Off-campus UMass Amherst users: To download dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your UMass Amherst user name and password.

Non-UMass Amherst users, please click the view more button below to purchase a copy of this dissertation from Proquest.

(Some titles may also be available free of charge in our Open Access Dissertation Collection, so please check there first.)

Exploring educational needs arising from the influence of cultural difference in U.S. public schools: The focus of African refugee high school students in western Massachusetts

Ahmed Abdi Hassan, University of Massachusetts Amherst


African refugee children in the US public school system struggle with adjusting into the main stream school culture. Their troubling life experiences and cultural background are different from their U.S. peers as well as school personnel. Given the case of African refugee high school students' (ARHSS) cultural backgrounds, their diverse learning experiences are different from that of U.S. school system. These students struggle to understand what is taught and even the norms of the school system. The lack of adequate understanding of the cultural differences, learning needs of the ARHSS, and appropriate skills to work with these students will affect their learning and possible career paths. Therefore the purpose of this study is to investigate the implications of the cultural factors and how the ARHSS learning needs could be appropriately addressed. Using a phenomenological approach, ARHSS, individual professionals, and parents were investigated to gain insight into learning how cultural factors influence ARHSS' learning, and how to use approaches working with these students. This research produced a number of key findings: the data confirmed that due to the cultural factors, there are significant differences in terms of ARHSS' placement in grade levels based on age while their educational background is very limited; lack of students' accountability in order for students to be responsible for their own actions and learning; lack of cultural balance to improve the teaching and learning preference and approaches; language barrier also presented miscommunications, and a subsequent vacuum of relationship among ARHSS, parents, teachers, and school staff; lack of parental involvement because of their illiteracy issue and cultural perceptions of parents not to interfere in teachers business; cultural misunderstandings that take place in the classrooms; lack of academic need fulfillment that is relevant to ARHSS; and the need of separate programs for the ARHSS to learn basics for onward courses. The main conclusions drawn from this research were that current approaches to educating ARHSS are underprovided. The public school system failed to comprehend these students' needs which demand finding appropriate approaches to help them adjust and learn. Sadly, premium is placed on maintaining the status queue of the main stream cultural emphasis, and this enhances a lack of communication between students, parents, U.S. teachers, and administrators. This view reflects a hold up to finding relevant approaches to help the ARHSS academic and probably social development. Given this background, this research suggests several approaches to reduce ARHSS struggle in U.S. school system. These approaches would involve in assisting them first to learn their own language to succeed learning second language; to be provided a curriculum relevant to their abilities; assign a specific time to acquire and comprehend U.S. culture to ease their adjustment; and schools must find a way to reach out parents in order to connect parents to their children's education.

Subject Area

Black studies|Multicultural Education

Recommended Citation

Hassan, Ahmed Abdi, "Exploring educational needs arising from the influence of cultural difference in U.S. public schools: The focus of African refugee high school students in western Massachusetts" (2013). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3589035.