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Posted on September 4th, 2012, by

As a matter of fact the role of extracurricular activities in the lives of youth is quite controversial and may be considered from different points of view, which means that it is a point for discussion. It is an essential question requiring further consideration and analysis, as it deals with well-being and successful performance of students as well as their lives in perspective, therefore, the whole society with the youth that is deeply integrated into it.

Extracurricular activities have a significant impact on the students’ maturation, they can help foster growth and development of personalities in and out of school. Participation in extracurricular activities encourages personal accomplishment and social real-life skills development. They are not merely a part of educational experience from which students academically benefit, but they also create a favorable environment that provides youth with opportunities for all-round development and consequently keeping students out of trouble such as drug addiction, school-age motherhood, disorderly conduct, juvenile delinquency, etc. Therefore, it is a matter of paramount importance to keep schoolwork, extracurricular activities, social life, youth health and other constituent parts of students’ life in balance due to time commitment and expediency combined with individual differences of lifestyles and life tempos.

The investigation of extracurricular activities’ role and the discovery of their interrelation with academic process, psychological stability and self-concept strengthening is relatively fresh. As before 1900, educators were skeptical of students’ participation in extracurricular activities outcomes. According to the article The Effects of Extracurricular Activities on the Academic Performance of Junior High Students, the development and integration of extracurricular activities into the school programs and in lives of students on the whole was slow, as in the majority of cases it was presupposed that behind extracurricular activities there was nothing but entertainment and they were meant to be primarily recreational and detrimental to academic achievement (Fujita, 2005). Later on, there developed an assumption that extracurricular activities of any kind influence academic performance and self-discipline of students.

At present children’s schedules are overprogrammed, so they lack free time when they are not preoccupied with classes, homework and different types of extracurricular activities. Students’ lives have become increasingly structured and tightly organized, consequently, youth suffers from the effects of overscheduling. Despite the misconception that extracurricular activities are perceived to be only athletic activities, indeed, they take many forms, including extracurricular activities such as sport and sports games, academically oriented activities such as Science Clubs and school sponsored activities such as Homecoming (McCaughn, 1999). Kimiko Fujita contends that according to the survey conducted at Walnut Creek Christian Academy, participation in such extracurricular activities as athletics, television viewing, community service influence academic performance positively, though not all of them do; while participation in musical performance, for instance, does not improve it at all (Fujita, 2005). He maintains that if parents force their kids to participate in definite types of extracurricular activities the very purpose of them is hopelessly lost. It is the assertion of various educators, sociologists and psychologists that too much of anything can never do good. It has been argued that as children stop enjoying extracurricular activities, it can result in serious stress disorders (Barhyte, 2005). Sandra L. Hofferth, a sociologist as well as Ellen Smith expresses her arguments in favor of unstructured play which is claimed to encourage creativity and the ability to manage one’s hours without or with minimized help of counselors, advisors, parents, etc. It also gives children an opportunity, so this argument goes, to become independent thinkers. So, today they lack in time for the unstructured play as they are pushed for achievement reigns (Barhyte, 2005). David Elkind supports Ellen Smith and a number of other investigators of the issue in the fact that school-age children need the opportunity to invent and be engaged into their own games, making up their rules according to their flexible timetables. If adults got used to endless tasks they are to fulfill during the working day, their children may not be able to march the same rhythm (Barhyte, 2005). To put it mildly, children feel the time crunch as well as their parents do. So, according to the inquiry about seventy percent of time is occupied with classes and extracurricular activities and only about thirty percent is left for youngsters to enjoy their free time, as Dawn Marie Barhyte argues. Summing up the contentions analyzed, Barhyte emphasizes the following: Many educators caution that the greatest hazard of the generation of kidsis that they are overprogrammed. Parents need to be able to determine when enough is enough. Otherwise, parents’ indifference to the genuine interests of their children will lead to psychological disorders, overloading and even risk of physical harm. Chronic tiredness, inability to complete the work in time, health problems, complaints and agitation are the hallmarks of students’ stress disorder caused by unbalanced proportion of activities’ influence on the organism (Barhyte, 2005). According to the survey Extracurricular Activities and Academic Performance in Secondary Schools, students involved in numerous activities, always meaning it for benefit, may not always face successful results; the consequences they suffer include fatigue, lack of concentration, saturation effect, stress, etc. (Moriana & Alós, 2006).

However, as Ellen Smith argues, extracurricular activities in moderation are adventurous to development of children if they enjoy them and there is a direct correlation between extracurricular activities and academic progress of students regardless of age and sex (Barhyte, 2005).

Numerous investigations made in the sphere, including the survey conducted by Juan Antonio Moriana, Francisco Alós and other psychologists, fix the significant differences in performance in favor of students involved in academic-type extracurricular activities in comparison to those involved in sports. The results testify to the fact that groups involved in activities outside the school day yielded better academic performance (Moriana & Alós, 2006). In addition, the statistics given in the research entitled Participation Makes a Difference: Extracurricular Activities at the Secondary Level and Educational Success: Research Report vividly shows the participation of secondary students in extracurricular activities and the positive effects on the students and the atmosphere of the school as well as students’ academic progress and ambitions. According to the research, eighty-eight percent of students participated in at least one extracurricular activity in during the years 2002 and 2003; eighty-five percent took part in activities outside the school. It is established that there is a strong relation between the perception of the level of participation in extracurricular activities at school and the school atmosphere. Atmosphere at school is linked to the students’ academic results and their academic ambition.

The study concludes that extracurricular activities significantly contribute to educational success for secondary school students in Quebec.

In the Quebec’s What’s Up After School Program it is clearly stated that the objective of this and similar programs lies far beyond merely combating sedentary lifestyles and promoting educational success, it provides students with a wide range of cultural, social, community and scientific extracurricular activities. It is claimed that school is not just a place of teaching and learning, it should also be a stimulating environment where students are empowered to socialize and use their aptitudes and talents. It as well as other programs promoting extracurricular activities due to the code of conduct assists in coping with youth problems such as alcohol and drug abuse, misbehavior, etc. Such programs encourage students to get involved in search of something new and exciting and in case they wish to achieve specific goals such as teaching or mastering the language, getting the bilingual job, volunteering, etc.

Extracurricular activities comprise a wide range of possibilities too satisfy every taste, the sections may include the arts, science, sports, writing and communication, social science and community, management, drug and alcohol education, emotional and personal health, general knowledge, to mention just a few. Parental and counselors’ role can hardly be overestimated, as they supervise, monitor various kinds of activities of students and assist in time commitment encouraging a strong positive effect of extracurricular activities essential for students’ maturation (McCaughn, 1999). Parents should give children freedom in choosing activities according to their tastes and empower them to participate in academic and extracurricular competition for the benefit of successful academic performance promotion and social, physical and cognitive development.

In conclusion, as children actually spend more of their days outside classes than in them the role of extracurricular activities is of paramount importance. Extracurricular activities help in preventing children from getting into trouble, reject risky behavior, drug and alcohol use, vandalism, irresponsible sexual activity and generally keep children busy, healthy and safe. However, extracurricular activities may turn into a problem if there is too much of them and they are not well-planned and harmoniously interrelated.

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