Asian children at home and at school: an ethnographic study

Bhatti, Ghazala (1995). Asian children at home and at school: an ethnographic study. PhD thesis The Open University.



This thesis is an ethnographic study of Asian children who attended Cherrydale School, a mixed comprehensive in the south of England. It is concerned with the first generation of Asian children educated in Britain and is a study of their lives at home and at school. The main focus of this thesis is an exploration of the circumstances in which Asian children negotiate their way in different cultures. This study reveals the complexity of their lives which defies simple explanations. It describes the different ways in which 'race', class and gender combine to produce marginality for Asian children. A study of one single factor would not have given a holistic picture of their lived experience.

The field work for this study was undertaken between 1987 and 1990. It draws on the children's, their parents', peers' and teachers' views on education and schooling. It represents different perspectives. To have ignored either the home or the school would have provided an incomplete picture of the world in which these teenagers live.

Chapter 1 outlines the main theme of this exploratory study. It introduces the unique position in which Asian children find themselves in Britain in the late 1980s.

Chapter 2 surveys the existing literature in the field. As there is very little previous ethnographic research on Asian adolescents which takes into account their home and school experiences, I have referred to a wider body of literature which includes anthropological and ethnic/'race relations' studies.

Chapter 3 is about methodological issues. It includes an account of the initial problems of negotiating access, and continuously renegotiating access throughout the duration of this study.

Chapter 4 is about Asian parents' world. It is based on matters concerning the parents' past and present which have a direct influence on their children's lives.

Chapter 5 establishes a link between parents' education, their employment and their hopes for their children.

Chapter 6 looks at children's accounts of their homes and schools, and the effect of gender on their experiences. It also looks at their relationships with their parents, teachers and other members of their communities.

Chapter 7 is based on the effect of parents' occupations on children's aspirations including their employment opportunities and their hopes for the future. It also explores the effect of gender.

Chapter 8 underlines the connection between gender and spatial constraints at home and at school among Asian boys and girls. Their relationships with their white, African- Caribbean and Asian peers are also discussed, as are the different images they adopt.

Chapter 9 is concerned with Asian children's experiences of racism, their descriptions of "good", "bad" and "normal" teachers, their positive and negative experiences of school. Chapter 10 looks at the ways in which the school as an institution responds to the presence of Asian children. It is based on interviews and discussions with several mainstream and ethnic minority teachers.

Chapter 11 concludes the thesis by drawing together the main findings of this study and discusses possible similarities between the circumstances of Asians living in Cherrytown with those living outside it. More research is needed in the area of home and school based studies. This chapter makes some concrete suggestions for further research.

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