Friday, 3 January 2014

The voices of high achieving Turkish-speaking (EAL) students in a British Secondary School-4

Student Profiles
Student A: She is 14, in Year 9 and Turkish. She was born in the UK. She describes herself as Turkish first. Her first language is Turkish. Her parents were unable to speak good English at first. Her mother is from Erzincan and her father is from Malatya but they came to Istanbul when they were young and they grew up there. Her mother is a housewife and her father owns a café. Her father returns home quite early so they are able to do many activities together. She has a good relationship with her father and seems very happy. She attended nursery for two years when she was three. She has learnt English in nursery but her parents taught her some Basic English such as colours and numbers as well. She has got a four year old brother. Her parents read her bedtime stories when she was young. Her mother attended college in London to become a nursery teacher but she stopped when she had her second child. Her father attended primary school in Turkey then he went to college in London but he didn’t complete the course. He is literate in Turkish.
Her English and Maths levels were both 5c when she arrived to secondary school. At present, her Maths level is 7b and her English level is 6b. She enjoys Music, Drama and Maths. She finds Science, Spanish and French to be quite challenging. Science is particularly tough for her because she has difficulties in understanding the investigations.
In her free time she takes violin lessons outside of school and she attends private tuitions in English, Maths and Science for an hour each. They help her greatly and she has improved in all three subjects and even moved up to top set for Maths. She has not experienced any bullying issues and she knows that she can tell the teacher or someone in school if such a problem occurs.
She would not like to have a bilingual (Turkish-English) education at school because she would get the languages mixed up. She thinks there are some advantages to being bilingual such as, knowing an extra language to add to her CV. The disadvantage is that she gets muddled up when speaking English. Sometimes her sentences are half in Turkish, half in English.
She spends an hour a day revising but this is liable to increase if she has a test. She does her homework on the second day it is given. She uses the Internet, text books and her notebooks to revise.
She reads in English and her favourite genre is horror. The last book she read was called “The Hunger Games”. She believes that education is crucial to allow her to be successful and achieve higher places in life and realises how fortunate she is to have the opportunities that her parents did not have.
She recommends for other students to concentrate during lessons, revise for exams and where possible obtain tutoring in the subjects that they are weaker at. She watches Turkish TV programmes and lots of films on Turkish TV channels. She visits Turkey every two years. She usually goes to Istanbul or Altinoluk where her aunt has a summer house.
In the future she would like to work in the field of Science, perhaps to become a doctor. She hopes to study at university and wants to live close to her family.
Student B:  He is 15 years old and in Year 9. He described himself as energetic and funny. He was born in the UK. He went to nursery when he was three and a half, a little late as his parents did not speak sufficient English to enrol him earlier. His first language is Turkish. At home, he speaks mainly Turkish but his mother goes to school to learn English at present, so to help her, he speaks English also. He learnt English both at nursery and individually. His parents are from Marash, South-eastern Turkey. They came here in 1998. His parents did not read bedtime stories to him but told him about their own childhood stories from the past. They also gave him advice about life. He’s got a little brother who attends primary school. His father works in a shop and his mother goes to school a couple of days a week. His mother went to school until she was thirteen but had to leave because the secondary school was too far away to commute to from home. His father went to school until he was fourteen but when the sole teacher in the village left, he was unable to pursue his studies further. They got married when she was seventeen and he was nineteen. They stayed for two years in Turkey before they came to the UK.
When student B arrived at secondary school his English level was 4b and Maths level was 5b. Now in Maths he has 7c and in English 5a -6c.  
He likes PE and Drama. He finds Spanish quite challenging because he has difficulties to learn it. In his free time, he goes to shopping with his cousins, he also goes to saz (a musical instrument) lessons as well as private tuitions for English and Maths in Cemevi (a place where Shi Muslims go to pray, learn about their own culture and participate in different activities). More information about ‘Cemevi’ can be found in the Appendix 9. He also plays for the school football team.
