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"Why not? But I can't" – Influence of a 'culture of poverty' on learning - A case study


Marie Perera

Department of Humanities Education University of Colombo, Colombo, LK
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Based on a sub set of data from a study which investigated the role of motivation as a contributing factor in second language learning in a disadvantaged school setting in Sri Lanka, this paper attempts to show the relationship between a ‘culture of poverty' and learning.

Lewis, (1970 : p.85) states that ‘in addition to being a condition of chronic economic poverty, the culture of poverty is characterized by the cognitive poverty of its ‘members', instilling a fatalism with reference to any possibility of ever achieving a different way of life'.  Although education is one way in which such people could be empowered to develop a sense of self confidence and self worth, children acquire the adult fatalism early and become learned helpless.

The findings of the study indicate that there is a correlation between motivation and a 'culture of poverty'. Further, in spite of the adverse socio-economic backgrounds from which the students come, their motivation to learn the second language can be enhanced. However, it is not the 'culture of poverty' per se that affects motivation but the type of attributions that the students make regarding their prior learning experiences. Thus a relationship between attributions and 'cognitive poverty' was visible.

DOI: 10.4038/suslj.v6i1.1687

Sabaragamuwa University Journal, vol 6, no. 1, pp 23-34

How to Cite: Perera, M., 2010. \"Why not? But I can't\" – Influence of a 'culture of poverty' on learning - A case study. Sabaragamuwa University Journal, 6(1), pp.23–34. DOI:
Published on 29 Mar 2010.
Peer Reviewed


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