29 Jun 2019



‘Underachievement’ is now a widely used term in education policy and practice. It is used routinely to refer to nations, home nations and regions, to types and sectors of schooling, to physiological, ethnic and social groups, and to individuals. It has been used to mean simply low achievement, also lower achievement relative to another of these groups, and also lower achievement than would be expected by an observer. The paper presents examples of each. These multiple uses lead to considerable confusion which, coupled with common errors in assessing the proportionate difference between groups, mean that significant public money has been spent attempting to overcome problems that may not, indeed, exist. Where underachievement is understood to mean a lower level of achievement by an individual (or group) than would be expected using a model based on the best available predictors, then there is nothing we can know about underachieving individuals (or groups) that they have in common. This article is written to respond to the argument made by Donald Gillie from University of Strathclyde in his article titled “Educational potential, underachievement, and cultural pluralism”.
In basic terms, underachievement is seen as a discrepancy between a student's academic potential and how he or she is actually performing in school. This potential is often revealed through performance on intelligence and achievement tests, as well as observational data. In his article David Gillie argues that underachievement occurs mainly because of the cultural influence that deter students to realize their true potentials.  Donald Gillie also stress that students are from minority background are the main group that suffers from this problem. However on the basis of his argument, Donald Gillie describes that the difference between achievement and attainment that according to him are two different situations.
The writer also trying to relate Foucalt Critique in order to prove his basis. The technique which is used for archeology method is to examine and unpick discourse at a particular period and in a particular field of humanity, in such a way to uncover its presuppositions. The technique is logical however need a deeper understanding to prove the hypotheses.
The foucaldin method would involve subjecting the discourse of underachievement to an analysis which both probed the assumptions inherent in the ‘system of thought’  upon which it rests, and seek to trace its emergence in terms of the practice which has given it birth. The technique is logical to prove that the underachievement is indeed problematized.
In the later part of the article, the writer also defines the exact meaning of ‘potential’. According to him potential is the key tenet in educational provisions. His argument that how to measure the exact potential that can be achieved by someone? This is also a valid argument because to describe someone’s potential is seem impossible.
In his argument of ‘underachievement’ the writer also relate another term into his basis of argument which is ‘under attainment’. What the underachievement concept seeks to suggest, therefore is that such differential attainment can, in some way, in certain circumstances and for certain students, be seen as out of line with a ‘true’ level ability or performance, that the level attained does not meet the expectation.
In the last part of the article, the writer trying to relate the main point of the article which is ‘underachievement’ cause by race relation and cultural difference. This argument might be valid if the situation is assessed in western countries but not in Asian country for example Malaysia. The minority here for example does not suffers the underachievement problem entirely. However this is only my hypotheses.

Race Relation and Cultural Pluralism
Trying to relate underachievement problem with race relation or cultural difference for me is not a very strong hypotheses. To prove this the Foucalt Technique can be used to measure the problem areas and relate it to the political situation. As a clear example given in the last paragraph, underachievement can also be trace back to incompetence government policy such as the affirmative action used by Malaysian government.
Thus relating the main issue which is underachievement   to race relation or cultural difference is controversial for me. The hypotheses not only very weak supported but also can be disapproved by studying the problem in the wider aspects or areas.
Minority is not the only group that have faced, been immersed in, and judged by, educational systems at best ignorant of, and worst inimical to, their way of life, their values, and their perspectives, history have shown that even a majority race in some country also suffers from the problematic underachievement issues.

Underachievers also expressed more concerns regarding the lack of attention to multicultural education in their classes, which contributed to their lack of interest in school.
Using teachers to define underachievement presents some problems if teachers lack objectivity or training in gifted education and multicultural education. Teachers tend to have lower expectations for minority and low income students than for other students (Hale-Benson, 1986). Consequently, minority students may not be identified as either gifted or underachieving. Low teacher expectations for minority students may relate to a lack of teacher training in both multicultural and gifted education. Such unprepared teachers are less likely to refer minority students for gifted education services or to complete checklists favorably. When students do not have access to appropriate education, they have difficulty reaching their potential. The result may be underachievement due to disinterest, frustration, and lack of challenge.
Some researchers have noted how minority students' learning styles may contribute to underachievement. Specifically, research indicates that Black students tend to be field-dependent, visual, and concrete learners (Hale-Benson, 1986), whereas schools teach more often in verbal, abstract, and decontextualized ways (Ford, 2000)  Thus, mismatch between learning styles and teaching styles can result in confusion, frustration, and underachievement for gifted minority students.
Excessive use of competition can also hinder students' achievement, damaging academic motivation and educational engagement. Given the more social and less competitive nature of minority students (e.g., Hale-Benson, 1986), competition can heighten students' anxieties, lower their achievement motivation, and lower their academic and social self-concepts.


