Responding to student diversity: A study of the experiences of "foreign-speaking" students in secondary schools in Cyprus

UoM administered thesis: Phd

  • Authors:
  • Annita Eliadou

Abstract

This thesis examines the responses of the educational system of Cyprus to increasing student diversity. The study it reports was set in a sensitive socio-political context, within which the previously homogenous Greek-Cypriot society faced an unprecedented and unanticipated rise in net migration rates from the mid-1990s. The need to respond effectively to the challenge of increasing population diversity and to issues of ethnic, linguistic, religious and cultural diversification was evident within the wider Cypriot society, and was reflected within the educational system. Despite this, there is an identified gap in knowledge and research on the topic of increasing student diversity in Cyprus.With these concerns in mind, the research focused on exploring the experiences of secondary school students of ages 11-14, who had recently arrived in Cyprus and were categorised as foreign-speaking. The aim was to explore factors hindering and promoting these students' inclusion in schools through identifying barriers and resources to their presence, participation, achievement and socialisation. The study used a qualitative exploratory case study design. Data were collected in three secondary schools through a multi-method approach that considered the views of various school stakeholders, particularly the "voices" of foreign-speaking students regarding their school experiences. Data analysis involved the constant comparative method which allowed the consistent scrutiny of findings from various research methods using a theoretical framework based on the idea of inclusive education. A model was developed and used to discuss the perceived barriers and resources to foreign-speaking students' inclusion. Barriers and resources were identified as stemming from educational policy, educational practice in schools and classrooms, students' traits and characteristics, and finally students' home and community environments. The barriers created a context of inequality of opportunities for foreign-speaking students' school experiences and future life achievement in comparison to their other classmates.The findings of the study provide a basis for evaluating exclusionary pressures that prevent foreign-speaking students from engaging meaningfully with their school lives equally to other classmates, and propose that inclusive education within the Cypriot educational context can have a wider scope that does not rest only with traditional research on special needs education. It also confirms the importance of conducting contextualised educational research on issues of inclusion, as relevant literature presents inclusive schools as organisations that should address challenges in reflection to their own cultural and political context. The thesis also suggests that the identified barriers and resources have implications for policy and practice that need to be addressed in order to adopt more inclusive educational pedagogies for foreign-speaking students, and considers it important that the formulation of any response should be informed in reflection to similar international studies. Its implication lies with identifying unused resources that could otherwise be mobilised to enhance schools' response to increasing diversity. Finally, it makes recommendations for future research on the identified resources for promoting inclusion. Such research should be directed at further exploring the factors contributing to providing equal educational opportunities for all learners within an approach that promotes respect for diversity and considers diversity as a source of inspiration and learning.

Details

Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Advisors
Award date31 Dec 2014