Melbourne Graduate School of Education - Theses

Permanent URI for this collection

Search Results

Now showing 1 - 1 of 1
  • Item
    Thumbnail Image
    Languages and Learning amongst Orang Asli Students in Malaysia
    Angit, Suria Selasih ( 2020)
    This thesis reports a research project conducted with and for the Orang Asli (OA) of Malaysia by an OA researcher. The OA (literally means original people) are the Indigenous peoples of Peninsular Malaysia. Among many other struggles faced by the OA of Malaysia, two educational issues that have constantly been highlighted in the literature are the high dropout rates and the low educational attainment amongst OA students. Across the subjects, English language is one of the weakest areas of learning for the students despite the language being a key requirement to maximize employability in the local and global workforce. This highlights the complex multilingual challenge that many OA students are facing in order to succeed in their formal education and subsequently navigate the globalised workforce. This study aimed to understand the English language learning of OA students in Malaysia by looking into the complex interplay of the main languages (OA languages, Malay and English) that coexist in the language ecology of OA students in Malaysia. It also aimed to explore the attitudes of OA students and parents towards these languages and their formal language learning in school. In addition, beliefs of teachers of OA students were also explored for a comprehensive picture of the subject. This mixed-methods study has been framed within a transformative framework that is embedded with elements of Indigenous methodologies. To ensure a comprehensive understanding of the subject under investigation, voices of OA students, OA parents and their teachers were foregrounded using multiple data collection strategies such as survey, interview, classroom observation, photovoice and an Indigenous method called sharing circle. To analyse and interpret the data, the works of various notable scholars such as the affordance theory (Gibson, 1979; Aronin & Singleton, 2012), the Dominant Language Constellation theory (Aronin, 2014) as well as the notions of symbolic power (Bourdieu, 1991) have been used to frame the discussion of findings. Several significant findings resulted from the data analysis. First, new insights into the complex linguistic repertoires of OA students, highlighting limitations around fixed notions of local, national and international languages have been found in this study. Secondly, the participating OA students and their parents demonstrated mixed attitudes towards the languages in their language ecology reflecting issues of both OA identity and global aspirations. Thirdly, in terms of the use of OA students’ linguistic and cultural knowledge, it was found that only the linguistic knowledge is used to support their language learning in the classrooms while their cultural knowledge receives no major emphasis in their formal learning. It was also found that teachers hold mixed beliefs about their OA students, and many of these teachers view their OA students through a deficit lens. Finally, findings of this study also highlight the emergence of a group of high achieving OA students, which should be further explored in future research. This research proposes innovative ways of conceptualising OA students that will inform current and future policy development for the OA in Malaysia.