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Master's Thesis, 2015
CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION
1.1. Background information
1.1.1 Migration to Sweden
1.2. Aim of the study
1.3. Research questions
1.4. Constraints of the Present Research
1.5. Outline of chapters
CHAPTER 2: REVIEW OF THE PRIOR RESEARCH
2.1. Language and Communication skills in Education
2.1.2. Importance of language for adaptation and integration
2.2. Educational Background and Schooling system
2.2.1. Swedish educational system
2.2.2. Education in Somalia
2.3. Social integration and Cultural differences
2.4. Parental Involvement
2.4.1. Importance of parental involvement
2.4.2. Barriers to parental involvement
2.5. Impact of family size and home accommodation on children’s academic performance
2.6. Low income families and its impacts on students’ education
CHAPTER 3: METHODOLOGY
3.1. Research Design
3.1.1. Qualitative Research and semi-structured interviews
3.1.2. Data collection
3.1.3. Presentation of participants
3.1.4. Data Analysis
CHAPTER 4: Findings and Analysis.
4.1. Language barriers
4.2. Educational background of the students as part the educational barriers
4.3. Swedish School System as a challenge for young Somali students
4.4. Socio-cultural factors and students’ difficulties in integration
4.5. Parental challenges
4.5.1. Parent’s low educational background
4.6. Family size and home environment as a factor for low educational performance
4.7. Low economic status of the family as a challenge for educational attainment
CHAPTER 5: CONCLUSSION
The introduction part contains a brief discussion including the back ground information of the research, objectives of the study, purpose of the study with the research question, scope of the study, constraints and outlines of the chapters of the paper.
Sweden has a long immigration history and is still one of the countries that currently receive and give residence permission for many immigrants from across the globe. Different immigrants have immigrated to Sweden in different times from different places. As mentioned by the Swedish Migration Board (2014) “It was the refugees from Germany, the neighboring Nordic countries and the Baltics who, over the course of World War II, turned the emigration country Sweden into an immigration country. Many of these refugees returned to their homelands after the war, but many remained; among them were most of the Balts”.
Studies show that until 1970 migration to Sweden was focused on economic reasons and that it was only after 1970 that migration for humanitarian reasons increased as a result of the political events that occurred in many countries including, Poland, Ireland, Iran, Iraq, former Yugoslavia, Somalia and other parts of Africa (The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) 2010, p. 7).
According to Swedish Statistics (2013), in 2012, 25% of the total numbers of immigrants to Sweden were children. Furthermore, Swedish Statistics (2013) underlined that in 2012 immigrants from Somalia, Syria and Afghanistan formed the largest non-European groups in Sweden. The study also mentioned that 50% of the immigrants from Somalia and Afghanistan were minors and that the total number of minor immigrants from Somalia increased with 70% in 2012.
Sweden is one of the countries that ratified the UN convention on the rights of the child, and accordingly, once the child immigrants arrive in Sweden, they are given the opportunity to attend schools. Even though these educational opportunities are provided for them, different studies indicate that immigrants have a lower educational performance related to their Swedish native peers. As stated in the OECD (2010, p.7) “compared to their native Swedish peers, immigrant students, on average, have weaker education outcomes at all levels of education”. At the end of compulsory education or at age 15, it is observed that there are very substantial performance disadvantages for immigrant students. On the other hand “immigrant students – especially those who arrived at a later stage of their education – face tougher challenges than other students in achieving good education outcomes” (OECD (2010, p.7).Thus, this study contributes to a better understanding of these outcomes by examining and analyzing some of the experiences that the young immigrants face in their studies.
The aim of the study is to examine the young Somali immigrants’ views on the main challenges they face when they attend secondary schools in Sweden. The study tends to explore the different barriers they come across during their education. It emphasizes children’s perspective and examines their descriptions of their day to day life in schools. The study attends to the parental involvement in terms of the role parents can play in the improvement of the child’s educational performance.
