Causes of truancy from mainstream education for a group of Pasifika students enrolled in alternative education
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Research on the causes of truancy from mainstream education suggest that a range of factors such as poverty, ethnicity, the quality of relationship between students and teachers, and the nature of the classroom environment impact on students’ attendance in schools. The majority of the studies on truancy have been carried out with students in alternative education in the U.S.A and Australia. In New Zealand, research has focused on the truancy of Maori students. This study investigates the causes of truancy for Pasifika students in alternative education in New Zealand. Using a qualitative approach, data were collected using questionnaires and three focus group interviews. The findings from this study suggest that a number of factors affected students’ motivation to study. The behaviour of teachers and the school environment were found to affect the Pasifika students’ approach to learning. Some students had negative views of their own ability and lacked perseverance. Other students believed that a lack of parental or family support impacted negatively on their attendance. Consistent with the findings in other studies on truancy, this study found that a range of influences such as a lack of support from community leaders, students’ perceptions of their performance, the nature of the classroom environment, family structure, lifestyle factors and cultural and church activities contributed to Pasifika students’ truanting behaviour. This study suggests that schools that employ teachers who understand and empathize with the cultural aspects of Pasifika students and who can empathize with their situation will be most effective in preventing truancy among these students. Similarly, schools have dedicated programmes that accommodate the academic requirements of Pasifika students foster a more positive learning environment. Finally, schools should look to put in place initiatives to enable Pasifika parents to become effective partners in their children’s education.