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Norwaliza Abdul Wahab

Ramlee Mustapha

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Bangi, Selangor
Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris, Tanjong Malim, Perak

High dropouts among Orang Asli students have
become an issue as it was reported nearly 34%
of those who had completed their primary
schooling did not pursue their studies at the
secondary level.

This might be because they lack interests in
academic subjects at schools. The Orang Asli
was also identified as one of the most vulnerable
groups in Malaysia, with a disproportionately
high incidence of poverty and hardcore poverty.
While some believe that the macro-context is the
most important factor of Orang Asli students
education, other researchers point to teachers
perspectives about Orang Asli students as
significant to students success and becoming an
important topic of study (Tatto, 1996).

A substantial literature supports shows that
teachers beliefs and attitudes strongly influence
their perception and behaviors in the classroom
(Byrnes, Kiger, & Manning, 1997; Cross, 1993; Kagan,
1992; Lewis, 1990; Villegas, 1992).
Research suggests that teachers perspectives on
students significantly build their expectations
about student learning, their treatment of
students, and what the students ultimately learn
(Pajares, 1993; Pang & Sablan, 1998; Villegas & Lucas,

Teachers with an affirming perspective are more likely
to believe that students from non dominant groups
are capable learners, even when those children enrol
schools with ways of thinking and behaving that
deviate from the dominant cultures norms (Delpit,
On the other hand, teachers with limiting
perspectives are more likely to make negative views
about students potential. Dubious about those
students ability to achieve, teachers are more likely to
hold low academic expectations for them and
ultimately to treat them in ways likely to stop their
learning (Nieto, 2000; Payne, 1994).

Educational researchers agree that teachers play a
significant role in Orang Asli students academic
achievement (Tang, 1997). However, little is known
about how teachers define and interpret their
teaching experiences.

This qualitative case study identified two Orang Asli
teachers perspectives regarding the factors that
potentially enhance the success of Orang Asli students
in secondary schools.

Data were collected using three instruments:
individual semi-structured interviews protocol,
document analysis and classroom observations

This qualitative research uses an interpretive case
study approach, which is an appropriate methodology
when a holistic, in-depth investigation is needed.

The findings show that the factors that influence the
Orang Asli students success in secondary schools from the
perspectives of the OA teachers include:

(a) their schooling experiences and commitment to the
indigenous culture,
(b) their efforts to succeed despite the Orang Asli students
underachievement, discrimination and marginalization
within school and society,
(c) their beliefs about the importance of indigenous
language to academic success,
(d) their expectations of the Orang Asli students
(e) their relationship with Orang Asli students and
Throughout the interviews the two Orang Asli teachers, referred to their
personal and schooling experiences as a main factor in their
perspectives about teaching Orang Asli students. Those experiences
were crucial factors that differentiate them from other teachers.

Both experienced discrimination and rejection in school. They also
realized that many other Orang Asli children suffered the same ordeal.
When they became more critically aware of the marginalization of their
culture in the school, they became very conscious of the differences in
treatment they got between other students and Orang Asli students and
felt they have to do something about it.

They also developed a consciousness about their culture and that
motivated them to become a teacher who were pledge to make a
difference in Orang Asli students lives.
Much research suggests that sound home-school relationships
are important to improving educational outcomes for all students
(Hill & Taylor, 2004) particularly for Indigenous students (Hunter & Schwab,

The 2 Indigenous teachers blamed racism and pointed out
inequalities within school and society. They believed that Orang
Asli students were marginalized and discriminate in many
aspects of education and life.

One of the factors that thwart of the Orang Asli students success
was that they did not have adult Orang Asli as a role models in the
school. The lack of role models was viewed by Orang Asli teachers
as one aspect of another big problem.

They hoped on the need for more Orang Asli teachers in schools
especially if the school has many enrolment from the Indigenous
The lost of indigenous language was felt by both teachers due to their
schooling in mainstream school and in their teacher training college.
Although both of Semai heritage, they experienced significant
challenges with regard to their native language.

Speaking Semai in her school was seen as not proper by teachers and
students and sometimes other students laugh at the way they [indigenous
students] speak.

The fear of being different kept the Orang Asli students from
identifying themselves ethnically which in turn intensified the stigma at

Their opinion that language was a key to understanding the culture of
students, their community, and, more important, their ways of
knowing or learning (Bollin & Finkel, 1995; Cochran-Smith, 1995;
Mercado, 2001). That is very important for teachers to understand
because indigenous students are more likely to feel at home when they
believe their cultures are being valued and accepted at school.

In order to be an effective teacher it is necessary to really see, to really know the
students we must knowing what knowledge they bring to the classroom and how
their cultural practices, values and beliefs shape them as learners and, as producers
of knowledge (Castagn teach (Delpit, 1995, p. 183).

Many teachers however, struggle to really know Indigenous students. In this study,
the two Orang Asli teachers have had high expectations for their Orang Asli
students. They believed the power of education can make vast difference in the
lives of indigenous students.

Their mission was to build on indigenous students strengths and to create a
sense of will power that they actually can perform as good or better than the other
students. They did not agree with those of her colleagues who blamed Orang Asli
students and parents for their lack of interest in education.

There is a fine line between wanting to adjust the syllabus to meet the students
capability and actually challenging the students. Teachers expectations for
indigenous students may affect the way they teach indigenous students.
Throughout the interview and observations, both OA teachers had
shown some kinds of special relationships with their indigenous
students through the usage of their own language. They fondly referred
indigenous people as our, we and us.

The Orang Asli teachers worked hard continuously inside and outside
the classroom as they built their relationship with Orang Asli students in
the school.

Although both teachers were different in numerous aspects of teaching
and pedagogy, they shared one common goal - commitment, values,
expectations for their students, and relationship with families and

The indigenous parents were more at ease talking to them. When they
have some issues to be brought up, they preferred them to be present
at the meeting.
The study found that those teachers experiences and perspectives
reflected the importance of promoting the strength and value of
cultural diversity. Their teaching practices and pedagogical beliefs
came about as a result of their schooling experience in Malay
dominant schools in which they experienced marginalization and

Although there is no single way of being indigenous, teachers who
have grown up and completed their schooling as indigenous learners
have a wealth of experience and knowledge about the pedagogies
that are likely to be successful for indigenous students.

They understand indigenous worldviews and have first-hand
experience of the challenges facing indigenous students in the
schooling systems. Thus, this research shows that indigenous
teachers can potentially play significant roles as educators and as
mentors to indigenous students.