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Multilingual communities: Effects of code switching

In multilingual communities, code-switching is a widespread phenomenon that happens from daily life and workplaces to classrooms in which specific languages have been instituted as the official languages of instruction. Malaysia is one of the nations that have multilingual communities that consists of three main races; Malay, Chinese and Indians. From 1957 to 1967, language was used as an important tool in order to achieve unity and Bahasa Malaysia becomes the national language. Previously, English was compulsory in all schools especially the vernacular schools and due to the lack of English educators at that time, the idea was off the hook. In 1967, English language status was removed but it was still used nationwide.
1.1 Background of Problem In 1956, the Education Review Committee aimed to establish multicultural education systems that support other languages since Malaysia have multilingual communities and English becomes part of it. Today, English had becomes an international language and unofficially second language in Malaysia since most people used it. English as a second language status in Malaysia has been complemented through wide use of English in the social setting as well as the education setting. Teaching of English has been greatly emphasised by the government through its ministry. Due to this matter, the declining level of English proficiency among students has brought about the need to find out how to tackle the issue. Teachers, consequently, have been employing code switching as a means of providing students with the opportunities to communicate and enhancing students’ understanding. Furthermore, code switching helps to facilitate the flow of classroom instruction since the teachers do not have to spend so much time trying to explain to the learners or searching for the simplest words to clarify any confusion that might arise. Code-switching should not be considered as a sign of shortcoming in the teacher. Instead, it is a careful strategy employed by the teachers. Code-switching should be allowed whenever necessary with some learners in specific situations.
Richard (1985) suggests that code-switching is a term in linguistics referring to replacement between two or more languages in a single conversation, stretch of discourse, or utterances between people who have more than one language in common. Speakers of more than one language are known for their ability to code switch or mix their language during communication. This phenomenon occurs when the speaker substitutes a word or phrase from one language to a phrase or word from another language. Ayeomoni (2006) claims that many educators have attempted to define the term “code switching” and each understand the concepts from different points of view. Gumperz (1982) defined code-switching as the use of more than one code or language in the course of a single speech event, taken to refer to teacher utterances in the classroom. In other words, the teachers’ use code-switching in order to convey meanings to the students. Besides that, Numan and Carter (2001) stated that code switching as “a phenomenon of switching from one language to another in the same discourse” (p. 275).
Appel Musyken (1987) mentioned that code switching can be divided into two categories which are intrasentential and intersentential. Intrasentential is a switch that occurs in the middle of a sentence. It was also known as ‘code mixing’. For example, my girlfriend ‘suka’ ice cream. The word “Suka” means “like” in the Malay language. The real sentence is “My girlfriend likes ice cream”. A word from the Malay language is replaced by an English word in a sentence. The later is a switch of language that happens between sentences. A suitable example is “I got an A for my drawing, awak macam mana, Farid?”. “Awak macam mana” means “what about you”. The exact sentence should be “I got an A for my drawing, what about you, Farid?”. The first sentence uses English and the later is in Bahasa Malaysia.
There is one more type of code switching which is extrasentential as introduces by Hamers and Blanc (1989), extrasentential switches include tags and fillers. An excellent example of a local extrasentential code switching that close to our culture is ‘Later lah’. “Lah” is a particle widely used by Malaysians and Singaporean in their speech. Holmes (2008) stated that the particle “Lah” is used to show intimacy or solidarity in a relationship.
So, the term code switching in this study is the use of two languages within a sentence or between sentences. Intrasentential refers to the switch that occurs within a sentence while intersentential points to switches between sentences. Last but not least, extrasentential refers to the tags and fillers that do not exist in the word list of the language used.
Statement of Research Problem Malaysian learners’ needs to become proficient English users in order to access knowledge and information available in English as well as to be able to communicate successfully, thus suggesting the important position the students may hold in the future. But before they can get to the targeted proficiency level, definitely they must get used to the English language itself.
Since English acts as a second language in Malaysia, the lack of exposure is the pivotal factor that will hinders the students to become proficient in English. Thus, classroom instructions are the most valuable experience for learners because of the limited exposures to sufficient comprehensible input from the natural environment they might get. Therefore, in order to raise they proficiency level, they must gain sufficient comprehensible input. It means the students have to gain understanding towards what they learnt before thinking about raising the proficiency level. This is where a strategy to help them learn English as a second language must be applied by teachers. Code switching is a form of strategy that will solve these problems. It helps to facilitate the flow of classroom instruction since the teachers do not have to spend so much time trying to explain to the learners or searching for the simplest words to clarify any confusion that might arise. Teachers code switch when the level of English used in the textbook or to be taught is beyond the learner’s ability or when the teachers have exhausted the means to adjust his speech to the learner’s level.
