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Exploring young Bangladeshi students' sense of belonging to school : a phenomenological study

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posted on 01.03.2017, 01:01 by Habib, Md. Ahsan
The present research set out to explore Bangladeshi primary students’ sense of belonging to school from their lived experiences. Using phenomenology as the research methodology, psychological concepts and a postcolonial discursive framework; students’ sense of school belongingness phenomena via a Bangladeshi cultural, historical and sociopolitical perspectives were examined. The study used both individual and focus group interviews as data collection tools to generate data from grade five primary school students (11-12 years’ old) from government primary schools situated in both rural and urban settings in Bangladesh. A total of 13 focus group interviews involving 79 regular students and nine additional individual interviews were conducted with irregular/non-attending students in 13 research schools. The findings of the study showed that students’ conceptualisation of sense of belonging was multiple and interrelated, and comprised of: (1) sense of belonging as being loved and cared for by teachers and peers, (2) sense of belonging as being supported by teachers for academic progress, and (3) sense of belonging as a feeling of accomplishment in academic success. Results further indicated three key barriers to students’ sense of belonging: teacher-related issues (e.g. corporal punishment), peer-related issues (e.g. bullying), and school resources including both physical and non-physical facilities such as co-curricular activities. The findings suggest that along with teachers and peers being strong influences on students’ sense of belonging, school resources are considered by students to either enrich their learning experiences or reduce their inclination to come to school. Postcolonial analysis supported the framing of existing Bangladeshi pedagogical practices as rigid, punitive and examination based, with rote memorisation and teacher-centred instruction as the aspects that troubled students’ sense of belonging most. From a postcolonial perspective, current practices revealed through this research often undermined students’ identity as being capable of co-constructing knowledge with their teachers. These understandings have implications for pedagogical and schooling practices in Bangladesh: these practices need to be decolonised in order to free children’s cognitive capacity to engage in critical thinking, and have ownership of their learning and initiatives to contribute to knowledge.


Campus location


Principal supervisor

Joanne Deppeler

Additional supervisor 1

Joseph Agbenyega

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre



Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type



Faculty of Education