Friday, 3 January 2014

The voices of high achieving Turkish-speaking (EAL) students in a British Secondary School-2

Data collection
Data were collected from: field notes; two focus group interviews of six students, recorded face-to- face interviews of participating students; observations from two hours of year 11 lessons (English and Science) and a telephone interview from a Turkish parent.
Newby (2010:64) says that research questions are the statements of the issue that we want to research. It should pin down the issue that we want to investigate. What is particularly important about research questions is this the way we phrase them can affect our approach to the research. And this is why; research questions point us to the data we need and are also indicative of the methodology that will give us the data and process them.’ 
Considering research questions, a useful way of deciding whether to pursue a particular study is the clarity and ease in which research questions to which research questions can be conceived and answered.  Cohen, Manion and Morrison (2011:111)  
When I was preparing questions I separated the time into past, present and future. I wanted to know where the students had experienced, where they thought they are now and what their future inspiration were. 
I preferred the use of face-to-face interviews with the students instead of using a questionnaire because I believed that I could communicate with them more effectively and having the same background would help to ease their worries during the interviews. I am pleased to say, this was what happened.
I followed the good interviewer criteria proposed by Denscombe (1998: Location 3621-3643) which were
 The good interviewer needs to be attentive, sensitive to the feelings of the informant, s/he is able to tolerate silences during the talk, and knows when to shut up and say nothing, s/he is a adept at using prompt and probes, checks as well as non-judgemental. With focus groups, the good facilitator manages to let everyone have a say.
In ‘How to Research’ (2010:211) Blaxter, Hughes and Tight mention about the shape and nature of data. The shape of data is the condition which the research data are in, and the facilities which are available to analyse them. The nature of data is what research data are and the meaning of numbers and words. My raw data was qualitative (group interviews) together with some quantitative data which were given to me orally by the students about their KS2 and KS3/KS4 English and Maths current and target levels. I had the school’s latest OfSTED report but not specifically for my identified research group. I also kept notes during my observation and meetings.  
Conducting the interviews
Denscombe advises that
at the beginning there should be the opportunity to say ‘Hello’, to do some introductions, to talk about the aims of the research and to say something about the origins of the researcher’s own interest in the topic. The first question takes on a particular for the interview. It should offer the interviewee the chance to settle down and relax. For this reason it is normally good practice to kick off with an ‘easy’ question: something on which the interviewee might be expected to have well-formulated views and something that is quite near the forefront of their mind (1998: Location: 3667-3678).
I had about 45 minutes with the first group of three students, but afterwards I had time pressure with the rest of the three. All the students who were participating the interviews, needed to be back at their lessons after the break time and I haven’t quite finished with the questions for the first three students. Therefore, I had to conduct the rest of the interviews quite quickly. I did not have time to reflect or expand on the answers.
The students were very welcoming and open. They did not have any hesitation about discussing their experience in school. They seemed very pleased that they were chosen for the interviews as successful students.      
Having introduced myself to the first group of students, I explained why I was doing this research. I showed them the voice recorder I was going to use and explained them how I was going to ask questions as well as in what order it was going to take place.
Interpretation of the data
Blaxter, Hughes and Tight (2010) clearly explain the process of analysing the data that has been collected, identifying two closely related processes: the first one is managing the data by reducing its size and scope, so that it can be reported upon it adequately and usefully; secondly one is analysing the managed set of data, by abstracting from it and drawing attention to what is felt of a particular importance or significance. The table below presents a whole picture of quantitative data in the research. 
Table 1: Participating students’ KS2 and KS3/4 Maths &English levels
KS2 Level 
Current Level/Grade

A (Year 9)
B (Year 9)
C (Year 10)
D (Year 10)
E (Year 11)
F (Year 11)

