Ethnicity and Education
Ethnic differences in educational achievement are primarily the result of school factors” Most studies found that overall ethnic minorities tend to do less well than other members of the population when it comes to educational achievement. The government sponsored “Swann report” found that “Asians” did almost as well as “Whites” however not as well, one Asian group in particular the “Bangladeshi’s” did particularly badly and “West Indians” preformed considerably worse than “Whites”.
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Many factors which occur inside the school are the cause of educational achievement however other factors contribute. The expectations of teachers on ethnic minorities have caused differences in educational achievement. Bernard Coard believes that teachers expect “Black” children to fail therefore labelling the child as a failure. Interactionalists are concerned with how teachers “pidgeonhole” students this is the labelling theory, this is where the teacher makes a judgement of the child based on the child’s appearance, behaviour, previous family members and relationships with other students.
However most labels are based on stereotypes rather than evidence, the reality is that once a label starts it is difficult to get rid of and this can cause problems for a student’s educational achievement. Teachers will discuss the students label in the staff room and other teachers will attach the same label to the child and this can lead to the child not being allowed to attend school trips. If a student is labelled as a failure by a teacher then the teacher is likely to put the student into a lower tier exam thus the pupil can only achieve a maximum of a grade C and can’t achieve to the best of their ability.
When a student is labelled as a failure the student can begin to believe that the label is true and begin to make it part of their part of their identity, become a failure this is known as the self-fulfilling prophecy thus creating ethnic differences in educational achievement within the school system. David Hardgreves argues that anti school sub cultures can be formed as a result of negative labelling. However Maureen Stone and Swann both indicate that those who are labelled may not accept their labels. Institutional Racism within schools can lead to educational achievement and the differences it causes within ethnic minorities.
The “Swann report” found that a small number of teachers are consciously racist however there are a great deal of teachers who are “unintentionally” racist. Bernard Coard states that the British educational system makes children become educationally subnormal he states that “West Indian children are told that their language is second rate and unacceptable” he states that within the British educational system the word “White” is associated with “good” and the word “Black” with evil. Coard also states that the attitudes portrayed in the classroom are reinforced by the pupils outside of the classroom.
Many sociologists would also argue that the mispronunciation of student’s names and not learning them can be classed as racism within the school system. Cecile Wright found that majority of staff are committed to ideals of equality but despite these ideals there are still considerable amounts of discrimination in the classroom. Asian children were often excluded from discussions and teachers expressed an “open disapproval of their customs and traditions”, these comments from teachers made Asian children feel more isolated from other pupils.
Martin Hammersley found that racist comments in the staffroom did not lead to racism in the classroom. J. Taylor found that “most teachers are concerned to have a fair policy towards the treatment of black pupils”. Mac an Ghaill studied 25 afro Caribbean and Asian students studying A levels. He found that “although they disagreed over the extent of racism within education, this did not directly determine their attitude to education and their levels of academic success. The way that students responded to schooling varied and this was influenced by their ethnic group”.
This could eventually lead to the formation of anti-school sub cultures. These are pupils who have rejected some or all of the values and rules set down in the school ethos. Peter Woods identified 8 different groups ranging from Ingratiation total conformity to Rebellion outright rejection of school rules and values. This can cause ethnic differences in educational achievement within the school system. The Ethocentric curriculum can cause ethnic differences in educational achievement this is the school being biased towards one particular culture.
Many sociologists argue that the curriculum is geared towards white middle class students. The curriculum is set in place for white middle class students and this means that ethnic minorities will not understand the curriculum and will fall behind and not do well thus leading to educational underachievement. Parents from ethnic minorities may not be able to afford or have the right experience to make an informed choice on the best school to suit their children’s needs whereas middle class parents have the money and correct experience to make an informed decision on the best school for their child.
Ethnic differences in educational achievement are the result of school factors however other factors have significance. Material Deprivation is the effect poverty has on educational achievement. Poorer parents from ethnic minorities may not be able to provide their children with the educational toys needed such as computers. Cramped housing means less space to study. High rate of illness can lead to missing days of school. Children from poorer backgrounds may need to contribute to the financial running of the home thus getting part time jobs which will affect their studies and will leave school at the earliest opportunity to start work.
Harker states that overcrowding causes a negative effect on educational achievement which can cause differences in ethnic minorities which can cause bullying and truancy. Cultural Deprivation is the term used to describe serious inadequacies in the socialisation process and its effects on educational achievement. Poor parenting means children underachieving in education. Many sociologists argue that ethnic minorities tend to be more fatalistic meaning that parents tend to have low aspirations and expectations for their child meaning less emphasis is placed on doing well in education.
Whereas “White” middle classes would have high aspirations and high expectations. Socialisation focuses on the values, expectations and norms transmitted from parents to children. Children from Ethnic tend to focus on immediate gratification where they try to reep their rewards at the earliest opportunity such as leaving school at 16 to earn money. Whereas “White” middle class children aim for a bright future described as deferred gratification which is putting off short term rewards to gain better rewards in the future.
Cultural Deprivation can affect the way parents prepare their children for school. Working class children would sit and watch T. V. whereas middle class parents would take their children to museums. Driver and Ballard state that high achievement in Asian groups may be linked to the fact that they live in close knit families that can help each other. Price highlighted a high rate of single parent families in black Caribbean communities which may explain high underachievement. Linguistic Deprivation is the ability to use appropriate language which is an important factor in educational success.
Bernstein came up with two codes of language Restricted and Elaborate codes. The Restricted code is used in casual situations. This is limited vocabulary and Simplistic grammar which can only be understood if you are aware of this topic. The Elaborate code is used in formal situations. This is sophisticated grammar and vocabulary and can be understood if aware of the topic. Bernstein found that White middle class children had the ability to switch between the two codes whereas children from ethnic minorities were limited to using the restricted code.
This means they are severely disadvantaged in education where the language is all formal. In conclusion, it is probable that a number of factors work together in producing the lower levels of achievement found in some ethnic groups. The Swann report concluded that racial discrimination inside and outside school along with social deprivation were probably the main factors. Others would add that cultural factors also play some part in explaining the differences.