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“Taking the Gravel Road”: Educational Aspirations of Working Class Malay Youths

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Abstract Applying Bourdieu’s theoretical framework on the correspondence between mental structures and social structures, this paper examines the persistence of educational underachievement among working class Malay youths in Singapore. Accordingly, my first objective is to document the social structure, namely a largely working class neighbourhood where these Malay youths have grown up. My second aim is to analyse how everyday cultural practices and interactions among peers in the neighbourhood significantly reinforced these youths’ levelled aspirations. I maintain that by believing in ‘taking the gravel road’, which is symbolically rough, uneven and uncertain, these youths justified the irrelevance of doing well in school. Succinctly, this essay demonstrates the close correspondence between the perceptions of the odds of success and the educational underperformance of the Malay youths. Hence, this paper would be of interest to scholars in the Malay Peninsula, as well as experts concerned with the intertwining of education with class and ethnicity.

Affiliations: 1: National University of Singapore


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