“The Changing Status of the Teaching Profession”


Primary school teachers can only look back in amazement at the changes of the past 30 years. In the 60s and 70s, the prevailing educational philosophy entailed a child-centred curriculum, where the boundaries of academic subjects and timetables could be blurred by project work and the integrated day. Much store was set by children's learning through 'doing', and enjoyment was considered an important motivator. Tests for selective schools (the 11 plus) were widely rejected as unreliable and unfair and the detail of the curriculum was decided locally, by local education authorities, schools and individual teachers; education was 'a national service, locally administered' and teachers were trusted to ensure children learnt the right things at the right time. Today, the survivors from that era are teaching in schools where every hour is tightly controlled via a detailed curriculum based on traditional school subjects and driven by testing and school league tables.

However, if some teachers look back on a golden age of professional autonomy, many found the experience overwhelming, especially the recently qualified. New teachers often had insufficient practical knowledge and there was little in-service support; professional autonomy could feel lonely. The core of primary teachers' preparation was a 'scholarly' education. It was considered that if teachers were educated people, then the ability to do the job of teaching would follow. For many, however, this essential practical learning did not begin until they had been appointed as qualified teachers! The system was increasingly criticized, even by teachers.


Teaching is a very desirable profession, it is a job that will not only stand the test of time, but is also rewarding to help students achieve their potential. However, it is a career path that is also ever changing, and questions over technology and its influence on teaching is continually debated amongst teachers, academics and even parents.

New technology and learning methods have changed the method of teaching in schools, and the standards that teachers need to aspire to are also changing rapidly. Fifty years ago there was no need for computer classes, though now it is essential to teach children and students how to use such technology that will become an active tool not only in their everyday life, but also in their future work environment.

The way that children learn themselves has also changed. Teachers that have been in the profession for many years have commented that over the years children have become more difficult to manage and it has become harder to keep them focused on tasks in the classroom. There has been the argument that with constant interaction with technology and the influence of the TV shows, children are becoming more used to learning visually and in a way that is entertaining to them. Teachers therefore find they need to adapt the classic learning techniques and lesson plans they have been trained in, and bring new and more modern ways of learning to schools, in order to get the most out of the students.

Sometimes schools are restricted in creating lesson plans that involve the use of technology due to the lack of funding and equipment they receive, and many do say that the old ways of learning are actually the best suggesting that students are at school to learn and not have fun. This is a very old fashioned and backward view to have. Society is moving forward and so are schools and methods of education.

Very pessimistic people will claim teaching is something people do as a second choice of their ideal and preferred career and so they are not truly motivated in what they do. It is true that anyone with a university degree can take further qualifications to become a teacher, though they need to be passionate about teaching as well as adaptive to new situations with the changing methods and learning techniques being introduced to keep students interactive and interested in their studies. Teachers also follow a curriculum and really need to act as a guide to their students, which is something that is very unlikely to change over time.

The very purpose of education is to prepare students for their futures and as society is progressing at such a fast pace, technology is going to be a key element to the future of the students, in everyday life as well as in their prospective work environments. Teachers should try their best to keep their students engaged with adaptive lesson techniques, using technology where ever possible to keep them interested and keen on their studies.


Teachers in developing nations face numerous obstacles in the pursuit of their profession. Many developing nations do not have enough teachers to cope with the rising demand for education and the increased number of students in classrooms. Teachers in developing nations often do not possess college educations and many more have no pedagogical training. Even educated and reasonably well-trained teachers often have students in their classrooms who speak multiple languages or have disabilities, and these teachers are usually ill-equipped to instruct these students. Practical issues such as a lack of teaching resources, facilities, or transportation often plague teachers in developing countries and hinder their effectiveness. Even with the best of intentions and the most passionate commitment to teaching, teachers in developing countries have many barriers that significantly hinder them from providing quality education to their students.

The increased demand for education creates a parallel demand for teachers, and both demands present a tremendous number of challenges to world education. Many nations, particularly developed nations, will be faced with large numbers of teachers retiring in the next decade, and filling the spots left by these experienced and qualified teachers will be a challenge. Developing nations in general will not see mass amount of teachers retiring in the future; their teacher quantity concerns stem more from rising rates of school enrollment and a lack of teachers in general.