In view of the problem statement, the main purpose of the study is to gain an insight on the key educational challenges that young Somali immigrants experience in their high school studies. The study particularly focuses on young Somali immigrants in secondary schools who have recently arrived in Sweden. It examines children’s/young people’s accounts and descriptions about their experiences of Swedish schooling system. In this study the following research questions are addressed:
1. What do young Somali immigrants view as the major educational challenges faced by young Somali immigrants attending secondary schools in Sweden?
2. What role do parents play on the educational performance of the young immigrants?
Even though there are some studies that overviewed some of the general problems of Somali community and in particular their lack of integration with other communities, there is a lack of detailed studies on Somali community immigrants in terms of their social life.
Chapter two is the literature review that describes relevant theoretical concepts and research including articles books and data gained from other sources. The chapter reflects prior research on educational challenges faced by young immigrants in schools.
Chapter three is a methodological part that presents the methods used in this study. The chapter starts by giving short explanation about the research design/strategy used during the data collection followed by the type of the research and finally describes the method used in analyzing the data.
Chapter four presents the findings of the study gained through the interview made with the students.
Chapter five is the conclusion part where the data findings and the analysis of the study are summarized.
Language is an important tool for every person to communicate with others. Language in terms of communication skills of students plays an important role in the overall success of the student in every aspect. It is a central skill to their learning. Without language you cannot communicate and make a sense. An important factor for immigrants is language, because it makes them able to join the social life and integrate the society (Guler, 2011, p. 5).The importance of language is discussed in different studies. For example, as discussed by OECD(2012, p. 1)“immigrant students often have to overcome multiple barriers at once in order to succeed at school: a language barrier, their own immigrant status, a disadvantaged background – and the fact that many of their classmates are struggling to surmount these same obstacles to success at school”.
Particularly, for immigrants language matters a lot. This is because “Post-immigration language proficiency 'is a prerequisite for economic, political, social and cultural integration'” (Hou & Beiser, 2006, p. 155; van Tubergen 8c Kalmijn, 2009 cited in Watkins, Razee, &Richters, 2012, p. 126). A study that was carried out by Söhn and Özcan (2006, p, 112) which focused on the participation and performance of Turkish students in the Germany education system stated that language itself forms an important part of a migration background due to the fact that there is a difference between migrant’s first language and the official language of the receiving society.
Many studies and reports agree on the significance of language for the educational success. For example a report (Evolving diversity, 2013, p.8) argued that having a good command of the language of the instruction is one of the major important preconditions in succeeding with the studies. For many immigrant students, the language of instructions in their school is different than the language they speak in their home. Söhn and Özcan (2006, p, 101) discussed that studies reveal that most immigrant students who study in a language other than their native language face problems in terms of communication. This may lead to immigrant students’ lower educational performance compared to their peer native speakers. In support of this statement Christensen and Stanat (2007, p.1) have shown that children attain less educational results than their peers if their level of language skills in terms of speaking, reading and writing of the language of the instruction is low compared to their peers. Their study is based on a survey that focused school language policies and practices in 14 immigrant‐receiving countries. According to Christensen and Stanat (2007, p.1) the analysis of the survey conducted in the 14 countries indicates that immigrant students at the age of 15 who do not speak the language of instruction at home averagely lag one year behind than the non-immigrant students who speak the language of instruction at home. Furthermore, the authors added that the consequences of language barriers for immigrant students do not only affect their educational attainment but they also have a long term implications because they add to the success in the labor market.
A study conducted by Yasar Demirkol (2013) discussed the educational problems experienced by the children of foreign residents in Turkey and highlighted the significance of language in familiarizing and integrating with the host society. They concluded that knowing the language of the country contributes significantly to the integration of students in the school (YasarDemirkol, 2013, p. 309, Christensen & Stanat 2007, p.3).
