In the present era of globalization schools and classes are become more multicultural and multilingual. When a student of a different cultural background comes in contact with educational system of another culture, he or she has to experience a different teaching style, class environment and learning style. The education system of a country is the reflection and product of the culture of that country (Hall, 1990), and thus culture plays an important role in the learning style of a student. Scholars believed that the culture and the behavior of the individual in this culture are the major factor affecting his learning habits and abilities.
Statement of the Problem
Every student has a different learning style. The culture, family and the socioeconomic background play an important role in the learning style of a student. For example, it is not parental income or level of education per se that is responsible for a child’s success in school. Sociologists point instead to such factors as the cultural capital that affluent parents transmit to their children. Students from the upper classes not only learn reading skills and numbers during their preschool years, they also read appropriate books, visit museums, attend symphonic concerts, and in other ways acquire through their family socialization all the experiences, values and personality traits that school require for academic excellence (Nooriafshar, 2001).
Obviously, children who do not speak English, or speak it only as their secondary language, will encounter difficulties in United States schools. Even mathematics achievements can be adversely affected by speaking a language other than English in the home. However, language barriers can be more subtle. English-Speaking students from minority or low-income backgrounds can face language discontinuities in school. In other words, the way their parents question and talk to them does not correspond to that used by most teachers. This mismatch between language used in the home and that demanded in the classroom can cause serious difficulties for some children. This is an alarming situation for the authorities. US Government is trying its utmost to close the achievement gap of the racial minorities. Several Programs have been funded by the department of education to assist students in need of learning English Language.
Need for the study
Learning style is dependent upon both the nature and nurture of the student (Myers, 1990). Most of the scholars and researchers adopted the notion that culture does affect the learning styles of students (Ramirez, 1989; Gardner, 1991). There are number of studies available which define the learning pattern of racial minorities in United States (Hale-Benson, 1986; Hilliard, 1989; Shade, 1989), however when the knowledge of culture and the pattern of learning styles is applied on the classroom, a plethora of unresolved issues and differences arise. According to researchers, “The concept of cognitive or learning styles of minority and other students is one easily oversimplified, misunderstood, or misinterpreted. Unfortunately, it has been used to stereotype minority students or to further label them rather than to identify individual differences that are educationally meaningful” (Cox & Ramirez, 1981; p. 61). Many researchers have also connected the achievement gap of students to their learning style and culture (Guild, McKinney & Fouts, 1990; Myers, 1980).
Although there are a number of studies and research is available on this topic but not much work has been done to describe that how Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness of Undergraduate Programs (Gearup) programs help racial minority students to have better educational results and prevent them dropping out of school. It has been said and believed that Gearup program decreases the rate of absenteeism and enhances the number of minority students preparing for college etc. This study is important because it discusses the notion that Gearup programs improves the educational situation of racial minorities in United States, who were usually failed to acquire higher education or greater learning achievement due to their cultural and family background and poverty; and thus were unable to change their social status. The efficacy in order to validate the impact of programs like Gearup research must be made on whether this program addresses the cultural challenges of students at risk. An assessment should be conducted on the success of the program as it relates to the minority students’ cultural challenges which create difference in learning styles.
The aim and purpose of this study is to unveil that how Gearup program helps minority students who, due to their family and cultural background and poverty, are unable to achieve higher education and hence failed to improve their social condition.
Culture and family background of racial minorities of United States may make an important contribution in the educational achievement and learning style of an individual. Irvine and York (1995) argued that, “The cultures of students of color or their "way of life" are often incongruous with the expected middle-class cultural values, beliefs, and norms of schools. These cultural differences are major contributions to the school failure of students of color" (p. 489).
Some scholars believe that learning environment is actually responsible for the learning of students. “[A]ll students are capable of learning, provided the learning environment attends to a variety of learning styles” (Irvine & York, 1995; p. 494). They think that teachers are more responsible for achievement gap in minority students. “The concept of learning styles offers a value- neutral approach for understanding individual differences among ethnically different students .... The assumption is that everyone can learn, provided teachers respond appropriately to individual learning needs” (Bennett, 1986; p. 97).
Nevertheless, teachers are generally quite accurate in predicting which solutions will succeed in class and group, but are such prophecies self-fulfilling. Teachers award grade not only on the basis of mastery of coursework but such factors as diligence, submissiveness and ‘teacher pleasing’ behavior, and their own prejudice. Many of these factors flow from differences in social background. Also, the child who upon entering school has undeveloped reading or math skills may be unfairly categorized, formally or informally, as unable.
Moreover, much categorizing is based on tests that are themselves regarded by many as biased against children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Intelligence and achievement tests can help block social mobility for some students by dooming them to placement in low-ability groups, low teacher expectations, and poor academic performance. Teachers have higher expectation for children with the skills and behaviors instilled by a good home environment. One study found that student’s work habits and citizenship figure strongly in the way teachers award grades (Xu, 2002).
Socioeconomic status of minorities
One of the most powerful predictors of academic success or failure is socioeconomic status. Simply put, the higher the social-class level of a child’s home, the more likely he or she will succeed in school. The mother’s level of education has a particularly strong correlation with a child’s academic performance (Ensminger & Slusarcick, 1992).
Having a single- parent head of household is an especially strong predictor of dropping out of school (Fitzpatrick & Yoels, 1992). Minority students from such homes earn lower grades and test scores, partly because single parents are likely to be minority embers and to have low levels of education. Racial or ethnic minority students also face a number of social obstacles to school success. African Americans and Hispanics often view the payoff of schoolwork as so remote that they do not preserve in their efforts. Sociologists have tried to identify specific parental behaviors that create either opportunities or obstacle for children in school.
Racial minorities who lack a basic level of material wealth are more likely to engage in criminal behavior (Patterson, 1991). Adverse economic forces may leave individuals feeling powerless, and thus less likely or able to take responsibility for their actions, and such irresponsibility may well contribute to criminal activity (Phillips, 1991). Poverty based on an ascribed status, such as race, will generate a sense of injustice and discontent, and a feeling that such proclaimed values of society as equal opportunities for all are not realized in actual experience (Blau & Schwartz, 1984). Thus many scholars believed that, “Children from economically disadvantaged backgrounds and from ethnically diverse backgrounds are at great risk in our country’s public school systems” (Kozol, 1991; p. 87). Even if minority students manage to overcome the discouraging signals in their environment, financial difficulties typically lengthen their odds of attending college. It is said that their parents (who are more likely to be single mothers, poorly educated, and financially strapped), simply have fewer resources to support children who want to go to college.
Government is fully aware of the above mentioned situation and is desperately trying to close the achievement gap between students belonged to advantaged and disadvantaged families and students belong to the racial minorities. For this purpose government has launched Gearup program to prevent school dropouts and to bridge the gulf between advantaged and socially, economically and culturally disadvantaged students. Gearup program has three basic functions:
- Increase the performance and preparation for college education of students
- Decrease the school dropout rate and increase participation in college education
- Enhance the awareness about college education, financial aid and preparation
The questions, which can be dealt and tried to be answered in this research, are:
· How the issues of cultural diversity and the specific learning style of the minorities addressed by Gearup Program?
· Is Gearup successful in helping minority students and preventing school dropout?
· Is Gearup program really proved effective?
Gearup program helps minority’s students in the Ysleta independent school district to overcome cultural challenges and decrease their dropout rate.
Information regarding students at risk who participated in the Gearup program at Ysleta Independent school district would be gathered or collected for the last four years. Students will be classified according to their predominant home language. An analysis will be made of those who have successfully graduated and accepted to college. A comparison will be made to the overall metrics of the entire student body when the program was not in effect.
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