Title

A Study of At-Risk Students' Experiences in a Residential Alternative Girls' School in Southern Taiwan

Date of Degree

5-2008

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Program

Education

Advisor

Francis Musa Boakari

Advisor

Nancy Robbins

Advisor

Dorothy Ettling

Abstract

The purpose of this qualitative study was to investigate how effectively the alternative girls' school (AGS) served the needs of some at-risk female students. Compulsory education in Taiwan includes junior high school and students absent from school for three consecutive school days without specific reasons, are defined as dropouts. To serve junior high students at risk of dropping out of school, the first experimental alternative girls' school (AGS) totally funded by the local government in Southern Taiwan, was developed from November 2004 through April 2007. To answer the primary research question "What are the at-risk students' experiences in the AGS?" five sub-research questions were developed: (a) What was the student's life like before the AGS? (b) What was the student's life like in the AGS? (c) What is the purpose of the AGS? (d) How did the AGS satisfy the student's felt needs? and (e) What suggestions do they have about the AGS? Data collection included: official documents (program design and quarterly evaluation reports), participant observation (field notes), and semi-structured in-depth interviews. A 60- minute in-depth interview was conducted with two groups of participants, including ten AGS students and five important others (the staff, teachers, parents, and volunteers). The findings of the study obtained through constant comparative analysis provided a whole picture of the at-risk students' experiences in the AGS. The themes that emerged from the study were categorized into lack of support, and gaps between the declared purposes of the school and the students' perceptions of the AGS. The findings of the study led to the conclusions that the students' AGS experiences could be presented in terms of advantages and challenges. Other issues relevant to alternative education programs, students at risk of dropping out of school, their families, and related social problems are discussed with suggestions about how to deal more appropriately with these phenomena.

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