GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

 
AUTHOR NAME
 
Family Name:
Zuzovsky
 
First Name:
Ruth
 
ABSTRACT OF PAPER
 
Title of Paper:
SOCIOECONOMIC VERSUS LINGUISTIC FACTORS AFFECTING LOW ATTAINMENT IN READING LITERACY IN ARABIC-SPEAKING COUNTRIES: LESSONS THAT CAN BE LEARNED FROM USING DATA OBTAINED FROM LARGE-SCALE EDUCATIONAL STUDIES
 
Paper Proposal Text :
SOCIOECONOMIC VERSUS LINGUISTIC FACTORS AFFECTING LOW ATTAINMENT IN READING LITERACY IN ARABIC-SPEAKING COUNTRIES: LESSONS THAT CAN BE LEARNED FROM USING DATA OBTAINED FROM LARGE-SCALE EDUCATIONAL STUDIES











Ruth Zuzovsky
Science and Technology Center
School of Education
Tel Aviv University
Ramat Aviv 69978
Israel
and
The Kibbutzim College of Education, Technology and the Arts
149 Namir Road
Tel Aviv 62507
Israel
Email: ruthz@post.tau.ac.il
Tel.: +972 3 6407790
Fax: +972 3 6407752


SOCIOECONOMIC VERSUS LINGUISTIC FACTORS AFFECTING LOW ATTAINMENT IN READING LITERACY IN ARABIC-SPEAKING COUNTRIES: LESSONS THAT CAN BE LEARNED FROM USING DATA OBTAINED FROM LARGE-SCALE EDUCATIONAL STUDIES

Proposal
This paper intends to demonstrate the use of data obtained from large-scale international comparative studies of educational achievement for shaping policies in the countries participating in these studies.
The examples chosen focus on diagnosing factors that affect and explain the significant achievement gap in reading literacy between Hebrew- and Arabic-speaking students in Israel in favor of Hebrew-speaking students, and suggest promising practices for closing this gap. The examples are also relevant for other Arabic-speaking countries that participated in PIRLS-2006 (Qatar, Kuwait and Morocco), that are looking for factors that might explain their poor achievements in reading literacy as established in the results of the study.
The low attainment of Arabic-speaking students was also reflected in the findings of PIRLS 2006 in Israel, where Hebrew-speaking students outperformed Arabic-speaking students, each tested in their own language, by more than one standard deviation of the national score distribution. This gap was the trigger for a study, which examined two alternative explanations usually given for the low levels of reading literacy of Arabic-speaking students (Zuzovsky, 2008). One associates reading literacy, like other domains of school achievement, with socioeconomic factors (Benabou, 1996; Bradley & Corwyn, 2002; Chiu & McBride-Chang, 2006; Ogle et al., 2003; Walker, Greenwood, Hart, & Carta, 1994; Willms, 1999, 2003, 2006), and the other puts the blame specifically on the diglossia factor, i.e., two significantly different linguistic codes: written and spoken, typical of the Arabic language and not occurring, for instance, in Hebrew (Abu-Rabia, 2000; Ayari, 1996; Ferguson, 1959; Maamouri, 1998; Saiegh-Haddad, 2003, 2007). When they enter school, Arabic-speaking students study written literary Arabic which is totally unlike the spoken Arabic they were used to, and as a consequence they encounter difficulties similar to those typical of learning a second language (Ayari, 1996).
Data obtained in Israel for PIRLS-2006 and TIMSS-2003 on achievements in reading literacy (likely to be affected by diglossia), and data on achievements in science and mathematics (less likely to be affected by diglossia), as well as data on a large number of socioeconomic factors that play a role in students' opportunities to learn, enabled us to control for socioeconomic factors and examine the effect of their elimination on achievement (Zuzovsky, 2010a).
Contrary to expectations, it was found that after controlling for socioeconomic factors, the achievement gap in reading literacy between Hebrew-speaking and Arabic-speaking students in favor of Hebrew-speaking students, although it had decreased, still remained large, while in mathematics and science, the previously existing gap had almost completely disappeared, and was even reversed. These findings provided empirical support for the explanation that linguistic factors such as diglossia are the main reasons for the low reading achievements of Arabic-speaking students in Israel and may have implications for low achievements in other Arabic-speaking countries as well.
Following this line of thinking, a second study was carried out to identify instructional variables or learning activities that specifically work toward overcoming the problem associated with Arabic diglossia (Zuzovsky, 2010b). The variables that were found to interact significantly or almost significantly with the schools’ ethnic affiliation and language, and which showed improved achievements by students in Arabic-speaking schools over students in Hebrew-speaking schools, provide some clues regarding effective interventions and modes of instruction to overcome the problem associated with Arabic diglossia.
Awareness of the role played by linguistic factors in determining student achievements in many school subjects, especially in reading literacy, and delineating practices that might overcome problems associated with diglossia, led policymakers in Israel to directly target solving problems associated with the diglossic situation of the Arabic language rather than only compensating for socioeconomic factors as occurred in several unsuccessful affirmative five-year plans that aimed to elevate achievements in the Arab sector (Abu-Asba, 2006; Golan-Agnon, 2005; Dichter & Asad, 2003).
Listening to the sounds of the written language through naturalistic exposure and through more mediated experiences, as early as possible, at home and in kindergarten, and later fostering active engagement in reading and gradually in more challenging tasks in class, seems to constitute a suitable mixture of instructional activities when addressing diglossia in Arabic-speaking classes. These approaches are now being adopted by policy-makers in Israel (Levin, Saigh-Haddad, Hende, & Ziv, 2008).
Another initiative launched only recently (2011) is a project called "literacy buds," for kindergarten and elementary school pupils in the Arabic sector. This initiative suggests intervention that exposes pupils, as early as possible, to standard written Arabic and turns the kindergarten class and the school into a supportive literacy-rich environment.
The studies carried out in Israel, which controlled for the effect of socioeconomic factors on achievement gaps between Arabic- and Hebrew-speaking pupils, can be replicated. We can compare the effect of controlling for these factors on achievement gaps between Hebrew-speakers in Israel and Arabic-speakers in other Arabic-speaking countries, such as Kuwait (which participated in PIRLS-2006 and TIMSS-2007). This paper ends with such a comparison, which demonstrates the transferability of the findings of the studies carried out in Israel and suggests their applicability for determining policies and interventions that aim directly at the problem of diglossia in other Arabic-speaking countries.

References
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------. The Impact of Socioeconomic Versus Linguistic Factors on Achievement Gaps Between Hebrew-Speaking and Arabic-Speaking Students in Israel in Reading Literacy and in Mathematics and Science Achievement. Studies in Educational Evaluation 36 (2010a): 153-161.
------. Instructional Variables Involved in Problems Associated with Diglossia in Arabic Speaking Schools in Israel: PIRLS 2006 Findings. Journal for Educational Research Online 2, no. 1 (2010b).
 
 
 

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