Christensen & Stanat (2007, p.3) in their study concluded that “if immigrants do not receive adequate support for learning the language, their integration in terms of school achievement, educational attainment, and future success in the labor market will be hampered”. Similarly, authors like Esser (2006, p.27 and 57, cited in Evolving diversity II, 2013, p.8) argue that “from the perspective of assimilation theories, knowledge of the official language is regarded as a precondition to successful structural integration of immigrants”. Empirical findings of a research carried out on the challenges confronting immigrant children in the USA conducted by Zhou (1997, p. 75) show that unlike adult immigrants whose levels of adaptation are often indicated by occupational attainment and income, levels of adaptation among young immigrants are generally measured by the educational attainment that includes their academic orientation, aspiration, and performance.
Thus, previous research show that lack of knowledge of the local language of the hosting society is not only a problem of communication with others but can be a big challenge in terms of integration and coping up with their native peers and teachers in the school. Keeping in mind these challenges, Christensen and Stanat, (2007, P. 10-11) pointed out the necessity of language support and how it can be effective. They proposed that language support is most effective when: 1) it is systematic and based on centrally developed curriculum documents; 2) teachers are specifically trained in second language acquisition; and 3) programs are time-intensive and offered in a continuous way throughout primary and secondary schools.
The linguistic similarity of languages is one of the factors that play a significant role in learning other languages. Söhn and Özcan (2006, p. 112) compared the difference in the ability of learning German language between non German student and Turkish students in Germany and as a result reflected that some languages are linguistically more similar to each other than others and therefore easier to learn. This factor of language is influential not only for children who immigrated with their parents, but also for second generation children who were born in the receiving country, yet nonetheless learned their parents’ native language as their own first language. A similar finding is presented in a report about the participation of students with an immigrant background in higher education. In the report it is stated that “Differences in “ability” to acquire the official language of the country of destination may be observed between immigrant groups if some immigrant groups speak a language as their mother tongue that is part of the same family as the official language in the receiving country” (Evolving diversity, 2013, p. 8).
Education in Sweden is considered to be one of the most generously funded education systems in terms of providing free primary and secondary education which respects parental choice of education for their children. This implies that “Sweden belongs to the world leaders regarding equality of educational opportunities with strong social consensus on the conception of equity in education (OECD, 2010, p.14).”
The school system in Sweden covers compulsory and non-compulsory school. The system in Sweden is based on age. Compulsory schooling comprises the first nine years of schooling, for children between the age of 7 and 16. Students who complete the ninth grade can continue the secondary school which consists of three years of program (OECD, 2010, p.14).
According to the OECD (2010) for immigrants there is a challenge in a way that there is inability of tackling diversity in the Swedish school system. This implies failure to integrate new arrived immigrant children in Swedish educational system. A quality standard that was collected from the Swedish Education act, the National Curriculum and the General Guidelines developed by the National Agency for Education was evaluated by OECD (2010). Evaluation was based on the standards collected on schools for year eight and nine in compulsory and upper secondary education in 14 municipalities. The evaluation points out that: 1) newly arrived students are rarely assessed for their prior knowledge in different subjects; 2) in most cases they only receive teaching and support in Swedish and Mathematics; 3) individual action and development plans are not made, even though that is required by law; 4) they spend a very long time in preparation classes – sometimes more than one year; 5) principals seldom take responsibility for the education of newly arrived students; and 6) these students tend to be taught in separate tracks – separated from the regular quality development of the school. The inspectorate concluded that schools need to raise literacy in Swedish and knowledge in other subjects at the same time (OECD, 2010, p.39).
Education in Somalia has gone through different stages over time. According to Bennaars, Seif, and Mwangi (1996, p. 10-12) they include traditional education, colonial education and post-colonial education. As stipulated in the Convention on the Rights of Child, “States parties recognize the right of the child to education, and with a view to achieving this right progressively and on the basis of equal opportunity” (CRC, 1989, article 28). Due to the civil war Somali children did not have the right to education. They have experienced difficult circumstances, civil war and famine. Because of the lack of central government they did not had education and were neglected other basic needs of the citizens. Recently, the education system in Somalia has collapsed because of the civil war that erupted in the country in 1991. There is no functional curriculum and coherent education in Somalia (Bennaars, Seif & Mwangi 1996, p.9). According to concern worldwide (2013), Somalia has one of the lowest school enrollment rates in Africa—only one out of every five children has access to school.
