Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Master of Education


Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Supervisor

Dr Tony Monk


Interest in multiculturalism has been expressed by educators for a number of years. Much of the literature concerning multiculturalism in visual arts education calls for the adoption of a culturally inclusive curricula in order to meet the needs of all students. In his consideration of conceptions of curriculum, Eisner (1988) made reference to a preferred body of knowledge which often excludes students from minority groups within society. Many Australian schools are experiencing increases in enrolments of students from non-English speaking backgrounds (NESB). These students may themselves be immigrants or the children of one or both parents born in another country. This study is concerned specifically with the impact of such students' inherited culture on their perceptions of the visual arts which may be influenced by exposure to particular styles or forms of art experienced in the context of the family, or through visual arts education in the student's country of origin. The research investigates students from non-English speaking backgrounds perceptions of the visual arts and visual arts education. The study's purpose is to determine the degree to which these perceptions influence the performance of NESB students undertaking a visual arts course at upper secondary school level. Although many students from various ethnic groups show an interest in and aptitude for the visual arts, they are often not successful in all aspects of the secondary level. From equity and justice perspectives it would appear that the opportunity to succeed in a chosen area should be available to all students and that in order to provide this opportunity, it is necessary to determine what factors influence the success or failure of these students. This study involved the use of qualitative research methods and was conducted as a case-study. The sample or case was selected from a Year 11 tertiary entrance art class and represents a diversity of ethnic backgrounds. The seven participants originated from Australia, mainland China, Greece, Indonesia, Russia and Vietnam. The data was collected using a questionnaire, interviews, observation and examination of work samples. The data was categorised according to themes which emerged during the data collection and analysis stages. Results showed that NESB students appear to be influenced by their early home and educational experiences and that these in turn are influenced by the ethnic and cultural contexts in which they were experienced. There is also evidence that the delivery and content of visual arts education plays an important role in influencing students' perceptions of the visual arts. Information emerging from the study however suggests a need for further research in order to validate the findings. Replication of this research using a wider sample of students may help to reduce some of the variables impacting on the study. These may include levels of literacy attained by students in both their mother tongue and in English, continuity experienced by students in both general and visual arts education, and socio-economic status. Whilst it appears that further use of the case study may be appropriate, variation in both the research design and research instruments should also be considered.