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The aim of this research was to study the background of boys referred to an assessment centre by the juvenile courts, and to look in particular at the area of educational history. More specifically the study sought to ascertain young offenders own perceptions of education. The research was carried out in a number of phases: Phase one consisted of the accumulation of baseline data on the backgrounds of young offenders in Ireland through the analysis of the files held in a juvenile assessment centre. The data from the files was analysed, categorised and coded using a content analysis procedure. However, it was decided that these data, though useful in itself, could yield richer information if used in a more proactive way. On reviewing the literature on young offenders education it was found that there was a lack of research carried out from the young offenders perspective. As a consequence the categories from the coding schema were used as elements in a repertory grid for the next phase of the study. The repertory grid was decided upon as a good tool to examine this area, as it would allow the researcher to get an idea of each boy’s own perception of their situation and their experience of the school system. The issues of lack of Power, Control, Respect and Choice emerged as central within the data. The research participants felt that they had not control, autonomy or choice in their school lives and that the school system afforded them no respect. They felt frustrated and demoralised by this. These issues are manifested through the participants relationship with those groups used as elements in the repertory grid (i.e teachers, parents, gardai, other pupils and teachers in the unit). These issues and others raised by the participants are discussed in relation to literature on education and the criminal justice system with particular reference to the educational theory of Vygotsky, alternative models of justice and organisational theory.
Fitzpatrick, A.: Young Offenders Perceptions of Education. Masters Thesis. Dublin Institute of Technology, 1999.