Date of Award

1-1-2004

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Faculty

Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

Abstract

In Australia there has been little research into the experiences and perceptions of education of parents from different minority groups whose young children attend school in this country. This study investigated the experiences that overseas born parents from non-English speaking backgrounds have of their own and their children's education in countries outside Australia, experiences of their children's early education in Australia, as well as those of their young children between 6 and 9 years of age attending school in this country. Despite marked differences in educational policies and practices operating in the participants' countries of origin, almost all parents in this study had experiences of education in childhood which were unlikely to be conducive to the building of warm and friendly future relationships with teachers and schools. Feelings of fear and hostility due to the extremely formal role methods, repressive discipline, and harsh corporal punishment administered by authoritarian and often cruel teachers, particularly in early primary years, were consistently described as pervasive elements in the education of most of the parents participating. In contrast, many aspects• of education in Australia were regarded as superior, however unsatisfactory communication, lack of awareness and interest demonstrated by schools and teachers meant that many of these parents also had negative experiences of education in this country. Dissatisfaction with their children's progress resulting in feelings of powerlessness due to the perceived lack of information, concerns about insufficient academic rigour, motivation and discipline were a source' of anxiety for many participants. Discussions with the young children of participants revealed their preferences for non academic activities outside the classroom, and those involving creativity •and/or• motor skills. Children's dislikes related mainly to relationships with their peer group, with difficulties in making /retaining friendships, bullying and racism as issues of concern. Relationships with teachers seemed to be both positive and negative, however little help with problems concerning the peer group seemed forthcoming, and minimal evidence of positive affirmation of the cultural and linguistic differences of these children was noted. Recommendations and implications include the need for teachers and schools to develop more cultural awareness in order to understand the differing perspectives of linguistically and culturally diverse families, and appreciate the role that parents’ prior experiences of education play in the formation of attitudes towards their children’s education. The importance of improving relationships, building authentic collaborative partnerships between teachers and minority group parents, and providing more information about school goals and programmes with opportunities to discuss these freely, is stressed. The use of overseas born parents’ expertise and home experiences both as resources to facilitate optimum outcomes for their children, and a means of increasing respect, understanding and trust between linguistically and culturally diverse families and the “mainstream” school population, is also strongly recommended.

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