Educational Achievement

Includes the impact of:

  • Class
  • Gender
  • Ethnicity
  • Created by: a66y_xx
  • Created on: 10-12-19 11:27

Social Class - Intro

Perry and Francis (2010) indicate that social class is the strongest predictor of educational achievement in the UK

Waldfogel and Washbrook (2010) looked at data from a study of 12,644 children and found that many were already educationally a year 'behind' more priviledged children by the age of 3


  • Are more likely to start school unable to read
  • More likely to be placed in lower sets
  • Perform less well in exams


  • Do better in all exams
  • Stay on longer at school
  • Disproportionately represented in higher sets and better schools
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Social Class - Internal Factors

These internal factors include...

  • Resources in the school (money, equipment)
  • Attitudes, interest and expectations of teachers - their qualifications, how well prepared they are and the quality of teaching
  • Pupil identities and subcultures
  • Teacher evaluations and stereotyping
  • The self-fulfilling prophecy
  • Streaming and labelling
  • Access to classroom knowledge
  • The 'halo effect'
  • Whether children are 'warmed up' or 'cooled down'
  • School ethos and the hidden curriculum

The main factors that affect a school's status according to Peter Wilby are exam results - which will be a result of quality teaching, discipline, leadership and clarity of aims

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Social Class - Internal Factors

School Ethos

-> Refers to the character, atmosphere or 'climate' of a school 

  • All pupils, regardless of ability, are valued, praised, rewarded and encouraged to meet their full potential
  • Emphasis on academic/sporting/artistic success
  • Emphasis on social, moral and spiritual development of students
  • Emphasis on equal opportunities, intolerance to racism and support for students with special educational needs
  • Parents are encouraged to get involved with children's learning (PTAs)
  • How the school keeps in touch with parents (e.g. reports and newsletters)
  • School has a friendly, happy and respectful relationship between those within it


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Social Class - Internal Factors

The Hidden Cirriculum

-> these are things that are taught within lessons

  • Students learn attitudes and values of the school by participating in the daily routine of school life
  • Punctuality, respect for authority, school rules, uniforms, school assemblies, prize giving, students standing in line, rasing hands to answer questions etc. - all instil certain values, attitides and behaviours among students
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Social Class - Internal Factors

Teacher's Responses

  • Teachers label students according to their social class and have different expectations of different studnts as a result
  • Working-class students are labelled negatively; middle-class students are labelled positively
  • Teachers immediately differentiate their students into two groups: the higher achieving group and the lower achieving group
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Social Class - Internal Factors

Anti-School Subcultures

-> these are usually formed by working class students

  • Non-conformity to school rules, such as truancy and disruptive behaviour
  • Negative attitude towards teachers and learning
  • Negative attitude to education continues outside the school
  • Lower educational achievement
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Social Class - Internal Factors

Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

-> when a person begins to internalise the label given to them and begins to act out the label

  • This was explained by theorists such as Becker
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Social Class - Internal Factors

Setting and Streaming

  • Setting = where pupils of a similar ability are put in specific sets in specific subjects
  • Streaming = involves grouping students of a similar ability for every subject studied
  • The judgements about working-class and middle-class students are reflected in setting and streaming, which reinforces class differences
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Social Class - External Factors

Material Deprivation

-> a lack of things that money can buy that result in educational success - this may result in:

  • Poor quality housing
  • Poor diet
  • Inadequate school uniforms
  • Poor access to school supplies - including school trips, computers and internet access

Poor quality housing and poor diet can lead to illness and school absences; inadequate uniforms or possessions may lead to bullying and absence; a lack of school supplies may negatively impact a students educational progress. It may also lead to students having to work part-time, which can mean that they are too tired to study at home or school.

Gibson & Asthana (1999) found that the greater the level of family disadvantage (measured by unemployment, lack of parent qualification, not having a car) the smaller the perentage of students gaining five or more GCSEs A*-C

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Social Class - External Factors

Cultural Deprivation Theory

This suggests that those at the bottom of the class system are deprived of important values, attitudes, experiences and skills. These are vital for educational success. Their home life lacks stimulation needed for attainment and parents are less encouraging, meaning that there is little motivation for success

Parents Attitude to Education

  • High parental interest leads to much better exam reults and children whose parents show no interest can be hindered by low expectation - Douglas
  • Middle-class parents are more likely to be involved with their child's progress in education - they may take more interest in their child's school work and communcate reguarly with teachers

Parents Level of Education

  • Due to their own level of education, middle-class parents are more likely to understand the school system such as the exam process and subject options
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Social Class - External Factors

