Poverty, education and the curriculum

Essay by richardvanraay August 2008

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A Red Ribbon In high school, we had a quiet and unassuming classmate called Chris. He was however, always in trouble with the Physical Education teacher who almost every lesson chastised him loudly in front of the class for not being in uniform. The teacher was mad, he was angry. Chris' response was always, and I remember it clearly to this day, "Mum's going to sew a red ribbon around the collar sir". The problem was that Chris wore an old faded green T-shirt instead of the regulation dark green with a red collar. This scene literally went on for years. Why did the teacher pick on him? Why didn't we fellow students put together a collection to buy Chris a shirt? Why didn't the teacher pick up a shirt from the lost property to give to Chris? I believe it is because we, as middle class citizens, just didn't understand that there is another economic class out there containing families that honestly can't afford to buy books or uniforms.

It is my understanding that many teachers in Australia have a poor understanding of the issues affecting students from lower income families. Some teachers even get mad at their students for being poor (Dent & Hatton, 1996). It is my belief that only with empathy and an intelligently implemented integrated curriculum do we have any hope of reaching out to these students, motivating them to stay at school therefore gaining an education and allowing them to break out of the poverty cycle.

The problem The problem statement is "A large proportion of teachers in Australia are from upper-middle class families and may have a limited understanding of the effects poverty has on students and their education". We suffer similar problems to those in Canada, America and New Zealand where the...