as descriptive categories of ourselves (Burns, 1979). It is manifested outwardly by our behavioural and personality traits and inwardly by how we feel about ourselves and the world around us (Maccoby, 1980).

Human behaviour is a complex phenomenon. Everybody is interested in understanding human behavior. Primarily, these were the philosophers who took up the subject of human behavior and tried to find out the causes of such behavior. The psychology was wrenched out of the bosom of the philosophy. Later, as the element of speculative thinking decreases and the objective experiment investigation increased, it gradually developed into a positive science.

One's self-concept (also called self-construction, self-identity, or self-perspective) is a collection of beliefs about oneself that includes elements such as academic performance, gender roles and sexuality, and racial identity. Generally, self-concept embodies the answer to " Who am I?" One's self-concept is made up of self-schemas, and their past, present, and future selves. Self-concept is distinguishable from self-awareness, which refers to the extent to which self-knowledge is defined, consistent, and currently applicable to one's attitudes and dispositions. Self-concept also differs from self-esteem: self-concept is a cognitive or descriptive component of one's self (e.g. "I am a fast runner"), while self-esteem is evaluative and opinionated (e.g. " I feel good about being a fast runner").

Academic achievement has become an index of the child’s future in this highly competitive world. Academic achievement has been one of the most important goals of the educational process. It is also a major goal, which every individual is expected to perform in all cultures. Academic achievement is a key mechanism through which adolescents learn about their talents, abilities and competencies which are an important part of developing career aspirations (Lent et al., 2000) academic achievement and career aspirations in adolescence.
Academic achievement is a dynamic process. It plays a very significant and vital role in the attainment of the harmonious development of the child in all walks of life. Academic Achievement, in general, refers to the degree of proficiency attained in some specific area, concerning some scholastic and academic work. Academic achievement or (academic) performance is the outcome of education — the extent to which a student, teacher or institution has achieved their educational goals. Academic achievement is commonly measured by examinations or continuous assessment but there is no general agreement on how it is best tested or which aspects are most important — procedural knowledge such as skills or declarative knowledge such as facts. When students feel safe, engaged, and respected, they can focus on their academic goals. Effective character educators ensure that these needs are met. Character education is the foundation upon which students can reach academic achievement. It’s not just about teaching kids to be good. It’s teaching them to be their best.

According to Crow and Crow (1956) achievement means the extent to which learner is profiting from instructions in a given area of learning. Academic Achievement is the outcome of education, the extent to which a student, teacher or institution has achieved their educational goals. This is measured either by examination or continuous assessments and the goal may, differ from individual to another. Torres (1994) defined academic achievement as the attained ability or degree of competence in school task usually measured by the standardized test and expressed in grades or units based on worms derived from a wide sampling of pupil’s performance.

Theories of Self-Concept:

There have been numerous approaches to a theoretical exposition of the nature and development of the self-concept. Among these, there is Freud's three-part model of personality, with the id, the ego and the superego. The self-concept (or ego) arises from the interplay between the biological or instinctual urges of the id and the modifying influences of the culture and parental strictures forming the superego.
The self-concept is dynamic in its efforts to maintain its individuality. The dynamic aspect of the self-concept is also evident in the adolescent's desire to understand themselves and to realise their most acceptable selves. The individual's concept of himself is at the core of his thinking, motivation and behaviour.

Development of Self-Concept

Self-concept is a developmental process and is formed by the bio-social interaction and experience gained by the individual; hence it is influenced by a number of social-psychological factors. Adolescence is a complex developmental period that involves a number of aspects of the self (Harter, 1998, 1999, 2006; Nurmi, 2004). They might create different selves developing on their ethnic and cultural background and experiences. However, the formation of self-concept neither begins nor ends with adolescence. But certainly, the main problem in this period of development is the problem of identity. Who am I, What am I valued for are the questions usually asked by the boys and girls in this age between 16 and 18? The formation of the idea for oneself as a conscious part of the identity is connected with a lot of factors; for example, it depends on sex, family influences, physical characteristics, social origin, education status, etc.

According to Rogers, one’s self –concept influences how one regards both oneself and one’s environment. The self-concept of a mentally healthy person is consistent with his or her thoughts, experiences, and behaviour. Self-concept is defined as the value that an individual places on his or her own characteristics, qualities, abilities, and actions (Woolfolk 2001). Self-concept is not innate but is developed or constructed by the individual through interaction with the environment and reflecting on that interaction. This aspect of self-concept is important because it indicates that it can be modified or changed (Franken1994). The way an individual views himself accounts to a large extent for his success.

An adolescent who has an adequate self-concept is likely to follow the problem-solving approach and tends to be spontaneous, creative, original, and have high self-esteem. He or she trusts oneself and has good academic achievement motivation and is free to accept others without any negative feelings. Negative self-concept in adolescence has been associated with various maladaptive behavioural and emotional problems. Problems and difficulties can lower self-concept, but low self-concept can also cause problems and they may lose motivation in learning. Building confidence in adolescents is one of the most important steps educators and parents can take to ensure an atmosphere for learning.

One of the most significant factors responsible for students’ academic performance is their self-concept (Bandura, 1997; Villarroel, 2001; Boulter, 2002). According to Butler, if students are expected to perform well in their examinations, positive self-concept is sine qua non. Incidentally, most research works and findings on the impact of self-concept on academic performance have been those reported from Western cultures which may be different from related issues within the Ghanaian cultural context.

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Self-Concept and Academic Achievement among Pre-University Students. (2020, Sep 02). Retrieved from

Self-Concept and Academic Achievement among Pre-University Students
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