Scaling the summit: Learning from high-achieving Naga high school graduates

Paul John Coelho, Marquette University

Abstract

The problem of academic underachievement among the Nagas of Nagaland (in northeast India) has been widespread, pervasive, and persistent. While the focus of past research has primarily been on the factors that have engendered and exacerbated Naga underachievement, this study, instead, has focused on the factors that have spawned the success for Nagas who have been academically successful. Employing Strauss and Corbin's Grounded theory method, this interpretive (qualitative) study investigates the self-perceived factors to which eight Nagas who had secured ranks in the high school graduation examinations during the past five years credit their success. The data for the study were collected through a series of in-depth interviews. The findings suggest three transitions that facilitated the success of the informants: first, a transition in their mode of information processing with a shift from rote-memorization to comprehension; second, a transition in their socio-cultural behaviors with a shift from conformity to increased individuation and competitiveness; and third, a transition in their attitude to mathematics with a shift from fear to greater confidence. The findings suggest that various strategies, such as tuitions (i.e. tutoring), mnemonics, and the use of previous years' question papers also helped them succeed. Certain antecedents of attribution such as the assimilated sense of obligation not to let one's family, school, or teachers down, a sense of responsibility that was often linked to birth-order and gender, and the significance of prayer as a mechanism to cope with their anxieties and frustrations were also seen as facilitating success. The most serious consideration emerging from the study is the need to help Naga students imbibe the scholastic culture and become bicognitive , some implications of which include (1) ensuring students get a stronger foundation in English and mathematics in the lower classes, (2) encouraging students to understand their lessons rather than only rote-memorize them, (3) fostering a spirit of competitiveness among students but through culturally-sensitive pedagogical strategies such as small group learning, cooperative learning, etc., and (4) encouraging greater self-regulation in the students as well as the use of suitable metacognitional learning strategies.

Recommended Citation

Coelho, Paul John, "Scaling the summit: Learning from high-achieving Naga high school graduates" (2003). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI3093138.
https://epublications.marquette.edu/dissertations/AAI3093138

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