Out-of-school children: life experiences of Mauritian learners.
Paul, Lindsay Jacques Laval.
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This study explores the early formal schooling experiences of out-of-school children (OOSC) who have completed their Certificate of Primary Education and who for multiple reasons do not transit to secondary education within the Mauritian education system. The qualitative insight into the nuanced life experiences of OOSC challenges the generally negative interpretation of ‘school dropouts’. Using a narrative inquiry approach, the study reflects the complexities of the experiences of the children in their homes, immediate community environments and in their school contexts. Through the interviews, observations, and related documents consulted, vivid comparative narrative accounts of their life experiences were constructed revealing the links between children’s life experiences and their dropping-out of school. The findings show that despite educational systems-wide policy rhetoric that professes the inclusion of all learners, the participants progressively disengaged with the schooling project. Formal schooling systemic processes continue to privilege middle-class values, and societal normative conceptions of families, homes with preferred behaviour and school conduct serving as push out factors. The in-home, in-school and personal interpretations of their selfhood served as pull-in forces that were more powerful than the policy rhetoric of inclusion. A naïve hope of success is counteracted by personal agentic belief in their resilience. Present policy efforts are considered to inadvertently promote continuity of past inequalities of a bifurcated schooling system rather than address equitable change. Alternatively, this thesis argues that a more sensitive “pedagogy of equity” (founded on principles of a pedagogy of critical hope) should be promoted to allow nuanced regionally specific strategies to address the identifiable cultural, economic and social contexts of the children and their communities.