Grade Retention Practices in Primary Education in Timor-Leste: A Case Study
Grade retention is the practice of requiring a student who has been in a given grade level for a full school year to remain at that same grade level the following year (Jimerson, 2001; Owings & Kaplan, 2001; Wynn, 2010). Grade retention has always been practised in primary education in Timor-Leste. This study investigates rationales behind grade retention practice in grade 1 primary education in Timor-Leste. A qualitative case study was use to investigate the mechanisms teachers use to retain or promote a student. Teachers‟ beliefs about grade retention, their efforts to prevent students from being retained, and factors that may inhibit students‟ learning are explored. Six teachers and four principals from six primary schools in two districts participated in this study. Analysis of data that were collected by using semi-structure interviews and studying documents relating to the practice of grade retention revealed that grade retention has been inconsistently practised amongst the participating schools in Timor-Leste. Despite having poor classroom conditions for learning and low teacher qualifications, teachers continue to retain low achieving students due to their beliefs that grade retention improves students‟ learning. This study suggests that classroom conditions need to be improved, and teachers‟ qualifications need to be upgraded in order to increase student learning while reducing grade retention.