Date of Award

1997

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Education Honours

School

School of Education

Faculty

Faculty of Education

Abstract

Most studies of migrant children have concentrated on English as a second language (E.S.L.), educational assessment and parental influences on learning. These studies have been mainly of older children and from the teacher's perspective. There has been little or no research into the child's own perceptions of the experience of being a migrant child, particularly from an early childhood perspective. This study aimed to fill this void by investigating young children's migration to Australia. The information was gathered by means of discussions with migrant children and their teachers in Years 2 and 3 of two schools in the Perth metropolitan area. An investigation was made of the migration experience before, during, and after the journey; the differences between the children's backgrounds and cultures; and the teachers' perceptions of the children's adjustment to school in Australia. It was found that while there were several common factors, children from both Humanitarian and Non-Humanitarian migrant categories, displayed many individual differences in background which could affect their development and wellbeing in Australia. The Humanitarian migrant children's experiences of violence prior to migration contrasted with that of the Non-Humanitarian category migrant children. However, many in both groups had experiences of living in other countries; separation from their fathers; having to leave most of their possessions behind; and difficulties with peer group behaviour towards them on arrival in Australia. The attitudes of the Humanitarian migrant children, who were happy to come here, also contrasted with those of the Non-Humanitarian migrant children, many of whom were unhappy or apprehensive. Difficulties were due to loss of familiar people, places, and possessions; differences between education systems; and undesirable peer group behaviour displayed towards them. This study also revealed contrasts between English speaking background (E.S.B.) and Non-English speaking background (N.E.S.B.) migrant children. The E.S.B. children, in spite of apparent similarity of language and culture, expressed more dissatisfaction with their migration experiences than the N.E.S.B. migrant children, and also reported difficulties with peers due to their being perceived as 'different'. Discussions with teachers revealed very caring attitudes towards the children. However, most were unaware of many of the experiences and concerns of the migrant children in their classes, which could have a bearing on the children's development in school. It is recommended that further research with larger samples of the various categories of migrant children investigate their backgrounds and experiences in the classroom and with peers, with a view to clarifying the picture. Recommendations for teachers include talking to migrant children to discover their experiences and concerns; utilisation of children's prior learning of both education and culture in the classroom rather than the 'blank slate' approach; the provision of therapeutic activities for migrant children; and the promotion of tolerance and understanding between all children both in and out of school. This can best be achieved by the development of inclusive curriculae that value and utilise the individual experiences and cultures of migrant children in day to day classroom activities, as a foundation for education in Australian schools.

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