Ethnic Differences in Achievement

HideShow resource information

Cultural Deprivation Theory

  • Many children from low income families lack intellectual stimulation.
  • Poorly equipped for school problem solving 
  • Berstein & speech codes 
  • Mirza - Indian pupils 
  • Bereiter & Engelmann - Language of low income black American families is inadequate.
1 of 16

Sewell's fathers, gangs, culture and black masculi

  • Not absence of male role models that leads to underachievement. 
  • Problem - lack of fatherly nurturing 
  • Black boys - subject to powerul anti-eductaional peer group pressure 
  • Academically successful boys = greatest barrier - pressure from other boys 
  • Standard English & doing well is seen as 'selling out' to a white establishment
  • Black students do worse than Asian pupils - cultural differences in socialisation & attitudes to eductaion 
  • Black students usually boys - need to have greater expectations to raise aspirations 
  • Arnot (2004) - media inspired role model of anti-school black masculinity        - ultra tough ghetto superstar (rap lyrics & mtv videos) 
  • Gillborn argues that problem is institutional racism within education system 
2 of 16

Palmer's study - relationships between ethnicity,

  • 1/2 of ethnic minority children live in low income households 
  • More likely to be involved in shift work 
  • Ethnic minorities 2x as likely to be unemployed compared to whites 
  • Material Deprivation = substandard housing & low income ( more likely to be wc & ethnic minorities)
  • EM - greater risk of MD - cultural factors, lack of language skills etc 
  • Indian & Chinese who are materially deprived - still do better than most 
  • MD & social class - factors do not completely override influence of ethnicity.
  • Modmood (2004) - low income families generally did less well 
3 of 16

Racism in wider society

Rex & Wood 

  • Racial discrimination leads to social exclusion faced by EM
  • Minorities - more likely to be forced into substandard housing 
  • Racism in employment 
  • Names associated with different ethnic groups 
  • EM more likely to face unemployment & low pay 
4 of 16


Gillborn & Youdall 

  • Teachers - quicker to discipline black pupils 
  • Radicalised expectaions 
  • Teachers act on misperceptions 
  • Stems from racial stereotypes


  • BP more likely to suffer from unofficial exculsions 
  • More likely to be put into referral units 
5 of 16



  • Affected how they related to Asian pupils 
  • Ethnocentric views - standard English is superior 
  • Assumed poor grasp of English 


  • Streaming black pupils on basis of negative stereotypes 
  • Self-fulfilling prophecy of underachievement 
  • Teachers stereotypes result in them being placed into lower streams 
6 of 16

Pupil Identities

Ideal Pupil 

  • White middle class masculined identity 
  • Achieving in the right way (natural ability & initiative)

Pathologised pupil 

  • 'Deserving poor' 
  • Feminised identity, conformist & culture bound 
  • 'Over achiever' success from hard work & not natural ability 

Demonised Pupil 

  • Black or White WC hyper sexualised idenity - unintelligent & peer-led 
  • Culturally deprived 'underachiever' 
7 of 16

Pupil responses to labelling: subcultures

The Rebels

  • Small minority of black pupils
  • Rejected goal & rules of school
  • Conform to stereotype of anti-authority


  • Tiny minority of isolated individuals
  • disconnected from school & black subcultures
  • despised by the rebels


8 of 16

Pupil responses to labelling: subcultures


  • Largest group keen to succeed and accepted school goals
  • Friends -  different ethnic groups
  • Not part of  a subculture - anxious to avoid being stereotyped


  • 2nd largest group
  • Pro education but anti-school
  • Valued success but did not seek approval from teachers
  • Distanced from conformists
  • Maintain credibility with rebels
  • Still positive about academic achievement
9 of 16


Black students - high achievers in low streams

Rejected the stereotypes & only conformed to school work

Did not seek approval from teachers

10 of 16

Institutional Racism

Critical Race Theory

Racism is an ingrained feature of society, institutional racism is 'less overt, more subtle, less identifiable & originates in operation of established & respected forces in society'

Ethnocentric Curriculum

- David

Curriculum - specifically British largely ignores non-european languages/literarure etc


National curriculum - ignores ethnic diversity & promotes little Englandism

11 of 16

Institutional Racism


Teachers & policy makers make false assumptions  about nature of  pupils ability & potential



'Assessment game' - rigged

To validate the dominant cultures superiority

12 of 16

Institutional Racism

Marketisation & Segregation


Marketisation gives schools more scope to select pupils.

- Allows negative stereotypes to influence decisions about admissions

Locked in Inequality


Inequality becomes self perpetuating, it feeds on itself

Institutional racism is locked ininequality

13 of 16

Institutional Racism

Criticisms of Gillborn

- Sewell rejects view not powerful enough to prevent succeeding

- Need to focus on external factors e.g. boys anti-school attitudes etc

- If minority groups e.g. Chinese do so well how can there be IR


- Image of Chinese etc doing well  - performs ideological functions

- Conceals system as institutionally racist

- System appears fair & meritocratic

- Justifies failure of other minorities

14 of 16

Pupil responses to labelling: subcultures

Mac an Ghaill (1992)

  • Study of black & Asian 'A' level students
  • Pupils who were labelled negatively did not necessarily accept the label
  • How they reacted depended on ethnic group / gender and the nature of former schools
  • Girls = all girls school = better committment & ability to overcome negative labels at college
  • Label does not inevitably produce a self-fulfilling prophecy
  • Links with Fullers study
15 of 16

Mirza : Failed Strategies for Avoiding Racism

Mirza (1962)

  • Racist teachers discouraged black pupils from being ambitious
  • Through advice that was given to them
  • Teachers discouraged them fromaspiringto gain professional careers 

Three main types of teacher racism

  •  The colour-blind - teachers who believe all pupils are equal but allow racism to go unchallenged
  • The Liberal Chauvinists - Teachers who believe black pupils are currently deprived & who have low expactions of them
  • The Overt Racists - Teachers who believe blacks are inferior & actively discriminate against them

Girls time at school was trying to avoid the effects of nagative attitudes, by getting on with their own work in lessons without taking part.

High self-esteem / strategies were unsuccessful

16 of 16


No comments have yet been made

Similar Sociology resources:

See all Sociology resources »See all Education resources »