Mana tu : senior Maori students discuss success at secondary school : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Educational Administration at Massey University
This thesis examined the of senior Maori students who had varying academic achievements and yet, in comparison with Pakeha students in the same school and from similar socio-economic backgrounds, had fewer school qualifications. The study was prompted by three theories about school achievement: Pierre's Bourdieu's account (1974) of acculturation, Raymond Boudon's account (1982) of rational decision-making, or game playing, and Basil Bernstein's account (1971) of language, its acquisition and implications for success in school. The challenge of the thesis was to identify themes which dominated students' perceptions of achievement and to suggest ways in which those perceptions were produced and reproduced. The methodology of the thesis aimed to encourage students to talk freely, to produce ideas about achievement and then reconsider them in different ways. To support the students' 'ethnography' the methodology of the thesis also aimed to help the participants. The concept of empowerment was suggested by Maori writers, by Paulo Freire (1972) and by the intention of critical ethnography itself. The thesis concluded that the defining attitude of the sub-culture was an uncertainty of achieving the success the students wanted. This uncertainty was identified in the students' themes of school and in their language use, and the students themselves reproduced to it in their communication network. The participants' successes could be explained as partial acculturation; family-class and school experiences had established sub-cultural expectations of failure which seemed to prevent full acculturation. In a sub-cultural counterhegemony students challenged their cultural constraints but their strategies could not overcome the effects of the hegemony of capitalism. In this way the thesis gives an account of the interaction of culture, agency and language use in the production and reproduction of the attitudes and values of the students.