Research Objective The purpose of this study is to investigate code switching in the teaching of English as a second language to secondary school students. There are several factors which are vital in determining the effectiveness of this study.
Objectives of the study:
To investigate the attitudes of teachers towards code switching
The attitudes of teachers towards code switching
The types of code switching
Function of code switching in instruction
Research Questions In more details, this study will answer the following question:
What do teachers think about code switching in the English classroom?
Do English teachers code switch in the English classroom?
What types of code switching occur in the classroom?
What is the function of code switching?
Definition of Terms Specifically in this study, there are several terms which are used throughout the whole study, thus it is necessary to provide the definition of these terms for better understanding as well as reference to readers. The terms are:
Learning – It can be described simply as mental activity that includes receiving, storing, retrieving and using knowledge. This process requires interest and often demands effort. It depends heavily on memory process.
Distance Learning – It can be defined as formal education process in which the majority of the instruction occurs when students and instructors are not in the same place. It is a two way between teacher and students who are separated by a geographical distance and time where the communication support the educational process.
Adult learners – Individuals who are experienced, financially independent, working full time while enrolled in a learning programme, have other responsibilities and enrolled in the learning programme on their will. They are also experienced, achievement oriented, highly motivated, relatively independent and also required a degree of independence in learning. In this study, adult learners refer to adult students enrolling in PJJ Programme in Faculty of Education, UiTM Shah Alam.
Intrinsic motivation – Intrinsically motivated actions is that which occurs for its own sake, action for which the only rewards are the spontaneous affects and cognitions that accompany it. Intrinsically motivated behaviors require no external supports or reinforcements for their sustenance.
Extrinsic motivation – It refers to motivation that comes from outside an individual. The motivating factors are external or outside, rewards such as money or grades. These rewards provide satisfaction and pleasure that the task itself may not provide.
Institutional barriers – It can be defined as structural in nature as those barriers erected by organization that provide learning opportunities for adults or all practices and procedures that exclude or discourage working adults from participating in educational activities.
Situational barriers – It can be defined as problem that arises from one’s situation in life at a given time.
Dispositional barriers – It can be defined as attitudes or self – perception about one – self as learners.
PJJ students – It can be defined as part time students who come to class on every weekend and most of them are adult learners who are working.
Significance This study is apparently one of the first few attempts to investigate the code switching in the teaching of English as a second language to secondary school trainee English teachers in Mara University of Technology, at Malacca City Campus. Therefore, this study may provide a useful launching pad for further research in this area of interest towards teachers from other states. The findings of this study could provide some data for future research in this area. It could perhaps also help in the more effective teaching strategy in the teaching of English as a second language to secondary school students as “code switching” can be considered as one the teaching strategy.
Limitations This study was conducted in Mara University of Technology, at Malacca City Campus and due to this matter; the results will not be the generalization of the whole population of English trainee teachers nationwide.
CHAPTER TWO THE LITERATURE REVIEW Introduction Alternation between languages in the form of code switching is a widely observed phenomenon in foreign language classrooms. Numan and Carter briefly define the term as “a phenomenon of switching from one language to another in the same discourse” (2001:275). Following this definition, “discourse” will be handled as the students’ and teachers’ naturally occurring language use in classroom settings throughout this paper. Additionally, the languages between which alternation is performed are the native language of the students, and the foreign language that students are expected to gain competence in. While putting the phenomenon of code switching in context, the functions of code switching will be introduced in various aspects. Firstly, its function in bilingual community settings will briefly be explained by giving a sample authentic conversation which will help the reader deduce ideas about its possible applications in educational contexts. Secondly, the functionality of code switching in teachers’ classroom discourse will be introduced with its aspects as: topic switch, affective functions, and repetitive functions. Thirdly, the focus will shift to students’ code switching by introducing some basic functional perspectives as: equivalence, floor holding, reiteration, and conflict control. Lastly, weak and strong sides of code switching in foreign language classrooms will be discussed with a critical approach.
This chapter outlines past research on code switching especially the main factor contributing the attitudes of teachers in the use of code switch, types and functions of code switching used in the classroom. This chapter will provide a clear idea of how code switching plays role in second language learning from the perspective of previous researches and the findings from past studies.