According to Guler (2011, p.5) “social integration can be defined as the inclusion of people into the society who were previously exposed to discrimination or having obstacles to join the economic and social life based on their ethnical and cultural backgrounds”.
In addition to the difference in the educational level, sociocultural differences between the native culture of immigrants and the culture of the receiving country is one of the major problems faced by immigrants in terms of adaptation and needs to be taken in to account (Kozulin & Venger 1993, cited in YasarDemirkol, 2013, p. 305). The researchers suggested that “The mechanism of cultural transition within the immigrant group and the relationships between this group and receiving society must be taken into account in order to understand the factors causing psychological and learning problems in immigrant children”(Kozulin and Venger 1993, cited in YasarDemirkol, 2013, p. 305).
On the other hand a study that was carried out by Bouakaz (2007) about the involvement of minority parents in Swedish schools emphasized the work of the school and efforts to develop closer relations between the parents and the school. The study revealed that immigrant students face challenges in terms of value conflict in a way that “the norms, values and the knowledge gained at home may not be of particular value to the child at school, at the same time as the child may face difficulties in making his parents understand the values and the knowledge he/she brings back from school” (Bouakaz2007, p.19). Similarly, scholars like Devarakonda (2013, pp.51-59) argue that cultural values held by the parents and materials used for the teaching could be the source for a conflict that could result undermining the relationships between home and school. This could include the school’s lack of enough knowledge about the parent’s cultural values, norms and beliefs, different ways of emotions expression, preferred involvement by parent; either formal or informal, and relationship with time.
Jeynes (2007, p.83), defined parental involvement (PI) as “parental participation in the educational processes and experiences of their children”. Parenting involvement can be of two types. The first one is called home-based PI which includes listening to children read and supervision of homework while the second type is school-based PI and could be made in the form of attending parent education workshops and parent–teacher meetings (Hornby & Lafaele 2011, p. 37).
Hornby and Lafaele (2011, p. 37) show that for the past 40 years, the involvement of parents in the education of their children has been considered to be an important component on the success of education. In their studies they mentioned that parental involvement (PI) is advantageous for children of all ages and that it has been reported by many reviews and meta-analyses of the literature (Fan and Chen 2001; Henderson and Mapp 2002; Jeynes 2005, 2007; Pomerantz, Moorman, and Litwack 2007) that both home based and school based parental involvement has a vital role in the facilitation of academic achievements. The arguments here reflect the importance of parental involvement in terms of giving support to the child at home and as well as in the school learning activities. Swap (1993), (cited in Horny 2000, p.2) underlined that students achievement is high when parents are involved in supporting their child’s learning or when they are kept informed about the child’s progress. The highest educational achievements are gained when parents are more involved in a way by acting as tutors for their children. Ballantin (1999) (cited in Horny 2000, p.2) suggested that parental involvement has positive outcomes such as: improved communication between parents and children, higher academic performance of the children whose parents are involved, high school attendance and less disruptive behavior, increased likelihood of completing high school and attending college, a sense of accomplishment for parents, higher parental expectation of children, improved study habits among children, increased likelihood of parents deciding to continue their own education. A case study conducted by Smith (2006) focused on the parental involvement in education among low-income families and showed the benefits of parental involvement. According to Smith (2006, p. 53), one of the teachers who participated in the research pointed out the positive outcome of parental involvement from children’s perspective by saying “ I think if the parents are involved the kids benefit because they really see the participation by the parents, and they work harder at school”. This shows that parent’s involvement can motivate children in terms of educational efforts.
