Academic failure among Primeiro Grau children in southern Brazil : from extra-school risk factors to intra-school processes
This thesis is a study of academic failure among Primeiro Grau children in Southern Brazil. The empirical basis of the thesis is constituted by two investigations: a study of risk factors for failure in a birth cohort of 6,000 children from the city of Pelotas, through a correlation approach, and case-studies of two Primeiro Grau (Primary) schools - from the same city - that presented contrasting rates of academic failure (high and low). The thesis pursues the argument that academic failure cannot be fully understood through a correlation model. Such an approach is important to identify the children at risk. Nevertheless, it offers little in terms of insights into the intra-school processes associated with failure. The second investigation aimed at making a contribution to the understanding of academic failure among Primeiro Grau children through exploring such intra-school processes. Their identification and investigation are of particular importance in the light of the extensive long-term epidemiological research tradition in the area, which the thesis critiques. The theoretical basis of the second study is derived from Vygotsky's and Bakhtin's accounts of the social formation of mind, which privilege communicative means of mediation, and Bernstein's model of educational transmission, which speaks of the specialization of communication in schools. This study investigates the characteristics of the cultures of the two schools and suggests that the high rates of educational failure in one of the schools is associated with the privileging of the regulative aspects of education over its instructional aspects: teachers' beliefs that poverty affects children's attainment, negatively combined with teachers' impressions that the children attending their school were very needy, resulted in teachers stressing the socialization purposes of schooling to the detriment of its academic purposes.