2.1 Theoretical Background Multilingual communities have the tendency to switch code either with or without their consciousness and Malaysia is a good example of a community that practice code switching. People sometimes switch code varied within a domain or social situation. For example, when there is some obvious change in the situation, such as the arrival of a new person, it is the obvious reason why people switch code. In most cases, a speaker may similarly switch to another language as a signal group of membership and shared ethnicity with an addressee. The code switch occurs from the first language to the second language or vice versa. In addition, switches motivated by the identity and relationship between the participants often express a move to show solidarity and it may also referred as the status relations between people or the formality of their interaction. The main focus here is to examine code switching in the field of education, in other words, the correlation between code switch and English teacher in school especially in secondary school. In order to gain a better insight into code switch and it roles in terms of education, the main concern should be focused on the fundamental concept of code switching. According to Marasigan (1983), the use of two languages in the same discourse is referred to as code-switching. Ayeomoni (2006) stated that many scholars have attempted to define the term “code switching” and each understands the concept from different points of view.
A search of the Linguistics and Language Behavior Abstracts database in 2005 shows more than 1,800 articles on the subject published in virtually every branch of linguistics. However, despite this variation or perhaps in part because of it, scholars do not seem to share a definition of the term. A useful definition of code switching for sociocultural linguistic analysis should recognize it as an alternation in the form of communication. It also signals a context in which the linguistic contribution can be understood. The ‘context’ so signaled may be very local (such as the end of a turn at talk), very general (such as positioning), or anywhere in between. Furthermore, it is important to recognize that this signaling is accomplished by the action of participants in a particular interaction. That is to say, it is not necessary or desirable to spell out the meaning of particular code switching behavior. Rather, code switching is accomplished by parties in interaction, and the meaning of their behavior emerges from the interaction. This is not to say that the use of particular linguistic forms has no meaning, and that speakers “make it up as they go.” Individuals remember and can call on past experiences of discourse. These memories form part of a language user’s understanding of discourse functions. Therefore, within a particular setting certain forms may come to reappear frequently. Nonetheless, it is less interesting (for the current author at least, and probably for the ends of sociocultural linguistic analysis) to track the frequency or regularity of particular recurrences than to understand the effect of linguistic form on discourse practice and emergent social meanings. In earlier studies, Bokamba (1989) suggests that “code switching is the mixing of words, phrases and sentences from two distinct grammatical (sub) systems across sentence boundaries within a speech event” (p. 279). The term code switching (or, as it is sometimes written, code-switching or code switch) is broadly discussed and used in linguistics and a variety of related fields.
Code mixing on the other hand, is “the embedding of various linguistic units such as affixes (bound morphemes), words (unbound morphemes), phrases and clauses from two grammatical (sub) systems within the same utterance and speech event” (p. 279). Numan and Carter (2001) define code switching as “a phenomenon of switching from one language to another in the same discourse” (p. 275). To recapitulate, code switching is a practice of parties in discourse to signal changes in context by using alternate grammatical systems or subsystems, or codes. The mental representation of these codes cannot be directly observed, either by analysts or by parties in interaction. Rather, the analyst must observe discourse itself, and recover the salience of a linguistic form as code from its effect on discourse interaction. The approach described here understands code switching as the practice of individuals in particular discourse settings. Therefore, it cannot specify broad functions of language alternation, nor define the exact nature of any code prior to interaction. Codes emerge from interaction, and become relevant when parties to discourse treat them as such.
In a more recent publication, Unanumo (2008) regards code switching as the use of more than one language in a conversation. Appel and Musyken (1987) suggest that code switching can be categorized as intrasentential or intersentential.
Intrasentential is a switch of languages which occurs in the middle of a sentence. This type of switching is often called ‘code mixing’. An example of a Malaysian intrasentential switch is “My youngest sister ambil Biology”. “Ambil” means “take” in the Malay language. The sentence should be “My youngest sister takes (studies) Biology”. A Malay word is embedded in an English sentence. Intersentential, on the other hand, is a switch of language which occurs between sentences. An example of intersentential would be “I quit all my jobs already. Christie tak beritahu?”. “Tak beritahu” means “did not tell”. The sentence should read “Christie did not tell you?” The second sentence uses the Malay language while the former is in English. Poplack (1980, as cited in Hamers and Blanc, 1989) introduces extrasentential switches which include tags and fillers. These would also include an exclamation a parenthetical statement or particle from another language.
An example of a local extrasentential switch is “Nothing lah”. “Lah” is a particle widely used by Malaysians in their colloquial speech. McArthur (1998) describes the multi-purpose “lah” as a token especially of informal intimacy and solidarity. Such a particle also exists in the Singaporean variety of English. Wee (2003) explains that it is typically found in clause-final position. It is monosyllabic and used for discourse pragmatic functions. The term “code switching” in this study adopts Clyne’s definition (Clyne, 2000) as the alternate use of two languages either within a sentence or between sentences. “Intrasentential” in this study refers to switches within a sentence while “intersentential” refers to switches between sentences. “Extrasentential” refer to tags and fillers which do not exist in the lexicon of the base language used.