Hornby and Lafaele (2011 on the basis of the findings of earlier studies, have discussed some of the factors that are considered to be barriers for the involvement of parents in their child’s education. As stated by Hornby and Lafaele, (2011, p. 41) the educational level of parents can be one of the first and for most barriers to parental involvement. It is a barrier in a way that it influences parents’ attitudes and views towards whether they have enough skills and knowledge that can let them engage in different aspects of parental involvement (Green et al. 2007 cited in Hornby and Lafaele, 2011, p. 41). “For example, parents who did not complete high school may be diffident about helping their children with homework once they get to secondary school. Also, parents without university degrees may feel in some ways inferior to teachers who they know are better qualified than them and therefore be reluctant to work closely with teachers”( Hornby and Lafaele ,2011, p 41).
Dustmann, Frattini, and Lanzara, (2012, p. 148) similarly point out the impact of parent’s educational experiences. Their study compares the educational attainment of second-generation immigrants with that of children born to native parents in several OECD countries. The findings indicate that test scores of the immigrant students is different from that of the majority population and that the difference has relation with the achievement of their parents.
The study suggests that “a key factor in the determination of the educational attainment of second-generation immigrants is the educational attainment of their parents” (2012, p. 148). They conclude that there is a difference between the children’s whose parents have educational background and those with parents with no educational background educational achievement.
There are various other factors that are viewed as barriers to the parents’ involvement in the child’s learning activities. Hornby and Lafaele, (2011, p. 39), presented a model which has been developed in order to elaborate on the barriers of parental involvement as follows:
Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten
Figure1. Model of factors acting as barriers to PI ( Hornby and Lafaele, 2011, p. 39)
Besides the factors discussed above, several studies (Hornby & Lafaele 2011; Bouakaz 2007; Turney & Koa 2009; Ladky & Peterson 2008; Whalley et al. 2007) have also pointed out that language, parents educational levels, school culture, lack of understanding of the school system, parents’ self-esteem, preferences towards parental involvement are the main factors in limiting immigrant parents from actively engaging in the educational activities of their children.
Yasar Demirkol (2013) has interviewed 118 foreign parents whose children attend Turkish schools in Alanya in 2012-13. According to the study, cultural perceptions of the parents towards the host society could be one of the factors that can be an obstacle on the educational performance of immigrant students in terms of parental involvement. Demirkol (2013, p. 309) examined the educational problems of the resident foreigners’ children studying in Turkish schools in Alanya and stated that children of immigrants live in a two different societies. He argues that “there are different approaches by the immigrant and foreign parents toward to the host society and culture, while desiring the best of what their host country has to offer for their children, they also want their children to inherit the best of their own ethnic heritage”. In relation to this the author mentioned that some parents resist integrating with the society of the host country in a way that they want nothing to do with the culture of the host society while others completely reject their own heritage and desire complete assimilation for their children.
Some authors argue that language barrier is one of the biggest obstacles for parental involvement. For example according to Portes and Hao (2002, cited in evolving diversity II, 2013, p. 9), parents’ language competency of the official language of the host country is very important because knowing the language is a precondition for them to help their children in doing their home works.
The nature of the family and home environment in general has a major influence on the children’s educational performance. Oyerinde (2001, p.67) referred to different studies that focused on the impact of family size and parental practices on the academic attainment and performance of children. In his article he highlighted that these studies show that the nature the family that the child belong to in terms of the number of siblings s/he live with has an influence on the overall life of the child. The size of the family and their accommodation or housing has an impact on the child’s educational success, “For example, studies of Johnson in 1978, Lolade 1980, Joel 1981 at the guidance and counselling department, University of Florin indicate that the smaller a family size is, the more success recorded by the children as regards the academic pursuit. The reason for this is that more concentrations are given by parents to fewer children than the families where the children are many” (Oyerinde, 2001, p. 67).
The relatively negative effect of the extended family towards the educational performance persists after considerations are made on the socioeconomic characteristics of the family (Slake, 1989, cited in Oyerinde, 2001, p. 72). Similarly a review made by OECD on the educational challenges of migrants show that home environment is one of the challenges that can lead to lower educational performance. The review points out that the home environment of immigrants is often very crowded and small for students to prepare their school work. “The review team visited a school which has long opening hours for those students whose house is too crowded to do homework – two to four families may be living in one apartment – or those whose parents have psychological problems”(OECD, 2010, 38).