He would not like to have bilingual education in school because it would be quite confusing to study within the dual languages. He finds the advantages of speaking Turkish are being able to interact with other Turkish speaking people and passing Turkish GCSE with good grades. He doesn’t think that speaking Turkish has disadvantages.
He has not been bullied but he knows what to do if he’s bullied.
He revises an hour or two per day. He uses a CD for Maths which he borrowed from the Maths Department and books to revise. He reads in English and Turkish. He likes adventure and horror. He thinks that the education is important because he wants to do things that his parents could not do. He does not watch Turkish TV regularly but watches it if his mother happens to be watching it which has happened on several occasions. He goes to Turkey once in every two years.
In the future, he wants to become an architect, or otherwise pursue a job involving design. He wants to live close to his family and to be based mainly in the UK.
Student C: She is 15 and in Year 10. She described herself as a positive and smiley person, not at all shy. She has got a lot of friends that are not just Turkish but are also from other backgrounds. She has a little sister who is 10 years old. Her mother is six months pregnant. She said she was raised differently. Her parents had told her that they truanted often from school in their youth when they were in Turkey. They came to London in 2000 and before that they were in Gaziantep, the place of her birth in South-eastern Turkey. Her dad works in the textile business and her mother is a housewife. She went to nursery when she was four and started infant school a year after. Her parents didn’t speak English and at the time she was an only child so she had to learn English by herself.
Her father went to college in London to learn Maths while her mother went to college to learn how to read and write in English because she was not literate in her first language. Her mother is now able to write in English.
Student C attended Turkish school to learn how to read and write in Turkish after she arrived in the UK. Her father was able to help her with Maths but in other lessons, she had to revise on her own. They didn’t read her bedtime stories but told her about their own lives. She admitted that at first she was lazy in primary school because she had to change schools twice.
Her Maths level was level 3 and her English was level 4. In Maths her target is B-C and for English her target level is A-B.
She enjoys Sociology but feels less confident in Business Studies, a subject which she finds more challenging. She is part of the police cadets which demands a lot of her free time in order for to participate in education camps with them.
She told me that there was bullying before Ms. M (Turkish speaking parents- school liaison officer) arrived but since she organized the Cultural Enrichment Days, bullying has stopped.
Although she does not like to read, she believes that education is vital to self-improvement and to ‘climb up the ladder’ in life. She does not have time to watch TV. She goes to Turkey once every year.     
In the future, she wants to become a policewoman which does not require her to go on to higher education. She would like to reside close to her family in the UK.
Student D: He is 15 and in Year 10. He would describe himself and his parents as Turkish, first and foremost. He was born in the UK and attended nursery. His parents are Kurdish but they speak mainly Turkish, although the father does speak some Kurdish. Both parents are able to express themselves with Basic English and have graduated from a primary school in Turkey. They did not continue with their education afterwards.
His Maths, Science and English levels were 4’s when he arrived to school. At present he has A*/A in Maths and B in English. He enjoys Physics but finds English the most challenging. In his free time, he goes to boxing and plays football. He attends private tuitions once a week for two hours. He was not bullied at school.
He thinks it would be confusing to study in two languages but declares that he feels proud of himself for being bilingual and having the ability to take part and relate to his own inherent culture. He says that the disadvantages of bilingualism however, are that he feels that at certain times some people form prejudices against those who possess multiple cultures. 
He spends a long time revising if he has exams coming up. For instance, for his last exam he spent 6 hours of revising per day. He uses CGP books, gets help from his aunties and uncles, as well as the help of his tutors.  
 He reads philosophy books in his free time because they fascinate him. He advises others to also have the same determination to study hard to achieve their dreams.
He doesn’t watch Turkish TV. He has visited Turkey eight or nine times so far.
He wants to become a doctor. He has got A* and A’s in Science and would like to use these grades to make this career possible in future. He would like to live and work in the UK.