2.2 Attitudes of Teachers in the use of Code Switch Within the world of languages use, code-switching has often been perceived as being of lower status, a strategy used by weak language performers to compensate for language deficiency. This view of code-switching and bilingual talk in general is more normatively based than research-based as pointed by Lin( 1996) who added that such a view conveys little more than the speaker or writer’s normative claims about what counts as standard or legitimate language. An extensive body of literature studies reported that code switching in classrooms not only just normal but useful tool of learning. Cook (2001) referred to code switching in the classroom as a natural response in a bilingual situation. Furthermore, in the same study, Cook considered the ability to go from one language to another is highly desirable not only among learners but teachers. Moreover, in eliciting teachers reflections to their classroom teachings, Probyn (2010) noticed that most notable strategy that teachers used was code switching to achieve a number of communicative and metalinguistic ends. Cook’s studies were mainly in the second language classroom context. Rollnick and Rutherford’s (1996) studied the science classrooms and found the use of learners’ main languages to be a powerful means for learners to explore their ideas. They argue that without the use of code switching, some students’ alternate conceptions would remain unexposed. Amin (2009) mentioned about the recognition to switch codes goes beyond switching between languages; it also recognizes the value of using the vernacular which believes to allow students to draw on useful sense-making resources. Cook (2001) stated that researchers see by using code switching in the classroom as a “legitimate strategy” (p. 105). Skiba (1997) added that no matter how it might be disruptive during a conversation to the listener, it still provides an opportunity for language development. However, historically, researchers believe that code switching occurred in many countries, which made Ferguson (2003) to conclude that ideological and conceptual sources of suspicion all often attached to classroom code-switching, suggesting that deep rooted attitudes may not be easy to change.
Cheng and Butler (1989) list the following as some of the motives a speaker may have to code switch: “conversational topic, role of the speaker, setting of the interaction, familiarity of the two speakers, age, sex, race, ethnic, linguistic background, etc” (p. 295). Wardhaugh (2006) stated that, when done consciously, switching languages may also allow a speaker to “assert power; declare solidarity; maintain certain neutrality when both codes are used; express identity; and so on” (p.110). For example, if a group of bilingual Malay-English speakers are conversing in both Bahasa Malaysia and English and a monolingual, Malay speaker enters the conversation, the group will most likely begin speaking only Bahasa Malaysia, in order to allow the monolingual to participate in the conversation, thereby expressing their solidarity with the monolingual. Or, if the bilingual group wishes to assert linguistic power over the monolingual, they might continue speaking only in English to exclude him or her. Unfortunately, code-switching is often wrongly misinterpreted as evidence of a lack of a linguistic ability of the speaker or deterioration of one or both languages. However, sociolinguistic research confirms that code-switching plays an important role in social functions, and does not necessarily indicate linguistic incompetence. So, the main concern here is reasons of code switching used by the English teachers during their lessons in the classroom. In order to discuss further into this matter, the scope will be correlated with the roles of English teachers in the English language classroom.
English as a second language status in Malaysia has been agreed through wide use of English in the social setting as well as the education setting. Teaching of English has been greatly emphasized by the government through its ministry. In classroom practice, teachers have been instructed to teach by using high quality English in the classrooms. The second or foreign language learning can only accept the presence of high quality input in the classroom for learners’ acquisition. Cook (2001) stated that all language classroom input must be in the target language, an effective model of language use can ensure that the intended learning was successful. Classroom instructions, therefore, are the most valuable experience for learners because of the limited exposures to sufficient comprehensible input from their natural environment.
Hence, the decreasing level of English proficiency among students is the main reason to the need in finding out how to tackle this issue. Teachers have been employing code switching as a means of providing students with the opportunities to communicate and enhancing students’ understanding. Furthermore, code switching helps to facilitate the flow of classroom instruction since the teachers do not have to spend so much time trying to explain to the learners or searching for the simplest words to help clearing the students’ understanding. According to Norrish (1997), teachers code-switch when the level of English used in the textbook or to be taught is beyond the learner’s ability or when the teachers have exhausted the means to adjust his speech to the learner’s level.
