In general, low-achieving students in Singapore schools have been reported to perform well in literacy tests (PIRLS), compared to their counter-parts in other countries. However, for these students to achieve even a higher level of literacy skills in English, as promoted by the latest English Language Syllabus, classroom discourse patterns will need to change. The purpose of this study is to highlight the negative classroom discourse which contributes to the limited literacy experience in the lowest stream classroom. Using Bourdieu's framework of cultural capital and habitus, we examined six transcripts from the lowest stream in non-elite primary and secondary school classrooms to show that students, aged 11 and 15 years, respectively, in these classes were subject to a limited literacy experience. Our data sources come from two studies, one of which is part of a large scale study, which sought to study classroom practices in Singapore schools; whereas the second one was ethnographic in its methodology which used interview with teachers in its analysis. The preliminary findings indicate that teachers ascribed low English capital and habitus to low achieving students, and characterized them as a community of poor readers and writers. We will show how these transcripts can be transformed to encourage and motivate students towards higher expectations of their English competence. Teacher educators in pre- and in-service education could use these modified transcripts to highlight and transform the classroom discourse of low-achieving students, especially in terms of the identity teachers ascribe to students.
Rachel Lee, English Language Institute of Singapore, Singapore
Susan Gwee, English Language Institute of Singapore, Singapore
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