Conceptualization of students’ quality of school life: Findings from an empirical study in Malaysia

Conceptualization of students’ quality of school life: Findings from an empirical study in Malaysia

Conceptualization of students’ quality of school life: Findings from an empirical study in Malaysia

Assessing students' views of quality of school life (QSL) could shed light on ways to promote and assure the quality of school education. However, research on QSL is considered scarce, particularly in the Malaysian school context. In addition, it is pertinent to examine the conceptualization of QSL within multicultural and multiracial Malaysian school contexts. To fill these research gaps, this study investigates conceptualization of QSL in Malaysian primary schools.

This study employed a quantitative survey research design. Ainley et al.’s (1986) QSL scale, one of the most commonly used scales for the primary school context in relevant literature, was used to measure students’ conceptualization of their QSL. Ainley et al.’s (1986) QSL scale consist of seven dimensions: (1) positive affect (five items); (2) negative affect (five items); (3) teacher-student relations (six items); (4) status (six items); (5) identity (six items); (6) opportunity (six items); and (7) achievement (six items). The scale has a total of 40 items measured by the four-point Likert scale (1=definitely disagree, 2=mostly disagree, 3=mostly agree, and 4=definitely agree). Conceptualization of each dimension is as follows:

  • Positive Affect – Students’ general satisfaction and overall positive feelings about school.
  • Negative Affect – Students’ overall negative feelings or experiences about school.
  • Status – Students’ sense of self-worth and importance at school.
  • Identity – Students’ awareness of their ability to relate to others at school.
  • Teacher-student relations – Students’ feelings about the adequacy of interaction between teachers and students at school.
  • Opportunity – Students’ belief in the relevancy of school work to their future lives and career opportunities.
  • Achievement – Students’ sense of confidence in their ability to be successful in school work.

Data were collected from 1,459 grade 5 students selected from 45 primary schools in Penang, Perak and Selangor states. The sample consisted of 695 boys (49.6%) and 764 girls (52.4%). Data were analyzed using exploratory factor analysis (EFA) with a statistical software, IBM SPSS 22.0.

Results of Exploratory Factor Analysis
Table 1. Results of Exploratory Factor Analysis

Table 1 shows six factors extracted from the EFA results, which are different from the original seven dimensions of Ainley et al.’s (1986) QSL scale. These six factors include (1) negative affect (2) self-recognition (3) positive affect (4) achievement (5) opportunity and (6) teacher-student relations. The dimensions of ‘status’ and ‘identity’ in the original version were combined in this study as a new dimension, termed as self-recognition based on the conceptual meaning of its seven underlying dimensions. Findings revealed that the adopted Ainley et al. QSL scale is not a universal scale that can be used across diverse school contexts, as it became evident that students’ perceptions about QSL are different in the western and Malaysian contexts.

It is worth highlighting that negative affect was the strongest dimension in explaining Malaysian primary students’ QSL. Negative affect contributed the highest variance explained (25%) on QSL. This finding showed that students’ negative mood states such as fear and frustration strongly explained their QSL. Self-recognition was the second strongest dimension (12% of variance explained) on students’ QSL. This implied that students’ self-worth being recognized and accepted by peers in school was considered crucial in explaining their QSL. The third dimension, positive affect, explained about 7% of variance on students’ QSL, followed by the dimensions of achievement and opportunity with variance explained of 5.4% and 4.9% respectively.

Findings indicated that Malaysian students had overall positive feelings and experiences regarding school; their sense of confidence to successfully achieve academically; and the relevance of schooling for future careers. All of these factors had substantial impact on their QSL. However, the dimension of teacher-student relations had the weakest influence on students’ QSL. The findings differed from previous studies in western settings that showed teacher-student relations contributed to students’ QSL.

The findings of this study call for more in-depth qualitative methodology (e.g. interviews) that can provide more information and understanding about each dimension of QSL identified in this study. It is also worth noting that these six dimensions contributed 58.2% variance explained on students’ QSL. The remaining 41.8% of unexplained variance on QSL could be attributed to other dimensions and inform the direction of future studies. This study has contributed to QSL literature as the findings can be used to develop a QSL scale that is relevant to the Malaysian school context.



The author would like to extend her appreciation to Universiti Sains Malaysia for the Short-Term Grant (304/PGURU/6315046) that made this article possible.


Written by: Lei Mee Thien, School of Educational Studies, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Malaysia

For more information, please contact: Lei Mee Thien []

Photo credit: ©Shutterstock/Tom Wang