2.3 Types of Code Switching used in the Classroom Richard (1985) suggests that code-switching is a term in linguistics referring to replacement between two or more languages in a single conversation, stretch of discourse, or utterances between people who have more than one language in common. Speakers of more than one language are known for their ability to code switch or mix their language during communication. This phenomenon occurs when the speaker substitutes a word or phrase from one language to a phrase or word from another language. Ayeomoni (2006) claims that many educators have attempted to define the term “code switching” and each understand the concepts from different points of view. Gumperz (1982) defined code-switching as the use of more than one code or language in the course of a single speech event, taken to refer to teacher utterances in the classroom. In other words, the teachers’ use code-switching in order to convey meanings to the students. Besides that, Numan and Carter (2001) stated that code switching as “a phenomenon of switching from one language to another in the same discourse” (p. 275).
Appel Musyken (1987) mentioned that code switching can be divided into two categories which are intrasentential and intersentential. Intrasentential is a switch that occurs in the middle of a sentence. It was also known as ‘code mixing’. For example, my girlfriend ‘suka’ ice cream. The word “Suka” means “like” in the Malay language. The real sentence is “My girlfriend likes ice cream”. A word from the Malay language is replaced by an English word in a sentence. The later is a switch of language that happens between sentences. A suitable example is “I got an A for my drawing, awak macam mana, Farid?”. “Awak macam mana” means “what about you”. The exact sentence should be “I got an A for my drawing, what about you, Farid?”. The first sentence uses English and the later is in Bahasa Malaysia.
There is one more type of code switching which is extrasentential as introduces by Hamers and Blanc (1989), extrasentential switches include tags and fillers. An excellent example of a local extrasentential code switching that close to our culture is ‘Later lah’. “Lah” is a particle widely used by Malaysians and Singaporean in their speech. Holmes (2008) stated that the particle “Lah” is used to show intimacy or solidarity in a relationship.
So, the term code switching in this study is the use of two languages within a sentence or between sentences. Intrasentential refers to the switch that occurs within a sentence while intersentential points to switches between sentences. Last but not least, extrasentential refers to the tags and fillers that do not exist in the word list of the language used.
2.4 Functions of Code Switching used in the Classroom Code switching has a variety of functions which vary according to the topic, people involved in conversation and the context where the conversation is taken place. Baker (2006) have discussed the topic of code switching from a sociolinguistics perspective, in which he listed twelve main purposes of code switching, which are relevant to bilinguals talks in general. Some of these functions can be observed in classroom environment and in relevance to teachers and students interactions. According to Baker (2006) code switching can be used to emphasize a particular point, to substitute a word in place of unknown word in the target language, to express a concept that has no equivalent in the culture of the other language, to reinforce a request, to clarify a point, to express identity and communicate friendship, to ease tension and inject humor into a conversation, and in some bilingual situations, code switching occurs when certain topics are introduced. In the substituting a word in another language, Man and Lu (2006) found that in Hong Kong schools, both teachers’ and students’ major reason for code switching was that there was no direct translation of words between English and Cantonese, additionally, the same study of Man and Lu found that teachers in Hong Kong schools use code switching also to ease tension and inject humor in to conversations.
In a previous study, Eldridge (1996) has listed four purposes in which student code switching as equivalence, floor-holding, reiteration and conflict control. Equivalence which is a strategy that bilingual used to find the equivalent of the unknown lexicon of the target language in the speakers’ first language to overcome the deficiency in language competence in second language. The second purpose of code switching is for floor holding which is a technique used by bilingual students during conversing in the target language to fill in the stopgap with words in native language in order to maintain the fluency of the conversation. The third purpose of is reiteration, as it implies, it is emphasizing and reinforcing a message that has been transmitted firstly in the target language but then students rely on repeating the message in first language to convey to the teacher that the message is understood. The last function is conflict control, which is used to eliminate any misunderstanding when the accurate meaning of a word is not known in the communication.
These researches shown that, the teachers’ and students’ used of code switching is not always performed consciously; which means that the teacher which is the main concern for this study is not always aware of the functions and outcomes of the code switching process. Therefore, in some cases it may be regarded as an automatic and unconscious behaviour. Nevertheless, either conscious or not, it necessarily serves some basic functions which may be beneficial in language learning environments. Mattson and Burenhult (1999) stated that all of these functions are listed as topic switch, affective functions, and repetitive functions. (p. 61).
