Ethnic Minority Students in Secondary Education in Cyprus - Their Attainment and Risk Profile

  • Galatia Theodosiou Zipiti

Student thesis: Phd


The attainment of ethnic minority students in their host countries has been occupying a significant part of the international literature for many years. However, results suggest that no generalisations can be made on whether an ethnic minority group underachieves in a particular country and the reasons behind their attainment levels, unless that specific group has been investigated in the country in question. Cyprus joined the EU in 2004 and since then the demographic composition in the island changed dramatically; a change reflected in schools. The literature on ethnic minority group attainment in secondary schools in Cyprus is virtually non-existent and, as such, in this PhD programme the aim was to examine the attainment of ethnic minorities compared to native students and the reasons behind the observed patterns.In order to answer the research questions a series of studies were carried out. Initially, two quantitative studies were conducted. These studies used trimester grades as a proxy of attainment and Rasch analysis to turn these ordinal student grades into a linear scale. Descriptive statistics and multiple regression analyses were then run to check for trends and significant associations. Two qualitative studies then followed. Firstly, a focus group study was conducted utilising the help of six young female teachers, all teaching classics to create a homogeneous group. Then followed an interview study utilising semi-structured interviews on sixteen teachers. For both studies a thematic analysis was undertaken on the transcribed discussions. Another quantitative study then followed which employed an enhanced methodology to the first two studies and richer data. The final study was a mixed methods study and concentrated on school absences.Results demonstrate the reality in lower secondary schools in Cyprus for the first time. The minority group Georgians, the first time that this group is met in the literature, and a combination of other smaller groups put together in a group called 'Others', are shown to achieve significantly lower than natives. Ethnic background, gender, generation status, absences, the socio-economic status of the family and the character of the local educational system were shown to be related to student attainment. The widely held belief that ethnic minority students do even worse in those subjects that are more language-dependent is disproven; rather it is the content of the subject that is felt to be more influential on attainment. Also, the recently emerging consensus that unexcused absences are more strongly associated with attainment than excused absences is not upheld in this study; a more detailed classification of unexcused absences might be responsible for this. Finally, it is interesting to note the differential influence of different absence variables on different school subjects. Findings highlight the need for change and improvement in the educational practice in Cyprus and add to both the local and international literature. The specific factors identified can form the basis on which to base suggestions for improvements and further research.
Date of Award1 Aug 2014
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorMelvyn West (Supervisor) & Maria Pampaka (Supervisor)


  • attainment gap
  • multicultural education
  • Cyprus
  • attainment
  • ethnic minority students
  • mixed-methods research

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