Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Sociocultural Factors That Influence Migrant Students' Academic Performance in an English Language Teaching Program: Voices from Abroad

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Sociocultural Factors That Influence Migrant Students' Academic Performance in an English Language Teaching Program: Voices from Abroad

Article excerpt

Introduction

The demands imposed by an increasingly globalized world have caused continuous changes in social, political, economic and educational structures in many countries around the world. A need for mobility and intercultural exchange have come along with this globalization process. Consequently, a migration phenomenon from suburban areas to urban areas increases every day. In this regard, Benatuil and Laurito (2009) asserts that "In the last years, as a consequence of globalization, an increasing number of contact among people from different cultural contexts and nations has been observed" (p. 120). Migration of people to cosmopolitan cities in search of better life opportunities promotes the intensification of local happenings as a reciprocal response to global events (Giddens, 1990).

In addition, Vera, Gonzales, and Alejo (2011) point out that migrants' relationship with the new cultural reality involves not only the contact with new cultural values, customs and habits, but also the sociocultural recreation of the host culture dynamics. This interrelation involves new social participation alternatives, transformation of cultural identities, as well as communication codes that influence the interpretations of the world (Vera, Gonzales, & Alejo, 2011).

In Colombia, according to Romero (2010), internal migration has contributed to the dissemination of qualified people to the largest and most flourishing cities. Impoverished regions have contributed to increase the number of students who migrate as a strategy to cope with the fewer educational opportunities usually found in rural areas (Romero, 2010). In contrast, Romero (2010) asserts, "There is a belief in Colombia that the population does not migrate through the national territory (...)" (p. 1), which is contradictory when, according to Romero (2010), 35.9 % of Colombians live in areas that are culturally different to their birthplace.

In this sense, university migration appears to be a social phenomenon that consolidates as the best alternative for those who want to get better job opportunities or wish to get higher incomes for their families. However, we consider that university migration needs to be studied from a holistic perspective that allows the integration of sociocultural factors. In this regard, De la Torre (as cited in Vera, Gonzales, & Alejo, 2011) suggests that talking about moving is talking about going through changes, involving several social, cultural, economic and political factors, which permeates individuals' behaviors, feelings and thoughts, that is, the way they perceive themselves and the world around them.

Regarding Universidad Católica Luis Amigó, a great number of migrant students have found this institution to be the place where they can pursue their professional degree, while away from their birthplace. Every semester, students from different regions of the country are accepted to different undergraduate programs. Concerning the English Language Teaching Program, migrant students represent 41.09% (information provided by the planning department from Universidad Católica Luis Amigó) of the total student population. In addition, migrant students' population grows every semester since the program is a high qualitative opportunity for students to reach their life project of becoming language teachers.

Literature Review

Research Antecedents

In our research we consider a detailed revision of the literature necessary to have a wide view of what has been done regarding not only the academic performance as such, but also the factors that affect it, especially those related to the sociocultural scheme. Academic performance has been an issue of special interest in the educational field. A great amount of research has been done in regard to the factors that influence students' academic success and failure (Aguilar-Rivera, 2007; Caso-Niebla & Hernández, 2007; Correa, 2004; De Gallardo & De Faría, 2006; Ferreyra, 2007; Giovagnoli, 2002; Montero, Villalobos, & Valverde, 2007; Torres & Rodríguez, 2006). …

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