Home and School Literacy Practices of Children in a Rural Village in India: An Ethnography

Batra, Namrita (2022). Home and School Literacy Practices of Children in a Rural Village in India: An Ethnography. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0001428c

Abstract

The Indian state is responsible for providing free and compulsory education to all its 6-14-year-old children. A significant majority of these children attend state schools and belong to some of the most socio-economically disadvantaged sections of the country. Researchers who document teaching in these schools continue to provide accounts of teacher-led instruction. Both international and Indian assessments of literacy also evidence dismal levels of learning among children.

Unlike previous studies from India which have focused on teachers and teaching, this study broadens its focus to include children and learning. It does this by exploring the range of literacy practices that children engage with at home and school, and by taking into consideration the beliefs of caregivers and teachers shaping these practices. Theoretically rooted in a sociocultural theory, it shines a light on how children’s literacy practices are cultural and personal and, consequently, uncovers the relationship between home and school practices.

Ethnography provides the methodological framework for the study. The five participant children live in a resource-poor, agrarian village and attend the state school within the village. The literacy practices of two are discussed in detail in this current study. Participant observation of children’s practices in naturalistic settings, that is, their homes and school, and conversations with them lie at the heart of the fieldwork. Interviews with caregivers and teachers were also undertaken. Data were recorded with audio and video devices, in the form of fieldnotes, and children’s texts were captured through photographs. Consequently, it is the first known research to endeavour a qualitative exploration of children’s home literacy practices in India and to do so within a rural community.

This study makes significant contributions to theory. This has been possible because of the depth of its fieldwork and the theories it has chosen to draw on for analysis. The cultural nature of children’s practices has been highlighted using Gee’s (2002, 2012, 2014) conceptualisation of Discourse and identity and their personal nature has been examined using Hedges and her colleagues (Hedges et al., 2011; Hedges & Cooper, 2016) theorisation of interests. As a result, this study has been successful in highlighting the personal nature of children’s literacy practices. It also provides evidence of the potential of both theories to illuminate the nature of children’s literacy practices.

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