Ethnicity And Educational Achievement Essay

According to the ethnicity department for education, there are major differences in levels of educational achievement between pupils of different ethnic minorities (EM) groups, the 2014 statistics say that Chinese and Indian children achieve the highest out of the rest of the EM groups.

There are both external and internal factors to explain ethnic differences in educational achievement.

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One external factor is, in terms of social class, those from a Black Caribbean, Pakistani and Bangladesh (B/C, P, B) background are more likely to be from low-income households, experiencing poverty and unemployment and as a consequence this material deprivation means that they will be unable to provide their children with the books, tuition and nutritious diet to do well at school. Whereas, in contrast, those from an Indian and Chinese (I, C) background are less likely to be eligible for free school meals as they families are more likely to be professional business middle-class.

Another factor is Language which has also been examined as an indicator for differences in ethnic minority achievement. For many EM students, English is a second language and their difficulties in communicating may be viewed as a lack of ability by teachers. However, both Driver and Ballard and also Modood found that Asian and white students had a similar level of language development by the age of 16 with it only being a temporary disadvantage for Indian pupils.

Furthermore family life is a factor, with Bhatti’s study of B, P and I parents showed how parents had a high level of interest in their children’s education which was supported by close family and community ties. However, as shown by Moon and Ivin’s telephone survey, B and P parents lack the cultural capital to be able to assist their children with their homework and may be less familiar with school processes and organisation. Whereas in contrast, I and C parents will be able to use their cultural, material and social capital to assist their children at home but also with negotiating the school system to their advantage.

There are also a number of internal factors for ethnic differences in educational achievement.

One internal factor is media, which plays a big role in demonising the black Caribbean EM into folk devils, Wright said that racism happens in school because of the media which gives negative labels to students and creates stereotypes, and however she also said that some teachers have stereotypes but choose not to bring it in to the class room. This contributes to racial stereotypes that teachers have of black pupils, supporting Gillborn and Youdell’s research that teachers have ‘racialised expectations’ of black pupils which contributes to a ‘cycle of conflict’ between teachers and students. As black pupils attract negative labels, they are more likely to be put in lower streams and sets and in terms of educational triage are seen as the students who either need help to achieve to cross over the C/D borderline or those with ‘no hope’ of achieving which consequently contributes to a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure.

This negative perception of black pupils and association with gang culture, was highlighted in the LDA report (2004) where one Black Caribbean (B/C) pupil commented that, ‘when it is white boys it is a group, but when it is black boys, it is a gang’ showing how the relationship between B/C students and white teachers is one based on ‘conflict and fear’. The labelling of students inevitably leads to different student responses, with those that conform most likely to be I and C students who are viewed as the ‘ideal pupils’ whilst Sewell and Hall have recognised how black students can create a ‘culture of resistance’ to school and rebel or retreat completely from the school culture and values.

With regards to teacher racism, the Swann Report found evidence of unintended racism with Bhatti’s study of Bangladeshi (B), Pakistani (P) and Indian (I) students showing how teachers ignored students, didn’t give them responsibility and often treated them unfairly by picking on them. So though Indian students are high achieving and seen as ‘ideal pupils’ they may still experience racism at school.

Another aspect of the school which has been highlighted is the ethnocentric curriculum. Despite attempts to provide a ‘multicultural education’ according to Troyna and Williams, there is evidence of ethnocentrism which means that Asian and blacks students feel frustrated and disillusioned with the school system. Examples of ethnocentrism include History and other textbooks carrying degrading images of non-white people, with black people often viewed as ‘evil’ and white people as ‘good’. Whilst others have commented on how uniform and dress requirements with arrangements for PE and games also potentially undermining the confidence of ethnic minority students for example, Muslim girls expected to wear skirts which goes against their cultural and religious expectations.

To conclude, despite these concerns about racism within schools, I and C still outperform every other group despite being taught the same curriculum and being subject to the same school rules etc. Also it has to be noted that not all school teachers are racist whilst not all students end up with a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure. Additionally it must be noted that when looking at educational outcomes of students, ethnicity cannot be considered in isolation, social class and gender also need to be taken in account – with research showing that social class has 5 times the impact than any other factor on educational achievement.