Developing countries are at a particular disadvantage when it comes to teacher quantity. Obviously, potential teachers need to be well-educated with sound backgrounds in pedagogy in order to qualify for teaching positions. However, in many developing nations, higher education levels among citizens remain low and there simply is not a large number of people who are educated enough to be teachers. The challenge in many developed nations is finding educated people who are interested in becoming teachers: for developing nations, the challenge is often educating interested people in order that they may become teachers.

Additionally, teachers in developing countries may possess secondary and tertiary education but not have any specific pedagogical training prior to beginning a teaching position; nor do they have continued teacher education support and training available during their teaching careers. Of particular importance is a broad pedagogical approach: Atlbach (1987) said, "Virtually no one advocates providing teachers with education in their subject specialties alone — all stress the importance of a distinctive training specifically for teaching"


To someone living in a less developed country, education is a requirement that sometimes seems mundane. A college student for example, might find that waking up at the crack of dawn for an 8:00 a.m. class is the hardest thing in the world. Then in class the teacher hands out a pop quiz. Day ruined and it’s only just begun. What we often don’t realize though, is that challenges like these that college students face are struggles that millions of people would give anything to deal with.

College is unheard of for many in less developing countries and achieving just a basic education is far more challenging than one might imagine:

·         17% of the total adult population is illiterate and over 775 million adults lack minimum literacy skills.

·         Around 67.4 million children aren’t even in school and twice that number is illiterate.

These numbers are a tragic result of countries being plagued by struggles such as poverty accompanied by high population growth, economic weakness, a lack of qualified teachers, and years of civil or territorial conflict among other problems.

Poverty is the main challenge for people getting an education in less developing countries. When half of the world’s population lives on $2.50 or less per day—that’s about half of what a large latte costs—sources of incomes for these impoverished people usually generate from farming, agriculture, and products sold in markets. Adults work hard for very little and struggle to provide for their growing families. They can’t afford to send their children to school, so they send them to work instead to earn extra income— in total, about 166 million children worldwide are forced to work. This means that they aren’t learning to read and write or do basic math—skills that enable a person to improve their own wellbeing and economic situation.

Economic weaknesses in developing countries stem from the poverty-stricken people. The economy suffers when the people don't earn enough money to spend or pay taxes to help the government’s funds. The funds that the governments have are primarily used for defense, and education often gets left out of the spending. As a result, the quality and efficiency of education suffers. Because of this, there is a lack of schools and qualified teachers—and the ability to pay them.

Teachers teach what they know. In less developing countries the schools educating future teachers are using insufficient curriculums creating an ongoing cycle of low-quality education. Students don’t learn how to properly read or do math, or the importance of hygiene and other basic skills. The literacy statistics for developing countries show that even after five years of primary education, close to 50% of students remain illiterate, and many drop out because there really is no reason for them to stay in school when they could be making an income.

These are just a couple of challenges that people face when getting an education in developing countries. Poverty and all that comes with it is not easy to overcome, but progress is being made. Compared to 40 years ago, the number of illiterate people worldwide has dropped. Unfortunately though, 98% of people in the developing world today struggle with illiteracy.


It is always controversial to try and define ‘great teaching’ because it is equally (if not more) controversial to attempt a definition of a ‘great education’. Unlike medics with their stark binary measures of life and death, we can only deal with proxies such as exam grades, but it’s important that we keep fighting for clarity around teacher quality if we want to be rewarded for being good at our jobs rather than simply taking on ever-longer lists of responsibilities.

Teacher quality is an unclear and often-contradictory area in research. While some studies suggest that good teachers can be spotted from characteristics of leadership, perseverance, sense of mission and prior academic achievement, the evidence is weak. Subject knowledge appears to make little difference in most areas, and there are few practices that every great teacher appears to share. Single-person observations have been shown to be relatively unreliable and even measures of ‘value-added’ in test scores appear to be unstable and poorly correlated with quality of teaching.

Nevertheless progress is being made in this area. The multi-million pound research project, Measures of Effective Teaching carried out by the deep-pocketed Gates Foundation showed that when student perceptions are mathematically combined with value-added indicators and two or more observation-ratings from trained observers then we begin to reach a reasonable level of reliability. With ever-improving understanding of how to judge teaching quality we now need to focus on how to help teachers improve.