Language Codes

-> Berstein (1971) suggested that there are two types of language used:

  • Restricted Code = the sort of language which is used between friends or family members - informal, simple, everyday language (such as slang). Context is understood by everyone so a detailed explanation is not required. Mainly limited to the lower working-class but is understood by others
  • Elaborated Code = used by strangers and individuals in a formal context - explanation is required. Has a much wider vocabulary and is mainly used by middle-class people. It is used in schools
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Social Class - External Factors

Lack of Cultural Capital

-> refers to the possession of the appropriate tastes, attitudes and values which lead to material rewards later in life

  • Bordieu argues that middle-class students possess cultural capital which gives them a distinct advantage over working-class pupils
  • Therefore, it is what the middle-class has that the working-class lacks and therefore finds itself disadvantaged as a result

Attitudes and Values

  • Students may experience a culture clash
  • The values of their family clash with the culture of the school, where they are expected to respect learning and their peers and teacher alike
  • High parental interest leads t much better exam results and children whose parents show no interest can be hindered by low expectations
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Gender - Intro

Until the 1980s the major concern was the underachievement of girls.However, since the 1990s girls began to out perform boys in all areas of the education system.


  • Girls consistently out perform boys, especially in English
  • Gap is narrower in maths and science


  • The difference between boys and girls GCSE results (5 or more A*-C) has consistently shown a 10% gender gap


  • Girls are more likely to pass and get higher grades
  • 2006 - 95.8% of girls passed 2 or more A levels compared to 94% of boys
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Gender - Reasoning

These include...

  • Girls mature faster than boys and are said to have a different outlook on life
  • The role of boys in society has changed
  • Poorer language skills
  • Girls are more motivated and work harder
  • Peer-group pressure and anti-learning subcultures
  • Poorer classroom behaviour
  • Lower teacher expectations
  • Equal opportunities have benefited gorls more than boys
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Gender - Girls

The Impact of Feminism 

  • The woman's movement has achieved considerable success in improving the rights and raising expectations of women
  • This means that more women now look beyond the role of being a housewife/mother and strive for greater opportunities
  • There are also several campaigns such as WISE which help reduce inequality of women in certain careers

Changes in the Family

  • The changes seen in the family (increases divorce rate, increase LPFs and decrease in marriage) have also changed girls' attitudes towards education
  • Many girls have been exposed to 'new' adult role models such as financially independent women
  • Due to this, girls may be more encouraged to establish their own careers and not rely on a husband
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Gender - Girls

Changes in Women's Employment

  • (1970) Equal Pay Act & (1975) Sex Discrimination Act - have all increased womens employment opportunities
  • Wilkinson (1994) says that there has been a 'genderquake' - women want more money and a fulfilling career

Girls Changing Ambitions

  • Sue Shape (1994) compared interview results
  • In 1974 she found that girls had low aspirations. They felt that academic success would be seen as 'unattractive' and they listed their prorities as 'love, marriage, husbands and children'
  • By 1990, girls priorities had begun to change towards having a career. Most of the girls had high aspirations and saw themselves as having jobs in the future
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Gender - Girls

Attitudes and Values

  • Girls work harder, are more motivated and have more peer group support
  • They are generally more organised and more likely to bring the right equipment and hand their homework in on time
  • These factors all contribute towards girls being more likely to succeed in education


  • By 16, girls are estimated to be up to 2 years more mature than boys
  • This means that girls are more likely to view exams and education in a more sensible manner and recognise their importance
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Gender - Boys

Boys and Literacy

  • Boys generally don't like reading - they see it as a feminine activity which is boring
  • Parents are also found found reading less to their sons
  • Boys leisure time is also more likely to be spent playing games and sports, whereas girls are more likely to stay in talking and communicating with friends

Decline of Masculine Jobs

  • There has been a significant decline in traditional 'masculine' industries - such as mining, engineering and other manufacturing
  • This has led to 'identity crisis' for men. Boys now believe that they have little prospect of getting a job which leads to lack of motivation
  • This primarily affects working class individuals
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Gender - Boys

Over-Estimating Ability

  • Boys are often found to over-estimate their academic ability
  • Renold & Allen (2006) found that girls lacked confidence and underestimated their own ability in the classroom
  • Francis (1998) found that boys thought it would be easy to do well in exams without putting much effort in
  • When they do fail, boys tend to put the blame on the teachers or their own lack of effort but not blame their ability
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Gender - Boys


  • School work is often found to be viewed by boys as 'girly' and 'uncool'
  • Epstein et al (1998) found that working class boys risked bullying and being labelled as 'gay' if they appeared to be hard-working at school 