Ethnicity in schools

  • In state-funded primary schools 27.6 per cent of pupils (of compulsory school age and above) were classified as being of minority ethnic origin, an increase from 26.5 per cent in 2011
  • In state-funded secondary schools 23.2 per cent of pupils (of compulsory school age and above) were classified as being of minority ethnic origin, an increase from 22.2 per cent in 2011

Taken from

School Attainment statistics

Attainment – GCSES (5 A*-C grades including Maths and English)

  1. Attainment by ethnicity has improved since 2006/7, and achievement gaps between some ethnic groups and the national level have disappeared
  2. Other ethnic groups, such as Chinese students, have far higher levels of attainment compared to the national level. It is worth highlighting however that Pakistani and Black Caribbean young people stillhave lower attainment levels than the national level.
  3. The data for 2010/11 is as follows:
  • The national level, and the percentage of White British pupils achieving 5 A*-C grades including Maths and English, is 58%. This compares to around 45% in 2006/07
  • Chinese students are the highest attaining group, with 78.5% achieving 5 A*-C grades including Maths and English. This compares to 70% in 2006/07
  • Indian students are the second highest attaining group, with 74.4% achieving 5 A*-C grades including Maths and English. This compares to around 62% in 2006/07.
  • Bangladeshi pupils now have a slightly higher attainment rate than White pupils, with 59.7% 5 A*-C grades including Maths and English. This is a massive improvement given that only around 40% achieved this 2006/07, which was 5% less than White pupils and the National Level.
  • There has also been an improvement for Black African pupils, with 57.9% achieving 5 A*-C grades including Maths and English, compared to just over 40% achieving this in 2006/07. A similar level of improvement can be seen for mixed White and Black African pupils
  • However, Pakistani and Black Caribbean young people still have lower attainment levels compared to the national level, with 52.6% and 48.6% respectively achieving 5 A*-C grades including Maths and English. This has, however, improved from around 35% for Pakistani and 34% for Black Caribbean pupils in 2006/07.
  • Travellers, Gypsies and Roma are still the lowest achieving groups, with 17.5% of Irish Travellers and 10.8% of those from Gypsy or Roma backgrounds achieving 5 A*-C grades including Maths and English. This has improved from 2006/07 when only 5% of these groups combined achieved the required grades.

Taken from:

English Baccalaureate attainment

  1. Inequalities are more pronounced when looking at those who achieved the English Baccalaureate measure of attainment. This requires 5 A* – C grades in GCSE maths; English; two science subjects; a foreign language; and either history or geography.

The 2010/11 data is as follows:

  •  34.6% of Chinese students and 25.8% of Indian students achieve the English Baccalaureate
  • 15.4% of White students achieve the measurement
  • 11.2% of Black African and 11.1% of Pakistani pupils achieve the English Baccalaureate
  • The rate is 9.9% for Bangladeshi pupils and 7.6% for Black Caribbean pupils
  • Traveller and Roma/Gypsy pupils have the lowest attainment, with 2.2% and 0.5% respectively achieving the measurement

Taken from:

Specific issues:

Success of previous policies

  • It could be argued that some of the improvement in the educational attainment of ethnic minorities was due to overall investment in education by the last government, and also due to the previous government introducing specific policies to boost attainment off specific groups, such as: The Ethnic Minority Achievement Grant (details below)
  • The Aiming High programme for Black pupils: In participating schools this resulted in high increases in attainment at aged 14 Education Action Zones: Set up in 1998 to improve attainment in inner city areas The Training and Development Agency (TDA) had targets for recruiting ethnic minority teachers, and also developed the excellent Multiverse website providing culturally diverse resources for teachers and trainees. Multiverse and the TDA have now been scrapped by the current government. Citizenship Education, made compulsory in 2002, has played an important role in encouraging pupils to participate positively and effectively in an ethnically diverse society

The Ethnic Minority Achievement Grant

  • The Ethnic Minority Achievement Grant (EMAG) was set up to narrow achievement gaps for pupils from the minority ethnic groups who are at risk of underachieving, and to meet the needs of bilingual pupils. In April 2011, EMAG was abolished in its current form. It has been mainstreamed into the ‘dedicated schools grant’, removing its ring-fenced status. This means that schools will now have the power to reduce the level of specialist provision to minority ethnic children at their discretion. The risk is that schools with use the already limited funds targeted at raising the achievement of minority ethnic pupils and spend them on other areas.

Pakistani and Bangladeshi pupils

  • Overall, Pakistani and Bangladeshi pupils have traditionally had lower attainment than Indian students, which can largely be explained by poverty, social background, and the fact that English is a second language for many.
  • However, the overall attainment of Bangladeshi pupils has been improving at a faster rate than Pakistani pupils and now a higher percentage of Bangladeshi pupils achieve 5 A*- C grades, including Maths and English, at GCSE than White pupils.
  • Despite this, when looking at English Baccalaureate attainment a smaller proportion of Bangladeshis achieve this than Pakistani pupils. It is difficult to determine exactly the reasons behind these variations. However, the different between Bangladeshi and Pakistani attainment could be partly explained by the high concentration of Bangladeshis in Tower Hamlets, where educational attainment of this group has risen particularly rapidly in the area. Given the size of the Bangladeshi population in the borough, this could skew the overall averages. A Harvard study into educational differences between Bangladeshis and Pakistanis in London also recognised the impact success in Tower Hamlets has had on overall averages, particularly citing the borough’s success in recruiting teachers from Bangladeshi backgrounds, arguing that this improves understanding of language and other needs.

The Issues

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