This report considers the relations between ethnicity and the dispositions towards learning necessary for successful participation in the Australian education system. In contrast to common assumptions about the cultural attributes of some ethnic groups, it considers how home and school practices help produce the attributes of learners, how these attributes are embodied as dispositions towards learning – what we call the scholarly habitus – and how these are patterned in terms of ethnicity and broader socio-cultural background. The report is based on research in ten primary schools across a number of regions of the NSW Department of Education and Training (DET) within the Sydney metropolitan area involving diverse linguistic and socioeconomic groups, but focuses on three specific groups: students of Chinese, Pasifika and Anglo Australian backgrounds (see glossary). The study argues that dispositions to learn need to be understood in terms of particular kinds of practices, rather than explained by ‘ethnicity’ per se. The home and school experiences of these students are therefore examined with the aim of enhancing our understanding of effective educational practices and contributing to the current NSW DET initiatives of Quality Teaching, the State Literacy and Numeracy Initiative and the NSW State Plan.
University of Western Sydney and NSW Department of Education and Training 2008