Contexts of science teaching and learning in Fiji primary schools : a comparative study of ethnic Fijian and Indo-Fijian communities.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
As an experienced science educator in Fiji, it is my observation that Ethnic Fijian students evince, on average, significant under-achievement in science subjects as compared to their Indo-Fijian counterparts at all school levels. In my doctoral study, I seek to identify the reasons for this differential achievement of the two ethnic groups. My study explores both macro level and micro level contexts of science teaching and learning in Fiji Primary schools. For instance, at macro level, my focus is on the relevance of political/colonial history and the socio-cultural and geographical background of the two ethnic groups in Fiji. At micro level, my study has involved observing classroom interactions and investigating the beliefs and practices of the various participants in children's early education. Over a six month duration from May to November 2001, I spent extended periods of time in four villages/communities, two from each ethnic group, in order to gather data for my study. I have employed multiple observations, semi-structured interviews with teachers, students and parents or community members, and analyses of prescribed syllabi and selected policy documents. In addition, I have used my own experiences of being a student, a parent, and a teacher in the Fijian Education system to reflect on the analysed data. My data evidences very little difference between the teaching approaches of teachers from the two ethnic groups. The most significant exception to my generalisation that the teaching practices are similar is that there are some marginal differences in practices relating to examination preparation. By far, the most remarkable differences seem to lie outside the classroom - be it in the community life, the cultural differences, or the demographics or the ambient thoughtforms of the two groups. My study presents a multi-layered analysis of these complex contexts based on ecological considerations and the socio-cultural theory of development and learning.