Date of Award

1998

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Education

Faculty

Faculty of Education

First Advisor

Dr Bruce Haynes

Second Advisor

Dr Nancy Hudson-Rodd

Abstract

This study describes and expands an understanding of primary education in one developing country, Mauritius. The need for the study was argued from a review of literature which brought to notice the lack of social action perspectives in analysis of education in and about developing countries and the necessity and importance of knowing about the reality of schooling in developing countries. The research was conceptualised as a socio-cultural approach. It gave analytical priority to the actions, experiences and perceptions of teachers, pupils, parents and educationists in order to create an account of what Mauritian education was like and meant to individuals involved in or closely associated with Mauritian primary educational processes and functionings. The research was conceptualised on the premise that, as a social construction, Mauritian primary education was to be understood in its social milieu but also was located and had to be understood in the broader context of national and global circumstances, influences and pressures. The research can be taken as an attempt to integrate micro and macro levels of analysis. Data was collected in Mauritius over a period of four months, for the most part in two primary schools and also in participants' places of work and homes and methods were triangulated to ensure validity. They comprised: (a) observation to describe people and educational settings and to document school routines and processes; (b) in-depth interviews to elicit participants' constructs and document the issues and priorities they brought to their understanding of Mauritian primary education and; (c) stories and drawings to elicit pupils' own views. Data analysis has been emergent and inductive and the research findings were presented through diverse instrumental short case studies. The findings of the study showed that Mauritian primary education was construed by participant stakeholders as a means to an end, a credential enabling the achievement of a cultural aspiration for individual social upgrading and to succeed at an examination Certificate of Primary Education (CPE) which put pupils in competition to rank for a restricted number of 'good' secondary colleges. The findings highlighted teacher-centered instructional methods, the valuing of encyclopedic knowledge, hard work and uniformity and the practices of 'ability privileging' and 'differential treatment' of pupils as prominent characteristics of Mauritian primary education. They also revealed a polarisation between the 'official' intent of Mauritian primary education and their realisation at school level with regard to educational opportunity and the degree to which Mauritian primary education promoted and provided the appropriate attitudes, skills and knowledge for individuals and for the social and economic good of the nation. The study concluded asserting that the research exemplified a conceptual and theoretical approach that may be replicated for collecting rich micro data, useful for pursuing a quality agenda for basic education in developing countries. The study has provided an illustration of the interactions between context, educational processes and the ways in which primary education was experienced by participant stakeholders. It has also located Mauritian primary education within the framework of international educational ideals and principles. In doing so, the study has served to remind that one way of looking at education is to see it as a developmental undertaking that should serve childrens' immediate as well as future interests and has brought to light foundational and detailed information about Mauritian educational processes that could be useful for educational change trying to achieve a developmental objective in Mauritius.

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