In order to have a general idea about these, it will be appropriate to give a brief explanation about each function. In topic switch cases, the teacher alters his/her language according to the topic that is under discussion. This is mostly observed in grammar instruction, that the teacher shifts his language to the mother tongue of his students in dealing with particular grammar points, which are taught at that moment. In these cases, the students’ attention is directed to the new knowledge by making use of code switching and accordingly making use of native tongue. At this point it may be suggested that a bridge from known (native language) to unknown (new foreign language content) is constructed in order to transfer the new content and meaning is made clear in this way as it is also suggested by Cole (1998): “a teacher can exploit students’ previous L1 learning experience to increase their understanding of L2”.
In addition to the function of code switching named as topic switch, the phenomenon also carries affective functions that serve for expression of emotions. In this respect, code switching is used by the teacher in order to build solidarity and intimate relations with the students. In this sense, one may speak

Equality And Diversity In Education

The main aim of this case study is to explore the concept of equality and diversity in contemporary society, this research will concentrate on the impact of poverty upon the educational, emotional and social experiences of a child, in this case a young boy attending a mainstream school; he will be referred to throughout the study as “Tom”. The research will aim to identify some current legislation and policy surrounding equality and human rights, along with some of the inequalities related to class and the impact of these upon the social, personal and educational experiences of a child, his parent and teacher. These issues will be explored through the use of a case study of a fictional scenario which centres upon the experiences of a young boy who lives in a deprived neighbourhood with his single mother. The case study focuses on the young boy suffering from bullying due to his hygiene; the study also includes his mother and teacher.
Scenario and Dialogue
Child A is a young boy attending a mainstream primary school; he lives in a deprived neighbourhood with his single mother. It has been noticed by the boys’ teacher and other pupils that the boy and also his mother have a low standard of hygiene and they both often look unkempt. The lesson plan for today is to work in pairs for a P.E lesson.
Classroom:
Teacher: “OK children, I would like everyone to pair up with the person sitting next to them and one of the pair should go and collect a football from the apparatus cupboard.”
Child B: “Miss…I don’t want to be with Tom, he smells funny!”
Teacher: “That’s not a very nice thing to say about Tom”
Child B: “No miss I’m not playing with him, look at him, he’s all smelly and dirty Miss! Tom…you stink of wee!”
Teacher: “Now come on, this is silly, it is not nice to call your friends names, you will hurt Tom’s feelings. I’m sure you wouldn’t like your friends calling you nasty names would you?”
Child B: “Nah Miss, he isn’t one of my friends, I’d never want to be friends with someone like him, and he makes me feel sick.”
Tom: “Shut up!!! It’s not my fault, I can’t help it!” – (Tom runs to the toilets crying)
Telephone Call between Teacher and Tom’s Mother:
Teacher: “Hi, could I possibly speak to Mrs Connor please?”
Mother: “Yes speaking”
Teacher: Oh hello, I was hoping I could discuss with you a matter concerning me about your son Tom. He seems to be struggling to make friends at school and there has been a bit of trouble with name-calling today due to his hygiene.
Mother: “I’m sorry to hear that but I’m a single mother with a part-time job, I can’t always afford to buy luxuries, I’m sure you understand this?”
Teacher: “Yes of course that is understandable, but it seems to just been simple things, nothing a bar of soap couldn’t sort out Mrs Connor.”
Mother: “Like I said, I can’t afford it”
Teacher: “I’m just concerned as it seems to be affecting his confidence to join in group activities and even paired work. He did comment today that it’s not his fault, so it is clearly bothering him. Does he have any other clothes he can wear to school, as his current ones seem to smell of urine?”
Mother: “No, he only has the ones he wears to school.”
Teacher: “I will contact you again in the next few hours, as I know that the council can sometimes give people an allowance for school uniforms. It might help you out a bit.”
Mother: “Thank you, I’d appreciate some help.”
This case study highlights class inequalities and how physical differences can impact upon a child whether he/she is at school or out of the school grounds. This study aims to explore the ways in which social class can impact both positively and negatively on a child’s personal, social and educational experience. This will then be followed by a brief analysis of how the process of entering a child’s experience has affected my understanding of the issues explored in this module. I will be including the words and thoughts of “Tom” and will also be including discussions he may have between his family, teachers or peers, which I will endeavour to link directly to policy and legislation and also background critical reading, related to specific aspects of the case study. Davies (2005) expresses a need to believe that all children are individuals and are to be valued. Davies also comments that we are to take into account each child’s home life and background circumstances not only as detrimental effects but as experiences to be utilised in furthering their educational opportunities. It is important to also point out that professionals also need to expand on their knowledge of the subject in order to accommodate a more diverse way of teaching alongside their pupils.
