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Title: Boys and early literacy learning in three Maltese state schools
Authors: Bonello, Charmaine
Keywords: Literacy -- Study and teaching (Early childhood) -- Malta
Underachievers -- Education -- Malta
Boys -- Education -- Malta
Early childhood education -- Malta
Language experience approach in education -- Malta
Children's rights -- Malta
Issue Date: 2018
Publisher: University of Sheffield
Citation: Bonello, C. (2018). Boys and early literacy learning in three Maltese state schools (Doctoral thesis).
Abstract: Internationally, there is a gender-related performance gap in literacy attainment, and in the Maltese islands, recently published international literacy test results caused rising concern about the academic achievement of boys. Within the global context of concern about ‘boys’ underachievement’, this thesis reports a study which investigated the lived literacy experiences of young boys in three co-educational Maltese state schools. The purpose of this enquiry was not to solve the widely discussed phenomenon of ‘boys’ underachievement’ but rather to create new understandings about boys and early literacy learning in the first years of compulsory schooling in Maltese state schools. Consequently, this study is framed within the exploration of the concepts of ‘boys’ underachievement’, ‘early literacy learning’, and ‘school readiness’ in its local context. The theoretical foundations of this research were underpinned by several theoretical perspectives including posthumanist, emancipatory, socio-cultural, experiential education and childhood theories, attuned to my epistemological stance of pragmatism in mixed methods phenomenological research. Young boys’ voices, several stakeholders’ perspectives and the lived experience of three groups of five- to six-year-old boys during schooled reading and writing practices were investigated through an online questionnaire, classroom observations, individual interviews, and focus groups. Findings suggest that the three main concepts explored were inclined to biased and constricted worldviews that resulted in the majority of the young boys experiencing undesirable reading and writing practices. Merged findings funneled down to questioning whether a ‘paradigm paralysis’ effect - the inability or rejection to embrace new ways of thinking - is restraining stakeholders and policymakers from taking action, rethinking and repositioning existing conceptualisations concerning ‘underachieving boys’, ‘early literacy learning’ and ‘school readiness’. Subsequently, this research study implies the risk of a ‘paradigm paralysis’ in the fields of gender, literacy, and early years education in the local context, and offers new conceptualisations towards an educational response. This study posits that policymakers, educators and all stakeholders involved in education should ensure that all children have access to quality early literacy learning through a more socially just education system: a solid foundation for all successful literate citizens.
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