The role of cultural capital in the achievement in TIMSS Grade 8 Science in respect of rural secondary schools (1995- 2003): a meta-analysis.
Nxumalo, Muziwandile Justice.
MetadataShow full item record
The conditions under which Science learners in poor rural socio-economic contexts learn Science is not necessary the same as their counterparts in well-resourced urban areas. At the centre of this, is the growing concern that their performance in the gateway subjects is comparatively lower than their equals in metropolitan areas. From the foregoing a study was undertaken to explore the role that cultural capital plays in the difference in achievement in the TIMSS Grade 8 Science test amongst the rural secondary schools of Mthwalume Circuit, Kwazulu-Natal. This exploratory study was guided by the following two critical research questions: 1. What is the achievement in the TIMSS Grade 8 Science test amongst rural secondary schools? 2. How do researchers and policy makers explain the relationship between learners’ achievements in the TIMSS Grade 8 Science test and their socio-cultural-economic background? The study combined both qualitative and quantitative methods to collect data. The study employed semi-structured interviews, a probe and TIMSS 1995, 1999 and 2003 secondary sources to generate qualitative data of the study. Statistical analysis of secondary documents from TIMSS studies as presented by the Human Science Research Council (HSRC) were used to generate quantitative data of the study. Pierre Bourdieu’s (1977) theory of cultural reproduction and social reproduction framed the theoretical lens adopted, while meta-analysis strengthened the study in responding to critical questions. The findings from the study revealed that the challenges faced by Science learners in poor, rural socio-economic contexts as compared to their counterparts in well-resourced urban schools are not only attributed to resources, but to other deep seated factors. The initial critical research question one yielded insufficient findings owing to inaccessibility of the quantitative data due to confidentiality and other ethical related issues. However, the revised critical one research question: how did South African Grade 8 learners perform in the TIMSS Science tests from 1995-2003 revealed that out of the 41 countries that participated in TIMSS 1995, South Africa came last. This was the case for TIMSS 1999 and 2003, in which 38 and 50 countries participated respectively. Throughout 1995 to 2003 South Africa’s Grade 8 learners’ performance fell below the international mean score of 474 points, with scores of 244, 243 and 244. When the TIMSS results were analysed according to the nine provinces, it was significant to note amongst the top performing provinces were the historically advantaged provinces such as the Western Cape and Gauteng, whilst the poorer provinces like KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape and Limpopo, performed the lowest. Findings from critical research question two indicated that there is a relationship between performances of Science learners and their socio-economic-cultural factors. The study, through the themes like home environment, language of instruction, among others, as they were used to generate data all confirmed to affect learner performance. Data also revealed that the poorly resourced schools are attended by learners from poor rural homes and townships which themselves (poor rural homes) lack the social or cultural capital necessary to access the present curriculum offered at schools. From the foregoing the study strongly indicates that it is not only that the learners from poor socio-economic backgrounds do not have social or cultural capital, the fact is, as the study argues, their social or cultural capital does not match or is not required by the present curriculum of the school system. Both inequality and poverty, according the study explain properly the difference in learner achievements. Heterogeneity, which is the difference of income between the richest and the poorest, has according to findings, benefited only the minority rich both in economic and educational achievements. Challenges in poor environments are not only faced by learners alone, but by teachers themselves. It was also revealed that the school system is there to function well and provide quality learning equally across all levels of the society. According to its underlying policy, it manifests itself as a one-size-fits-all. But from the perspective of the study there is a dichotomy between what the school system advocates and what it normally does.