According to Education and socioeconomic status factsheet (2011, p. 1) the socio economic status of a child’s parents has usually been considered as one of the factors that predict the child’s educational achievement. The report states that families from low socio economic communities are less likely to have the financial resources or time availability to provide children with academic support. This implies that children from low socioeconomic households attain low educational achievement (Morgan, Farkas, Hillemeier, & Maczuga, 2009, cited in Education and socioeconomic status factsheet, 2011, p. 1). The study compared the differences in educational attainment between children with low-income families and high-income families in the secondary schools of the United States of America. The research revealed that in 2007, the high school dropout rate among persons 16- 24 years old was highest in low-income families (16.7%) as compared to high-income families (3.2%) (National Center for Education Statistics, 2007). According to Enright, (1999, p 1269) many students, from disadvantaged backgrounds are unable to compete on equal terms in an examination system where others may have vastly superior resources such as higher family income better educational parents, supportive peers and good studies families.
Both materials and methods used for collecting data play a significant role for the quality of the research. According to Ragin, and Amoroso, (2010, p. 28) “A research design is a plan for collecting and analyzing evidence that will make it possible for the investigator to answer whatever questions he or she has posed”. The key aspects of a research design include: types of data used, data collection technique, sampling, sample selection bias data collection design. Saunders, Lewis and Thomhill (2009, p. 600) defined research strategy as general plan of how the researcher will go about answering the research questions.
Qualitative research is one of the methods used for conducting a research. As stated by Silverman (2011, p. 16-17), one of the key advantages of qualitative research is its ability to make a study about phenomena that are unavailable elsewhere. In addition to this, Silverman argues that “one real strength of qualitative research is that it can use naturally occurring data to find the sequences (‘how’) in which participants’ meanings (‘what’) are deployed” (2011, p. 17). Thus, using qualitative research is advantageous and is suitable for studies that need in-depth examination of cases or phenomena that cannot be quantified. On the other hand as qualitative research has strengths it has also some weaknesses that have to be taken into account when conducting study. One of the main weaknesses or criticisms of qualitative research relates to how sound the explanations it offers are (Silverman 2011, p. 20).
A researcher is expected to choose a method that is appropriate for his/her research question. My study focuses on young adolescent’s experiences of their day-to-day activities in schools which needs detail examination and interpretations of their individual educational experiences. As mentioned above by Silverman (2011) qualitative research is relevant when analyzing behavior or life experiences that involve an interpretive, naturalistic approach to the world. Accordingly, the qualitative semi-structured interviews are relevant for a qualitative study that focuses on identifying and understanding of the perspectives of young Somali immigrants in relation to schools in Sweden. “While the interview process uncovers reaction, learning, and impact data, it is primarily used for collecting application data” (Phillips & Stawarski 2008, p.23). Silverman (2011, p. 162) categorized interviews into: structured interview, semi structured interview, open-ended and focus group. Each type of the interviews requires specific skills. Most qualitative studies use interviews as a data collection technique. One of the disadvantages of using interviews is that that interviews can take longer time and need time-consuming preparations of the interviewer to guaranty the consistency of the process (Phillips & Stawarski 2008, p.23).
Silverman (2011, p. 166) argues that interviews, compared to other methods of data collection, are relatively economic in terms of necessary time and resources. Using interview for qualitative research is advantageous for accessing individual’s attitudes and values. In other words qualitative interviewing allows the exploration of individual’s approaches and values in ways that differ from other research methods (Silverman 2011, p. 167). The study therefore uses semi-structured interview as a data-collection method. One of the key advantages of using semi-structured interviews is that “the person interviewed is more a participant in meaning making than a conduit from which information is retrieved” (Dicicco-Bloom & Crabtree 2006, p 314).
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