The scenario shows Child B referring to Tom as “stinking of wee”, here we are witnessing Child B stereotyping Tom as a smelly child who he does not want to be friends with. There has clearly become a normalizing attitude towards Tom, which through constant reinforcement of attitudes, Child B has come to understand that Tom is the ‘smelly’ child and therefore refuses to associate with him. Butler (1993) explains this to be ‘performative discourse’, the repeated assumption of an identity in the course of daily life. Basically, the more the children call Tom the ‘smelly’ child, the more accepted it will be by the other children and he will then be subjected to bullying on a daily basis. The teacher is this case study does not in fact challenge the language used by Child B but simply diverts the name calling by providing an excuse for the problem by replying “Now come on, this is silly” completely avoiding the fact that one child is bullying another in her own classroom. The teacher had the opportunity here to utilise her authority over the pupils, yet failed to do so. Foucault (1974) tells us that schools have a hierarchical identity within society that remains unchallenged and provides a framework for power which gives the teacher authority over the children not just as an adult over a child, but as someone who has more power and authority; this reinforces what a child accepts as being a normal power relationship.
Tom has been isolated at school during activities, as his classmates refuse to work with him as he is seen as the ‘smelly child’. It seems that Tom is not receiving the support of the teacher, as she is failing to take authority over the bullying classmates and having a deprived social background seems to leave Tom unable to express his needs and rights as a child. The Children Plan (2007) states that children and young people need to enjoy their childhood as well as grow up being prepared for adult life (DCSF 2007). The Human Rights Act (1998) states the need for children to have the opportunity to express themselves. Article 10 gives everyone the right to freedom of expression, this includes children and is also linked to the outcomes of the ‘Every child Matters’ agenda (DfES 2005). It is evident that Tom and his mother are suffering from social deprivation in this scenario and this can adversely affect Tom’s educational opportunities and his future prospects. It has been published in the past that was published that a “child’s educational achievements are still too strongly linked to their parents’ social and economic background” (Secretary of State for Education and Skills. 2005. p. 10) Vincent and Ball (2007) argue that this is social and educational link between classes is because middle class families tend to invest much more time and effort in their children, in order to ensure that they have every possible advantage that can be provided. This theory corresponds with Bourdieu’s description of cultural capital, which contributes to the social reproduction of class differences (Bourdieu 1990).
In an attempt to try and resolve some of the class differences, the government has set up Sure Start Centres and extended schools in an effort to provide after school activities aimed initially at areas of socio-economic deprivation. This may provide activities for Tom as well as perhaps some help and advice for Tom’s mother. The introduction of the 10 year ‘Children’s Plan’ (DFSC 2007) was another step forward for deprived children. This is aimed at providing children with equality of opportunity and improving communities through education as well as further legislation aimed at helping children and their families out of poverty. James and James (2001) argue that social policy restricts and controls children’s lives. The government through its agenda is trying to address the imbalance in opportunities between children from deprived areas and those from more wealthy families. Devine (2000) believes that in order to increase the rights of children, society in general must change its discourses surrounding children. Cremin and Thomas (2005) contend that children compare and contrast themselves with each other and these judgments can affect feelings of self worth within the school and wider community, they go on to explain that the school as an institution can endorse such judgments to the detriment of its pupils. Esping-Anderson (2004) states that the child care provision needs to be of a high quality and supported by other policies. Local authorities have a duty to deliver services which meet the needs of individual children and promote inclusion within local communities. This government intervention is aimed to “stimulate and cajole people into doing more to find a job” (Deacon 2002 p. 113) and give the result people can be an active part of the economy.
However, the government does tend to contradict itself, first stating that it would like all mothers to try and find a job, but then as Mayall (2002) points out, the government are encouraging mothers into work and also emphasising that a mother’s responsibility is also to be a primary carers for her children. Working at home is obviously not acknowledged as a real job simply because the mother is not getting paid to do it and therefore not performing their social economical abilities. The efforts of the government to provide legislation to support children and families in areas of socio-economic deprivation may not have the desired effect however, as there appears to be a limit on the affect which education alone can have on social opportunities (Beck 2007).