            5.1       How to foster great teaching
Three ways of looking at this problem produce identical conclusions. The first is to consider the growing body of literature on general expertise that suggests that mastery is gained through thousands of hours of deliberate, focused practice combined with clear feedback, expert advice and time for reflection.

The second is to look at the literature around how effective practices identified in research become embedded in every frontline practice. In medicine, education, criminal justice and social care the conclusions are consistent: sustained cycles of implementation over long periods, constant interaction between professionals, rigorous and on-going evaluation, feedback, adaptation and refinement.

The final approach is to examine the growing research around the types of teacher professional development that result in improved outcomes for students. Once again this shows that these processes are sustained (at least 50 hours in repeated cycles), supported and challenged by experts, targeted at improved learning outcomes (rather than solely on changed teacher behaviours), collaborative and constantly evaluated.

These lessons are unambiguous, and yet the vast majority of teacher professional development remains superficial, isolated and one-off, and almost always lacking the sustained challenge and on-going evaluation and feedback that is called for. As a result, teachers rarely make significant improvements in skill and schools barely ever undertake the rigorous analysis that would enable them to notice.

Teachers got in to the job to help children learn and grow, so when they are forced to take on ever more managerial tasks to get any sense of growth there is an inevitable tension. Indeed, the main reasons cited for leaving the profession (ignoring issues around personal circumstance) are workload and stress along with wanting change and wanting new challenge.

6.0       CONCLUSION

We need to ensure that we can nurture and retain the talent in our profession while improving outcomes for pupils. It seems very clear that in order to do that we need to make significant changes to career progression and professional development:

Firstly reform professional development so that it is focused on helping pupils learn and so that it is collaborative, sustained, evaluated, and aimed and achieving teaching mastery.

Secondly we need to introduce new models of career progression where administrative and leadership roles are only one of three main strands, the other two being a succession of increasingly senior general teaching practitioner levels and a similar succession for specialist teachers (e.g. mathematics, geography, literacy, SEN, assessment, etc.).

There are some encouraging signs that the system is gradually moving in the right direction. Teaching Schools are a welcome addition to the education landscape by ensuring that clusters of schools can develop specialist leaders of education, focus on research and development, carry out collaborative professional development, identify untapped talent and potential and find more opportunities for progression within a large and more flexible alliance.

The sooner these strands come together the better. Other countries such as Korea, Canada, Singapore and Australia are much further along the path of CPD and career reform than we are, but our need for great teachers to reduce educational inequality is even greater given that the gaps in attainment between our most and least disadvantaged pupils are larger. It’s time for organizations across the educational spectrum, whether charities or unions, schools, subject associations or government agencies, to come together and move decisively toward a better and more effective teaching profession.



High school. Those two words can nostalgically bring out the best and the most tragic memories in anyone’s life. For me, I can say that those years were anything but ordinary, at times they were terrifying, at times they were incredible, at times they were chaotic, but they were always beautiful. All my five years at SMK St. Mary have been both life altering and amazingly valuable. I never expected to learn from or take so much away from attending high school, but I soon discovered that I was going to be proven absolutely wrong. 

For a long time procrastination was my vice and I certainly was guilty of it. Starting in the form one, I always did my homework at the last possible minute and never scheduled my time well or at all for that matter. Inevitably soon enough, my grades started slipping as proven by my first progress report. That was when I realized that I have to proactively do something, slacking was just not going to cut it. At St. mary, there were no teachers chastising you if you didn’t do your work, you were your own responsibility, the message was something like…welcome to the real world. After much trial and error, I decided the next year to use my planner that I each learner received every year. That helped me immensely, and I always hated the idea of planning until I learned that sometimes it’s completely necessary. From that small but significant epiphany, I learned one of the most difficult concepts: time management. I now use my planner every day and have never missed an assignment. This has really prepared me for college because there isn’t anyone who will make you do anything, you have to fight temptations and put your priorities in order, just as I did during my five years at St. Mary. I discovered that you ultimately are your own responsibility; you always have a choice whatever one you choose in the end is entirely up to you. You can sit on your bum and do nothing or you can do what you feel needs to be done, and I chose the latter.  

