2. Empowering Minority Students

Students are either empowered or dis-empowered depending on the nature of the interactions that take place.
  • Cummins' Framework of Empowerment is based on the premise that "power and status relations between minority and majority groups exert a major influence on school performance" (Cummins,1986, p.21) This understanding comes out of a study of minority school failure across many nations. Students from 'dominated' social groups are 'empowered' or 'disabled' as a direct result of the educators in the schools.
  • The framework (Fig 1.) sees the three way interactions of relationships in the classrooms, the community and within the society as a whole as integral to having a positive or negative effect on minority groups.

  • Students empowered by their school experiences develop the ability, confidence and motivation to succeed academically (Cummins, 2001).
  • When the dominated communities are empowered through their interactions with the schools they are affirmed and valued and the knock on effect is that the students also feel valued and affirmed which in turn has positive academic consequences.
  • Validating the students' language and cultural heritage will in turn improve motivation.


  • Student's culture, traditions and language needs to be valued in the classroom.
  • Students bring their own field of rich resources and expertise from their background to the classroom and this needs to be acknowledged by validating what the student knows and by drawing on their expertise through collaborative teaching and learning (Baker, 2006).
  • Parents need to be included and the value of the resource they bring to the education of their children validated.
  • Assessment needs to address what the students do know and can do rather than assessing what they do not know.

All of the above needs to be done at a deeper level than merely paying lip service for the full effect to be seen in terms of empowering students to succeed academically (EDPROFST 226, McCaffery, August, 2011).


Baker, C. (2006). Cognitive theories of bilingualism and the curriculum. In Foundations of bilingual education and bilingualism. (4th ed.,pp.166-186)
Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.

Cummins, J. (1986). Empowering minority students: A framework for intervention. Harvard Educational Review 56 (1), 18-36.

Cummins, J. (2001). Negotiating identities: education for empowerment in a diverse society (Second Edition). Los Angeles, CA: California Association for Bilingual Education.