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Parents, diversity and cultures of home and school

1 Jan 2009

This study of the perspectives on schooling and education of parents from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds is an extension of the Cultural Practices and Learning Project (CPLP) Report for the New South Wales (NSW) Department of Education and Training (DET) (Watkins and Noble, 2008).

The CPLP Report examined the links between ethnicity and what it referred to as the scholarly habitus – dispositions of learning essential for successful participation in the Australian schooling system – focusing on students of Chinese, Pasifika and Anglo backgrounds. While a part of this study involved interviews with parents, its primary focus was their children and the home and school practices that contributed to the formation of different dispositions to learning. In the process of conducting this research, a rich supply of data was obtained which fell outside the original mandate of the CPLP, including surveys and information from groups beyond those included in the project.

In order to utilise this information and further examine the links between cultural practices and learning, with a stronger emphasis on parental orientations towards education, the project partners agreed to continue with an examination of this data. This report constitutes this extension and draws on interview data from some of the CPLP parents of Chinese, Pasifika and Anglo backgrounds together with that from a number of other parents of Lebanese, Afghani, Iraqi and Indian backgrounds.

The main focus of this study is the ways in which these parents from culturally diverse backgrounds negotiate school settings. In particular, it considers the cultural resources parents bring to the school system in NSW and the possible correlations and dislocations between these resources and school cultures. In doing this, it utilises a notion of educational capital – the knowledge, attributes and practices valued in the educational system and associated with academic success – and how this impacts on their relationship with the school system and their children’s education.

It is hoped this will shed new light on the ways in which parents from culturally diverse backgrounds approach the school system in NSW, including what they perceive to be their role and the role of the school in their children’s education.

Together with ethnicity (see glossary), it considers factors such as length of residence in Australia, aspects of their pre-migration life experience and issues of class and gender. Importantly, this study also seeks to examine ways in which schools can address the inequitable distribution of educational capital among parents from culturally diverse backgrounds and so promote a greater degree of congruence between home and school cultures.

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