Throughout my hectic high school years I have also grown a lot personally and socially. When I first came to St. Mary in the form one I was a timorous, quiet and lost adolescent. I was really reserved at first, but being thrown into the craziness, and altogether weirdness, that is St. Mary it was impossible to be shy and just stand in the corner. Community was displayed consistently, and everyone knew each other, not like other schools that are so immense that people don’t even know everyone in their graduating class. I mean, I’m graduation a year early but I still know everyone in the graduating class. St. Mary is like a big family, facilitators are more like friends or big brothers and sisters. There isn’t a generation gap between anyone; we’re all just living in the chaotic peacefulness and enjoying every minute of it, well most of time anyways. And consequently I talk all the time, sometimes exceedingly so, and am not afraid to be who I am. I learned the beauty of individuality and owning who you are. This was tested when I attended my first college class when I was finish my secondary school. It was English 1A and every ounce of my being was telling me to revert back to my timid ways, but being from St. Mary I no longer could. Almost everyone in the class was twice my age, but it didn’t matter. I didn’t have any problems communicating or socializing with anyone. I even had group projects and even formed study groups, I wasn’t afraid to be my eccentric, goofy but sweet self. The greatest part was seeing the mouths of the college student’s drop when I said that I was only 18. One person in particular, although we were at least three decades apart in age, told me that I looked young but he thought I was at least 21 years old because of the maturity I possessed and how I carried myself. That was one of the best complements I have ever received.  

Moreover, one of the most important lessons that I have really garnered over my lovely high school experience was the ability to think and make decisions for myself. I used to be so wrapped up in what others wanted or expected, but in high school I was given the chance to be independent and make choices that were right for me. I was even able to choose the classes I wanted to take and create my own schedule. An example of a personal decision presented itself since the form three. I secretly wanted to graduate high school a year early but I was initially afraid that my plan wouldn’t fall through. When I entered high school I realized that I can do what I felt was best for me, I wanted to have a chance to experience life outside of a classroom before I devoted myself to college fulltime. And now I am indescribably ecstatic to say not only am I graduating a year early, but that I visualized a future for myself and I am in the process of fulfilling it. St. Mary presented me with unique opportunities that I pursued and I cannot imagine that I would have completed my goal at another high school.    

I went into a cultural shock when I attended St. Mary. For example, group projects were a foreign concept to me because at a normal school group projects are usually avoided due to lack of time and togetherness. But there are many chances to work together with your peers and one of the most challenging times presented itself in my honors physics class. We were assigned rollercoaster projects and our groups were designed without our input, much like how it is in the real world. In the beginning my group was a mess because we clashed on almost every decision. But as time went on we started to negotiate corroboratively and somehow incorporate everyone’s diverse ideas to create our roller coaster. I was able to participate as a leader as well as a team member and as a result my team finished the project first, received an A and I learned, from a valuable experience, how to respect and appreciate others and their opinions.  

Another thing I discovered about St. Mary is to survive in this school you need to know how to use technology, and use it well. There isn’t a class for computer competency; it’s a lesson you must learn for yourself without a specific structure or lesson plan. From experimenting with the plentiful accessible computers provided I was able to learn how to use different programs and engage in the community by asking my peers how to do things I didn’t know. Before I came to St. Mary I barely knew how to use a computer. I knew only the basics: how to type a paper on Word and print it out. Now I know and have competent computer skills such as using Microsoft PowerPoint, Excel, and Publisher. During my first year at St. Mary, I figured out how to create a brochure on AIDS for a health class using Microsoft Publisher and have successfully made about 5 since, I actually think that making brochures are really fun now. I also know how to make a PowerPoint presentation, which came in handy when I created one for my college History class; the presentation was equipped with video, images, and animations. Thanks to the skills I acquired at St. Mary, I got an “A” on that assignment and am a pro at creating PowerPoints and handling a computer.    

In conclusion, it is nearly impossible to sum up all the things that I learned from and while attending high school at St. Mary. I have acquired many academic, as well as social skills and improvements. High school generally imposes educational growth and I didn’t expect that I’d grow this much as a person. Of course I still have plenty to learn, but I feel like I have accomplished something kind of fantastic. I don’t know what other priceless lessons I will learn during the rest of my senior year, but what I know now is that the qualities I developed and the lessons I have learned thus far can best be described in this quote by Randolph Silliman Bourne: 

“no matter what we have come through, or how many perils we have safely passed, or how many imperfect and jagged - in some places perhaps irreparably - our life has been, we cannot in our heart of hearts imagine how it could have been different. As we look back on it, it slips in behind us in orderly array, and, with all its mistakes, acquires a sort of eternal fitness, and even, at times, of poetic glamour.”

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