In School Factors
Institutional racism, setting and streaming
Institutional racism refers to how the policies and procedures of an organisation discriminate – intentionally or unintentionally – against people from ethnic minority groups. Institutional racism can occur with regard to the process of setting or streaming. E.g. “Jayleigh”: the school had a large proportion of Asian pupils. However, they were often put into lower sets than white pupils, even when their assessment scores were the same. They were then put into lower tier exam papers and entered for fewer exams than the white pupils. Therefore, the setting procedures of the school put the Asian pupils at a disadvantage, leading to their educational underachievement
Teachers, racism and labelling
Primary schools: Wright
1. Teacher’s attitudes towards Asian pupils differed from African-Caribbean pupils because Asians were seen as a problem but largely ignored. They received least attention and were often excluded from classroom discussions and rarely asked to answer questions. African-Caribbean – especially boys – were expected to behave badly. They received considerable attention – nearly all of it negative. Their behaviour was usually seen as aggressive, disobedient and disruptive. They were often singled out for criticism, even for actions which were ignored in other pupils, as a result, they often felt picked on and treated unfairly.
Secondary schools: Gillborn/Mac an Ghaill
1. In both studies, African-Caribbean boys were labelled as bad students and were punished and criticised for this.
2. In Mac an Ghaill’s study, the boys retaliated by forming an anti-school peer group within the school; which rejected many of the school’s norms and values.
The Ethnocentric Curriculum
Ethnocentrism refers to a view of other cultures through the eyes of one’s own cultures, and seeing other cultures as inferior to one’s own. Some sociologists argue the school curriculum is ethnocentric and this could explain the underachievement of ethnic minority groups.
2. The curriculum at the moment could be considered ethnocentric because in British schools, it gives priority to white culture and the English language. For example, in History and English, students mostly focus on the World Wars and the British viewpoint of them.
3. This could lead to underachievement in ethnic minority groups, as it could lower their self-esteem and leads to their failure. For example, if a black child learns about black slavery – they will see their race in an inferior position and lower their self-esteem.
Fuller: Black girls at a comprehensive school
The girls in Fuller’s study were in top streams. They valued education and wanted to succeed. However, they did not value school because of racist labelling by teachers. These labels motivated the girls to succeed and prove the teachers wrong. Therefore, Fuller’s study demonstrates that a self-fulfilling prophecy does not have to occur in response to a label.
Sewell: Black boys at a comprehensive school
Sewell recognises that pupils respond to labels in the same way. He found teachers had a stereotype of the “Black macho lad” who was rebellious and disruptive. Not all black boys fitted this label: some were keen to succeed and valued education and school. However, they were still given negative labels by the teachers – the negative labels were applied to all black boys, regardless of their attitude to education. Therefore, black boys may underachieve because they still get negatively labelled even when they want to succeed.
1. The rebels were the most visible and influential group, but they were only a small minority of black pupils. They were often excluded from school. They rejected both the goals and the rules of the school and expressed their opposition through peer group membership, conforming to the sterotype of the ‘black macho lad’.
The conformists were the largest group, these boys were keen to succeed, accepted the school’s goals and had friends from different ethnic groups. They were not part of a subculture and were anxious to avoid being stereotyped either by teachers or their peers.
2. The negative labels of the black boys might put both the rebels and conformists at a disadvantage because even if they want to do well, the negative label does not help them to do so.