Feminisation of Education

  • Education has become 'feminised'
  • Typically methodological working and attention to deatil rather than more masculine traits such as competitiveness and leadership
  • Coursework in particular has significant impact as it is generally more language based with a lot of writng and concentration
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Gender - Boys

Shortage of Male Primary School Teachers

  • Men account for only 16% of primary school teachers, which suggests that many boys lack a suitable male role model
  • 42% of boys have said that the presence of a male teacher made then behave better and work harder

Laddish Subcultures

  • Boys are very concerned about being labelled as 'swots'
  • Epstein (1998) found that boys reject schoolwork to avoid being called 'gay'
  • Boys are generally more disruptive in the classroom and often devalue school work
  • Boys are also 3 times more likely than girls to be excluded from school
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Gender - Boys

Lower Expectations

  • There is evidence to suggest that teachers have lower expectations of boys
  • They are more likely to accept poorer standards of work and to be more tolerant of disruption
  • This could lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy with boys only trying as hard as they feel that they are expected to

Boys Are More Disruptive

  • Boys are generally more disruptive
  • Male peer groups often devalue school work and achieve peer-group status by being aggressive and disruptive
  • This can lead to reduced concentration or even missed learning by being sent out of the classroon
  • Boys are 3 times more likely to be excluded than girls
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Gender - Subject Choices

Gender Socialisation

  • Aspirations and subject choices come from primary and secondary socialisation from gender stereotypes whilst growing up
  • Lobban in 1974 found evidence of gender stereotyping in children's books, where women clearly had links to domestic roles
  • Best in 1993 found that there was little change since Lobban's research
  • This socialisation may encourage boys to develop more interests in technical and scientific subjects - girls are discouraged from taking them
  • These factors could be reinforced by peer pressure and gender perceptions

Subject Counselling

  • Teachers and career advisors may reflect their own expectations onto the future options of pupils with gender stereotyping for appropriate roles
  • Such gendered subject choices will have clear consequences for what happens after school
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Gender - Subject Choices

Subject Images, Gender Identity and Peer Pressure

  • Colley (1998) suggested that the gender perception of different subjects are important influences on future choices
  • Skelton et al (2007) suggest that males and females may tend to be drawn to different subject areas due to their own ideas of what is appropriate for their gender identity - literacy and english are feminine
  • Mitsos (1995-6) interviewed year 11 boys and girls and found that boys' unfavourable responses to English were often due to stereotypical male and female behaviour
  • Paechter in 1998 carried out a study which found that sport was primarily seen as masculine
  • Kelly (1987) found that boys tend to dominate science classrooms as it is still seen as mainly masculine - due to examples usually being more relevant to males than females - ICT is also seen as male dominated
  • Colley suggested that changing the content of the curriculum of some subjects can alter its gender identity - for example, music was primarily a feminine subject but now it is becoming more popular with boys, due to it becoming more electronic based
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Gender - Gender Identity

Pupils experiences in school can also reinforce their gender and sexual identities. Bob Connell (1995) suggests that this reinforces the 'hegemonic masculinity' - the dominance of heterosexual masculine identity and the subordination of female identities

Gendered Verbal Behaviour: Boys often use verbal abuse to reinforce their masculinity and superiority e.g. Boys use name-calling to put girls down if they behave/dress in certain ways. Lees (1986) found that girls were called 'slags' if seen to be sexually available. Parker (1996) found that boys were labelled 'gay' simply for being friendly with girls

Gendered Physical Behaviour: Boys and girls often sit separately in lessons. If girls resit schooling it is more likely to be in subtle ways (e.g. Doing makeup instead of work) whereas boys are more likely to be confrontational with their teachers. Boys are also much more boisterous around school. This can lead to girls seeming 'invisible'

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Gender - Gender Identity

Gendered Pursuits: Girls classroom talk often revolves around appearance and things to make themselves appear attractive to boys: 'the male gaze'. Boys construct their masculinity by boasting about their alleged sexual conquests.

Gendered Classroom Behaviour: Girls often help supporting boys, such as clearing up after them and helping them with homework. Girls are also found to be silenced, ridiculed or even sexually harassed by boys.

The Role of Teachers: Teachers have different expectations of boys and girls based on gender stereotyoes. Therefore, girls who don't conform and misbehave are punished more harshly than boys who are simply seen as 'boys being boys!'.

