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Bridging the Boundaries?: A study of mainstream mathematics, academic support and "disadvantaged learners" in an independent, secondary school in the Western Cape

Swanson, D. M.



A small-scale study was conducted within a historic and traditional, independent, all-boys secondary school in the Western Cape, the focus of which is the exploration of subject positions potentially available to the black male students of the "Black Scholarship Programme" in their study of school mathematics. This includes an examination of the particular nature of the schooling ethos and culture, and its role in creating and maintaining boundaries, producing and reproducing forms of power and control which assist in holding these black students to positions of subordination. It is proposed that the hierarchical and differentiating rituals and codes within the school context provide the means by which the Black Scholarship students are constructed as disadvantaged. Particular emphasis is placed on the discourse of mathematics within the Academic Support Programme of the school, designed to assist these black students in "bridging the gap" in their academic knowledge and experience; and in the differentiated nature of the mathematics discourse available to the Black Scholarship students within the Mainstream Programme. There is an examination of the power relations between these two discourses and other discourses within the social domain which shape the way in which these students are positioned in terms of deficit and disadvantage. Four students of the Black Scholarship Programme were interviewed in their initial year at the secondary school (Standard Six) as were the two teachers of the Academic Support Programme. The discussions were taped and transcribed and formed the basis of the analysis. Field notes were taken of discussions with academic staff within the Mathematics Department and school documentation reflecting school policies and discussions within the school were used, where relevant, in relation to the Black Scholarship students and mathematics. The methodological framework was drawn, in the main, from the work of Basil Bernstein and Paul Dowling in focusing on context, discourse and subjectivity. The study was used to interrogate previous research work in the area of Social Inequality and Mathematics Education. It also raised questions about taken-for-granted assumptions, both within the school as well as the wider community, regarding race, social class, language and cultural difference. The study attempts to investigate and bring into focus how "difference" is created and maintained, produced and reproduced within the context of the school, providing boundaries rather than bridges, and how this difference is recontextualised into disadvantage in relation to the Black Scholarship students and mathematics.

Thesis Type Dissertation
Deposit Date Dec 10, 2022
Public URL
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Award Date Dec 11, 1998