Table 1 shows that all participating students but two achieved level 4 and above in English and Maths for KS2 results which is the expected level for year 6 students. Year 9 students have made two levels progress while the year 10 and 11 students have also achieved and expanded their target by reaching A* to C‘s in both, Maths and English.  
When analysing the qualitative data drawn from the focus group interviews, it is clear that the common features of the participating high achieving students were: a supportive family; attending a nursery and additional private tuition.
In Foundations of Bilingual Education Baker states that if children learn two languages from the birth it would be called simultaneous or infant bilingualism but if they learn one of the languages after about 3 years old, this would be called consecutive or sequential bilingualism (2006: 4). The students who took part in my research were consecutive bilinguals and they started learning English around 3 years old in the nurseries they attended. Some of these students live in bilingual and multilingual communities (Turkish and Kurdish). They had to speak in Turkish and/or Kurdish at home because their parents did not speak any English. Additionally the parents’ education levels were quite low in first language as well. Many of them did not have the opportunity to continue with their education. However the difference between high achieving students’ parents and low achieving ones was that high achieving students’ parents wanted their children not to be disadvantaged by the system, so they started supporting their children from early on.
Another feature which could be seen between the high achieving Turkish students in British schools was that the participating successful female students’ families also had high expectations of their daughters and had good relations with them as opposed to some families who wanted to follow the traditions of their culture.
Research relating to families conducted from the early 70s until the recent times, such as that by Berk (1972:109) in Turkish speaking Communities and Education in Aydin Mehmet Ali (2003:16), stated that
Turkish- Cypriot youth is discontented and frustrated. The failure at school and the number of those leaving school early are very big among the Turkish-Cypriot youths. The girls have less opportunity for choosing their jobs, education, friends or partners.  
In my research, however, it is pleasing to hear that the participating Turkish speaking students’ aspirations were varied and still quite challenging such as; working in media, wanting to become a policewoman, accountant, scientist, teacher and architect. This shows that students’ aspirations are shifting from what their families want towards what they want and what they are good at.
Student A told me that she would like to become a doctor because she loved Science. Student C wants to become a policewoman and she is a police cadet.  Student F however, would like to work in Media which would give her the opportunity to travel around the world.
Berk (1972:60) in Turkish speaking Communities and Education in Aydin Mehmet Ali (2003:17) also said that;
‘besides the underprivileged social, economic, situation in the inner London Boroughs, the traditional Turkish family upbringing restricts and inhibits the child’s linguistic and intellectual development… and ..Children are less likely to be allowed, if at all, to use their creative imagination in play…parents buy very few toys…’
Ugur (1990) in Mehmet Ali (2003:22) showed that;
‘the educational achievement levels of Turkish speaking students who were from Turkey, depended on the living and working conditions of their families and their attitudes to education.’
By listening to the participating students, I noticed that although their parents did not have proper education, they encouraged and supported their children to study further. Hence, their attitudes towards education were positive and motivating for these students.   
For example; Student B stated that education was important because he wanted to do what his parents could not do. Lack of education was a barrier for his parents. His parents incessantly encouraged him to achieve better in school. Student C said: “When my mum came here, she wasn’t literate in Turkish as well, so she went to a school to learn reading and writing in Turkish.”  Student E said; “My mum has never been to school in Turkey. She never learnt how to read and write in any of the languages.”  Student F’s father has attended school but her mother has not, so she learnt how to read and write in both Turkish and English in London.
Yazar (1992) in Mehmet Ali (2003:23) looked at Turkish Kurdish cultures and the use of bodily complaints as a symbol of emotional distress amongst refugees and argued that it was linked to “…wanting to be acknowledged, to be integrated with family members, into the host country and have their voice heard.”         
For example, Student C stated that there was bullying before Ms. M (school liaison officer for Turkish speaking parents) arrived but ever since she organized Cultural Enrichment Days, bullying has ceased. She believes that becoming acquainted with Turkish culture has helped other students to become more aware and friendly towards Turkish speaking students. She said that she was grateful to Turkish speaking students’ parents-school liaison officer for improving the relations between non-Turkish speaking and Turkish speaking students. 
Another aspect in my research is that all participating students would like to live and work in the UK in the future. This is quite interesting as the first generation always wished to return either to Cyprus or Turkey as soon as they had acquired the sufficient financial opportunities to do so.
Student B declared that he wanted to live both close to his family and primarily in the UK in the future, while Student F said that although she wished to travel, she would also like to be based mainly in the UK.
Mehmet Ali (2003:7) explains the migration patterns of Turkish speaking people to the UK. She says that migration from Turkey commenced in the early 1970s with men arriving on their own and bringing their families in later years. It also says that the first original migrants originated from rural parts of Turkey. Mehmet Ali (2203:8) explains that in 1990s, Turkish speaking Kurdish communities started to arrive because of the Turkish-Kurdish political conflict in South-eastern Turkey.
All of the students involved in my investigation confirmed Ali’s words by telling me that their parents came from the South-Eastern part of Turkey and that they had migrated to the UK due to the conflict in the area. However, it is important to take into account that the students partaking in this research had either been born in the UK or arrived in their infancy. This may have been a contributory factor to their decision about where they choose to reside and work in the future. They may not possess a feeling of belonging or emotional attachment to their parents’ countries. Furthermore, since they are achieving well in school, they are also aware of the education and job opportunities available within the UK. 
All the participating students, except Student E, stated that they did not want bilingual education because it would be very confusing for them. As they are the fifth generation of the Turkish- Kurdish community in the UK, we can see that their attachment to their first language has changed. They accept their language as a medium to access their culture and to be able to communicate with grandparents and relatives around them. For example Student B stated that the advantages of speaking Turkish were being able to interact with other Turkish speaking people and passing the Turkish GCSE with a high grade. He did not think that speaking Turkish had disadvantages. Student D said; “the advantages of being bilingual are to be able to relate to own culture and to be proud of you. The disadvantage is at certain times, you can feel that people have some prejudices against you.”  

Within this particular school however, although they boasted over 200 Turkish speaking students, they did not hold Turkish GCSE classes. In my experience, students who are connected to their culture and language become more successful and settled citizens within their new country.  When I inquired about the absence of these classes to the Turkish speaking parents-school liaison officer, she informed me that many of the students were already attending weekend schools as well as participating in cultural organisations to promote the language, thus the school did not see the need for additional classes. 

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