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Gender - Raising Achievement

Policies to Raise Boys' Achievement

  • The National Literacy Strategy: includes a focus on improving boys' reading
  • Playing For Success: uses football and other sports to boost learning skills and motivation among boys
  • Recruitment Campaigns aim to attract more men into primary school teaching


  • Teachers time is generally spent dealing with troublesome boys rather than girls who want to get on with their work
  • This has negative effects on girls' self-esteem and experiences at school
  • Feminists argue that the time spent focusing on raising the attainments of boys, has led to girls being left behind
  • This may mean that girls underachieve even if they are achieveing in relation to boys
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Gender - Evaluation

  • Although there are clear differences in achievement between genders, boys are not lost causes
  • The overall performance of both sexes is increasing annually
  • Tracey McVeigh (2001) notes that the similarities between boys and girls are far greater than the differences
  • Other factors are found to have more of an impact
  • Dfes (2007) found that the class gap in achievement at GCSE is 3 times wider than the gender gap
  • Connolly (2006) suggests that there may be an 'interactions effect' whereby certain combinations of gender, class and ethnicity have more of an effect on achievement than others
  • The theory is deterministic
  • It suggests that gender will always determine a pupils achievement
  • This is not always the case and there will be some boys who do well at school and reject the anti-school subculture
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Ethnicity - Intro

  • Britain is a multicultural society
  • David Crystal (2003) - children from minority ethnic backgrounds make up 21% of pupils in English schools

Changes in GCSE by Ethnic Origin - Gillborn & Mizra (2000)


  • 5 or more passes A*-C -> Boys = 46.2% Girls = 56.7%
  • No passes -> Boys = 6.3% Girls = 4.3%


  • 5 or more passes A*-C -> Boys = 34.1% Girls = 46.8%
  • No passes -> Boys = 8.1% Girls = 7.8%


  • 5 or more passes A*-C -> Boys = 60.3% Girls = 70.3%
  • No passes -> Boys = 2.79% Girls = 1.9%
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Ethnicity - Highest and Lowest

Highest Achieving Groups

  • Chinese and Indian pupils consistently have higher levels of attainment than other ethnic groups and they make the greatest progress in school
  • They are more likely to achieve 5 ot more GCSEs, get better A level results, to stay in the FE and to enter university

Lowest Achieving Groups

  • Black caribbean, pakistani and bangladeshi groups consistently have lower levels of attainment
  • Most pupils from such backgrounds do less well than they should, given their ability
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Ethnicity - Causes

A range of evidence has suggested some of the following factors may be the cause of this:

  • Below-average reading skills
  • Black caribbean pupils are over-represented in special schools
  • Black caribbean pupils are 1.5 times more likely to be categorised as having emotional, behavioural and social difficulties
  • Black caribbean pupils are 3-6 times more likely to be excluded from school
  • They are more likely to follow vocational subjects rather than HE subjects
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Ethnicity - Class & Material Factors

  • Flaherty (2004) - ethnic minorities are more likely to face material deprivation
  • Pakistanis and Bangadeshis are over 3 times more likely than whites to be in the poorest 5th of the population
  • Unemployment is 3 times higher in African and Bangladeshi/Pakistani people than for whites
  • Pakistanis are 2 times more likely to be in unskilled/semi-skilled jobs compared to whites
  • Around 2/5 of people from ethnic minorities were living in poverty in 2012/13 - twice the rate for white British people
  • This means that ethnic minority groups are more likely to face problems such as: overcrowding, poor quality housing, poor diet/nutrition & an inability to buy school materials
  • This means that some ethnic minorities face similar problems to those of the working class: material deprivation, language differences, cultural deprivation, lack of cultural and social capital, teacher labelling and expectations & self-fulfilling prophecies
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Ethnicity - Language

  • Around 12-17% of students do not have English as their first language
  • This can cause difficulties with communication, completing homework and activities in lessons
  • Some teachers may misinterpret language difficulties as a lack of general ability


  • The Swann Report (1985) found that white language barriers may hold back some children, for the majority they were of little performance
  • Any impact of language difficulties decline as children get older and evidence has shown that students with English as their second language outperform other students
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Ethnicity - Families

Family Structure and Parental Support - Asian

  • Structure brings education benefits
  • Parents have a more positive attitude and higher aspirations
  • They encourage high levels of achievement

White - Working Class

  • Lupton (2004) -> these families in the most disadvantaged areas have fairly negative attitudes towards school
  • Generally have low aspirations for their children


  • High rates of lone parenthood - provide girls with positive role models
  • Parents are often found to be actively involved in their childrens educations
  • Moons and Ivins (2004) -> found that 82% of black and bangladeshi parents went to parents evening
  • However, many often reported how teachers treated them as if they know less about the education system than they actually do
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Ethnicity - Internal Factors

