Bangladeshi pupils : experiences, identity and achievement
This thesis focuses on the experiences of Bangladeshi pupils attending schools in England in the context of their perceived underachievement in the English school system. Statistical studies in the 1970s and 1980s established that Bangladeshi pupils were doing very poorly in school while later surveys in the 1990s continued to show Bangladeshi pupils as low achieving. The study explores 'What is it in the lives, backgrounds and schooling experiences of Bangladeshi pupils that helps and hinders them in learning and achieving in the English school system?' The study also questions the appropriateness of considering pupils in terms of their ethnicity in relation to achievement. An ethnographic case study approach was adopted so that the micro-processes of learning and being a pupil could be examined. Six Bangladeshi children were identified in one predominantly white, rural county. The six children were attending three different schools in the same city. The research was thus conducted in three different classrooms over the period of one year. Data were collected through unstructured observations and in-depth semistructured and unstructured interviews. Families, teachers and other children in the classrooms were included in the research. The case studies show how the children's teachers came to assess the case study children and their learning needs through the ways in which the children took part in teacher-pupil classroom interaction. Each case study shows how these teacher assessments affected each child's access to resources such as support and to opportunities for using language and learning in the classroom. The case study pupils were particularly vulnerable because their under-resourced teachers rarely recognised their English as an Additional Language (EAL) needs. As a result 'within-child' explanations, often connected to mistaken assumptions about the child's home, culture or Muslim identity, were then called on to explain poor work or inattention. The case study children were also vulnerable because their teachers only considered their academic performance in relation to other Bangladeshi or EAL pupils and not in relation to the other White English language background children in the classroom. Where pupil needs were recognised and provided for the focus of support was on modifying behaviour so that pupils behaved like an 'ideal pupil' rather than on developing the appropriate English language needed for accessing the curriculum and becoming or remaining an achieving pupil. Other kinds of support resulted in 'fragmented' learning experiences and being placed in supported lower sets from which movement into higher sets was not possible. The case studies also show how some of the case study children took part in reading interactions with their teachers and appeared as successful readers although they were not able to read for meaning. These particular case studies demonstrate that learning the interaction patterns of reading in the Early Years classroom is not enough to allow a pupil to become a successful reader and that what counts as reading in different contexts and literacy practices needs to be given attention. The case studies also reveal how some of the case study children were hindered in their learning and achievement in school by their lack of access to resources outside school. These included having someone at home to help them with their English school reading and homework as well as their access to pre-school education. The study concludes by suggesting that to focus on achievement in terms of ethnicity conceals the language needs of many Bangladeshi pupils and the role that these play in achievement. To this end a trajectory of what needs to be acquired in terms of language and literacy to be a successful pupil in English schools is provided. The question of why Bangladeshi pupils have been one of the lowest achieving pupil groups in England is then addressed and it is concluded from the data provided by the study that having few economic, social and cultural resources can make it difficult for a pupil to achieve in school, as can being an EAL pupil with unmet language needs or being a pupil with home literacy and learning practices that are different to the literacy and learning practices of English schools. Taken alone none of these situations necessarily predicates underachievement, yet some of the pupils in this study found themselves disadvantages by all three situations.