14 SES 04 B, School-Related Transitions Within a Life Course Perspective II
There is a well-recognized link between social class and children’s school achievement with children from lower socioeconomic or cultural minority groups tending to underperform on the conventional assessments of early learning (eg. Grieshaber, Shield, Luke & McDonald, 2012).
In Australia the gap in achievement between Indigenous and non-Indigenous children in their early years at school is marked, with, for example, the National Assessment Program Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) results indicating far higher numbers of Indigenous children below minimum reading standards (ACARA, 2013).
Such poor school performance is also seen in other Indigenous groups, for example in Canada. Hare (2011, p 390) noted when children’s language and literacy experiences within their families and communities are different from the literacy expectations and practices of formal school, children do not do well. Similarly in New Zealand, Bishop et al (2009) attributed the low academic achievement levels of Indigenous Maori children to policies and practices serving the interests of a mono-cultural elite and that Maori cultural ways of knowing are not considered.
A deficit approach is often implicit in such performance assessments, for example, Gregory, Williams, Baker and Street (2004, p88) commented on the historical adoption of a deficit perspective in discussing underperformance in low socioeconomic groups in the UK. In adopting sociological perspectives from Bourdieu and Bernstein, they focus on how young children and their parents manage that transition to early school and how the cultural resources that they bring support that transition – and the ways in which only certain resources are deemed as valid.
Fleer (2004), in her research on the early educational experiences of Indigenous children in Australia, also drew a link between performance and cultural norms noting that in the past Indigenous children have been judged as deficient where their performance doesn’t match the expected norms. In focusing on difficulties parents and children face in their transition to school she commented that:
Schooling was shown to be a form of ‘monocultural schooling’. The culture of western education was clearly privileged above other ways of acting and being in centres and schools, making the transition into preschools and schools very difficult for children and their families (p. 64)
This paper uses data from an Australian study of the Parents and Learning (PaL) program which operates in remote Indigenous communities in Australia to demonstrate how participation in the program builds parents’ social and cultural capital to better support their children’s literacy achievement. PaL, a home based early literacy program, is focussed on developing early literacy in young Indigenous children through a strategy that builds capacity in Indigenous families, supporting the parents as their child’s first and most influential teacher, and also strengthening their engagement with the school system.
This paper reports on the developing engagement with school of these PaL parents, looking at how this enhances the parents’ capacity to support their children’s education.
Lingard, Rawolle, & Taylor (2005, p 760) note the relevance of Bourdieu’s concept of field in the exploration of sociology of education, recognising that “The habitus of agents, their ‘durable, transposable dispositions’, affects the extent of their ‘feel for the game’ in different social fields” (p760). This paper draws on Bourdieu’s perspective on social capital, in particular the concept of field in viewing the changing level and form of parent engagement and in particular possible effects on the cultural capital of the engaged parents across this period and also associated change in other aspects of their involvement in their communities and the associated changes in their children’s educational outcomes.
Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (2013). NAPLAN Achievement in Reading, Persuasive Writing, Language Conventions and Numeracy: National Report for 2013, ACARA, Sydney. Bishop, R., et al., Te Kotahitanga: Addressing educational disparities facing Maori students in New Zealand, Teaching and Teacher Education (2009), doi:10.1016/j.tate.2009.01.009 Chilisa, B. (2012). Indigenous Research Methodologies. SAGE, Los Angeles.Fleer, M. (2004). The cultural construction of family involvement in childhood education: Some indigenous Australian perspective. The Australian Educational Researcher. 31(3). 51-68 Flückiger, B., Diamond, P. & Jones, W. (2012). Yarning space: Leading literacy learning through family/school partnerships. Australasian Journal of Early Childhood,37(3), 53-59. Flückiger, B. & Klieve, H. (in press). Towards an evidence base: Exploring the impact of community-based literacy programs in remote Indigenous communities. Australasian Journal of Early Childhood. Gregory, E., Williams, D., Baker, D & Street, B. (2004). Introducing Literacy to Four Year Olds: Creating Classroom Cultures in Three Schools. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy 4: 85 – 107. Grieshaber, S. Shield, P. Luke, A. & Macdonald, S. (2012). Family literacy practices and home literacy resources: An Australian pilot study, Journal of Early Childhood Literacy 12(2) 113–138 Hare, J. (2012) 'They tell a story and there's meaning behind that story': Indigenous knowledge and young Indigenous children’s literacy learning, Journal of Early Childhood Literacy 2012 12: 389 - 414. Klieve, H. & Flückiger, B., (2014). PAL Telstra Project: Evaluation Report. Lingard, B., Rawolle, S. & Taylor, S. (2005). Globalizing policy sociology in education: working with Bourdieu. Journal of Education Policy, 20 (6), pp. 759–777.
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