During the classroom dialogue in the scenario, the linguistics used by Child B when he says: “Nah Miss, he isn’t one of my friends, I’d never want to be friends with someone like him, and he makes me feel sick” can provide us with evidence of language and linguistic traits which link back to the social background of the child. (Peterson 1994 p.252) makes an interesting theory that “all children enter school with discourse skills appropriate to the community in which they were raised.” It is also evident that teachers tend to use language which is more easily understood by middle class children as they are more familiar with this language structure from home (Peterson 1994 p264). Peterson (1994 p.253) also expresses that some differences in linguistics may be due to cultural diversity not just social differences in the community. In a study conducted by Connolly and Neil (2001) middle-class children tended to limit their educational and career prospects because of the influences of their community such as family and peers. This was especially evident amongst the boys who felt a need to defend their locality as part of their masculine identity and found it difficult to move out of the area in which they lived. The girls however had slightly higher aspirations for themselves and were more likely to leave the area they lived in. This could have repercussions for Tom and his class mates were they to limit their outlook to their locality. It is clear that children in Tom’s social locality need to be educated further and encouraged on their career opportunities in the future. Teachers could play a large role in this by exploring what career their pupils would consider going into once they leave school. This could stimulate the children into wanting to do better for themselves in the future, once their school education has come to an end.
The Child Poverty Action Group found in a survey that while parents believed that uniforms and school trips were important for children to be involved in school life, they would not seek help to pay for them in case their children were bullied as a result (CPAG 2003). This is also applicable in Tom’s case, as the teacher tried to offer some support to Mrs. Connor during their telephone conversation:
“I will contact you again in the next few hours, as I know that the council can sometimes give people an allowance for school uniforms. It might help you out a bit.”
In the scenario Mrs. Connor mentions that she cannot afford luxuries or spare clothes for Tom as she is a single mother with a part-time job. Lack of finance at home can also lead to a stressful atmosphere within the household, which can result in low performance at school. In a report about the impact of poverty upon children’s school experiences it was found that although in theory school uniforms were a good idea because of their equalising effect children from disadvantaged areas were acutely aware that uniforms cost money (Horgan 2007). At the present time in England, funding from the council for school uniforms is not available and therefore Mrs. Connor will not be able to claim any benefit to get new clothes for her deprived son; meaning he will continue to be the ‘smelly’ child who does not conform to the ‘norm’ unless she takes it upon herself to start putting money aside to pay for such things.
Reflection
Upon reflection of this research and scenario with regard to Tom and his mother, there are many implications to be discussed. There is no reason for children who are born into Tom’s area of social deprivation to have to go to school each day with a reinforced reputation as the ‘smelly’ child or ‘the boy who stinks of wee’. In this day and age there should be access to government funding for parents such as Mrs. Connor who need help with simple things such as clothing. When a single mother has a child, a house, bills and food to pay for, it is understandable that she would not be able to cater for every need on a part-time wage. In light of the research conducted throughout this case study, it is important to highlight that Connolly and Neill (2001) believe that there is a need to provide alternative aspirations and life chances for children in areas of social and economic deprivation in order to mitigate the negative effects of their cultural norms and habits, which can be accomplished by challenging constructed ideology and establishing practices that can break down these barriers to learning. Primary practitioners need to be aware that they can influence school choices and assist families in using the current educational market to their advantage rather than just allowing choices to be forced upon them by the government.
The case study also raised the issue of school uniforms and how families with a low income can struggle to make ends meet. It would be wise for schools to take into consideration these families when deciding upon the cost of uniforms, school dinners, trips and activities and so on. Children of a lower social class should not be stigmatised and miss out on such activities simply because they cannot afford to pay for them, as this means that they may not develop to the standard of a higher class child who is less deprived. With the help of childhood practitioners, the integration of sure start and extended school programs may begin to solve some of the deprivation issues to a point where they can be aided by other services. Teachers need to focus on taking control of their classroom so that pupils are aware of the hierarchical power above them. In the case study, the teacher did not solve the problem by taking Child B aside and discussing his problem with Tom; instead it was left a public incident where Tom would have felt very embarrassed and ashamed of himself, when in fact there was nothing he could do about his economic deprivation at home. The teacher could have allowed the rest of the class to participate in their paired work and could have then taken Child B and Tom aside to discuss the issue. Whether he knew the impact his words would have upon Tom or not, Child B should have definitely been made more aware that he could not say such hurtful things to Tom and perhaps both sets of parents should have been informed. This situation was due to a lack of personal hygiene, lack of finance and perhaps lack of awareness on the part of Mrs. Connor. All of the issues raised are definitely not easy to confront in a modem society and need to be approached in a sympathetic and supportive way, which the teacher did seem to achieve during her conversation with Tom’s mother. Schools and childhood practitioners hold a responsibility to ensure that children receive a equal education with equal opportunities; they have a huge role to play in recognising the inequalities surrounding class issues and challenging discrimination within the classroom. Children should be given a broader knowledge of social deprivation, so that higher classes may hold fewer prejudices towards those who are not as fortunate as themselves. They should be made aware of their own prejudices and ways in which these link into social class.

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