Labelling and Teacher Racism

  • Black pupils are often seen as aggressive and asian pupils are passive
  • Teachers may teach ethnic minorities differently

Gillborn and Youdell (2000)

  • Teachers are quick to discipline black pupils
  • Teachers have 'racialised expectations'
  • Underestimate black pupils
  • May stem from teacher racism

Boune (1994) and Osler (2001)

  • Black pupils are more likely to be removed from class, placed in PRU and to be excluded/expelled
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Ethnicity - Internal Factors

A-C Economy and Educational Triage in Action

  • Black pupils are more likely to be placed in lowest streams due to teacher labelling and racism
  • Foster (1990) found that black pupils were in lower sets because of their perceived behaviour rather than their academic ability

Asian Pupils

  • Cecile Wright (1992) found that teachers held ethnocentric views; saw British culture to be superior
  • Teachers tend to assume that Asian pupils will have poor English
  • Asian pupils often feel isolated if teachers show disapproval of their customs or mispronounced names
  • Prevents them from engaging fully
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Ethnicity - Racism in Schools

Cline et al (2002) - Found that racism among pupils was common in schools. Many students from ethnic minorities reported facing racial harassment and/or bullying during their time at school

The Swann Report - Found that only a small minority of teachers were consciously racist yet there is evidence of a good deal of unintentional racism

Bhatti (1999) - Carried out a study og Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Indian students in a comprehensive school and found that many students has experiences of being ignored by teachers, not being helped, not being given the opportunity to answer questions in class and being unfairly picked on for punishment

Wright (1992) - Found evidence of teachers holding ethnic based stereotypes of particular groups of students. Asian girls are often viewed positively and are seen as well behaved and quiet. Black Caribbean boys are often seen as having low educational potential and were often labelled as disruptive

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Ethnicity - Racism in Schools

Gillbourn and Youdell (2000) - Found that racism played an important part in disadvantaging black students. If teachers hold negative stereotypes, then this can lead to negative labelling and low expectations. This can mean that many students are placed in lower sets. This can lead to self-fulfilling prophecies and also the development of anti-school pupil subcultures

Sewell (1996) - Found some black male students formed pupil subcultures in response to teacher labelling:

  • The Rebels: formed anti-school subcultures which gave them statues through black macho masculinity
  • The Conformists: tried to escape teacher stereotypes by accepting school
  • The Innovators: maintained an anti-school stance but wanted the benefits of education
  • The Retreatists: dropped out of school

Wright (2013) -  Found that young black students who had been excluded from school, actively resisted their negative experiences at school and worked hard to transform their labelling as 'failures' into a desire to have a positive educational outcome

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Ethnicity - Teacher Racism

Heidi Safia Mirza (1992) - argues that there are 3 types of racist teachers:

  • Colour Blind = teachers who believe all pupils are equal but does not challenged the racism he or she witnesses
  • Liberal Chauvinists = teachers who believe black pupils are culturally deprived and have low expectations of them
  • Overt Racists = teachers who believe blacks are inferior and actively discriminate against them

Archer (2008) - found that teachers construct 3 student identities according to their ethnicity:

  • Ideal Pupil = white, middle class, 'normal' sexuality, achieved the 'right way'
  • Pathologised Pupil = asian, 'deserving poor', asexual, the plodding conformist
  • Demonised Pupil = black/white, working class, hyper-sexualised, unintelligent, culturally deprived
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Ethnicity - Institutional Racism

Institutional Racism = discrimination is 'built in' to the way institutions such as schools and colleged operate

Individual Racism = results from the prejudiced views of one individual

  • Arguably, the British educational system is institutionally racist, whereby the policies and personnel actively discriminate against ethnic minorities

Unintentional racism is a feature of many schools

  • Lack of black role models in education
  • Lack of black head teachers
  • BAME pupils receive more negative criticisms than white students
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Ethnicity - Ethnocentric Curriculum

  • 'Ethnocentric' describes an attitude or policy that gives prority to the culture and viewpoint of one particular ethnic group, whilst degrading the other
  • The national curriculum can be found to be ethnocentric as it gives prority to white culture and the English language, and ignores cultural and thnic diversity -> this could lead to underachievement due to children from ethic minorities feeling inferior -> however, this theory cannot be applied to Asian pupils who are often found to achieve highly

Other ways in which schools can be found to be ethnocentric include:

  • School uniform requirements may conflict with cultural ones
  • Not providing halal food
  • Assemlies that focus on one faith
  • Timig of holidays which may conflict with other religious/cultural festivals
  • Arrangements for PE/games may conflict with cultural requirements
  • History taught from a British perspective
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