Student E: He is 16 and in Year 11. He describes himself as Kurdish and Turkish and both languages are spoken at home. He was born in Turkey and came here in the new millennium when he was four or five.  He did not go to nursery. His parents did not go to school at all and they could not read or write in Turkish. They do not speak good English.
His Maths level was level 5 and his Science and English levels were 4. At present, he has B/C in English and A in Maths. He enjoys PE but he finds Maths the most difficult and therefore attends Maths booster classes. In his free time he plays football. He was not bullied in school.
 He would not like to have bilingual education. He agrees with Student D about the advantages and disadvantages of being bilingual. He uses a CD and study pack given to him by Maths faculty to revise his Maths. He does not like reading. He recommends other students to keep trying hard.
He watches what his mother watches on Turkish TV. He has been to Turkey three times. He wants to study accountancy and work in the bank in the future. He also wishes to live and work in the UK.
Student F: She is 16 and in Year 11. She describes herself as Kurdish and Turkish. She was born in Turkey and came to the UK when she was 8 or 9. She went to nursery. Her mother does not speak good English but she can get by. Her father went to school but her mother has not; she learnt how to read and write in Turkish and English in London. Student F’s parents speak Kurdish and Turkish at home, so she speaks both as well.
Her Science level was 4 and her English and Maths levels were 3. At present she has C in Maths and B in English.
She enjoys Business Studies but she finds Maths the most challenging. In her free time she reads. She revises at home and at school.  She was bullied in school and although she followed the procedure and told someone, it took a long time for the issue to be resolved. She thinks it would be good to have bilingual education as she feels it would benefit her. She believes that the advantage of being able to speak another language is that when she goes to another country, she is able to relate to the people and the culture.
 She spends an hour revising per day. She uses the same CD and the study pack as Student D for Maths revision.  She also goes to the library on Saturdays and Sundays to study. She likes reading horror books and biographies.  
She recommends other students to keep track of their school work, to be organized and to work hard.  She likes to watch documentaries and reality shows on Turkish TV. She’s been to Turkey only once but her grandma came to visit her in the UK. She would like to work in the Media and while she hopes to travel in the future, she wishes to work and reside in the UK.
 Parent phone- interview
Student B’s mother agreed to be interviewed by phone. She told me that they lived in Maras (South-eastern Turkey) but they had to immigrate to the UK because of political problems. They have lived in the UK for fourteen years. She was 17 and her husband was 20 years old when they got married and she became pregnant with her son when she was 19.
 When she first arrived, she experienced problems with the language but her relatives that already resided in the UK helped her a lot with the hospital appointments during her pregnancy. They also helped her when her son suffered from a long illness (the reason why Student B attended nursery later than the other children). She asked her neighbours and relatives advice about the good nurseries and schools in the area and they recommended her the nursery that her son went to. Her son loved his nursery; he learnt English very quickly there. However, she always felt insecure when helping with her son’s education. Therefore, she started to send him to private tuitions from Year 4 onwards. He was tutored in both Maths and English.
She attends college 3 days a week and works in a supermarket the other 3 days a week. At home all decisions are made together with the children so the family shares a strong and honest relationship. She and her husband would like their children to have a very good education and they do whatever it takes to provide them with this opportunity. They have also started to save in advance for their university education. Although many Turkish youngsters are involved in gangs around the area, her son has very good role models who go to university in their close family, therefore they never show interest in following badly behaved children. She is very happy that her son’s school employed Ms. E as a Turkish speaking parents-school liaison officer. Since Ms. E there, she is no longer afraid of going to the school and asking any questions she has.

She told me that one particular worry was that during parents’ evenings the teachers always told her that her son was doing great and he was going to achieve very high levels. However, when she learnt that her son was not in the top sets of the subjects, she was quite disappointed. She did not understand the reason behind this and told me that the school did not explain to her clearly what her son needed to do to move up into the top set.

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