Ethnic Differences in Achievement

Ethnic Differences in Achievement

HideShow resource information
  • Created by: Bethany
  • Created on: 20-05-11 09:07

External Factors and ethnic differences in achieve

Factors outside of the school affecting ethnic differences in achievement. Factors outside the school - in the home, family and culture of the child and the impact of wider society. The main explanations are;
1) Cultural Deprivation
2) Material Deprevation and class
3) Racism in wider society

1 of 12

1) Cultural Deprivation

The cultural Deprevation theory sees the underachievement of some ethnic groups as the result of inadequate socialisation in the home. There are 3 main aspects to this;

- Intellectual and linguistic skills
- Attitudes and values
- Family structure

2 of 12

- Intellectual and linguistic skills

Cultural deprivation theorists see lack of intellectual and linguistic skills as a major cause of under-achievement for many minority children. Arguing many children from low-income black families lack intellectual stimulation. Leaving them poorly equiped for school as they have not been able to develop reasoning and problem-solving.

Bereiter and Engleman consider the lanuage spoken by low-income black American families as inadequate for educational success. They see it as ungrammical, disjointed and incapable of expressing abstract ideas.

Gordon Bowker (1968) likewise identifies their lack of standard English as a major barrier to progress in education and intergration into wider society.

Swann Reporet (1985) found that lanuage was not a major factor in uner-achievement.

David Gilborn and Heidi Safia Mirza (2000) note that Indian pupils do very well despite often not having English as their home lanuage.

3 of 12

Attitudes and Values

Cultural deprivation theorists see lack of motivation as a major cause of the failure of many black children. Most children are socialised into the mainstream culture, which instils ambition, competitiveness and willingness to make the sacrifices necessary to achieve long-term goals. Equipping them for success within education.

By contrast, cultural deprivation theorists argue, some black children are socialised into a subculture that instils a fatalistic, 'live for today' attitude that does not value education and leaves them unequipped for success. 

4 of 12

Family Structure and Parental Support

Cultural deprivation theorists argue this failure to socialise children inadequately is the result of a dysfunctional family structure.

Daniel Moynihan (1965) argues; because many black families are heaed by a lone mother, their children are deprived of adequate care as she has to struggle financially in the absence of a male breadwinner. The father's absence also means that for young boys they lack a role model for male achievement. Moynihan sees cultural deprivation as a cycle from unstable families go on to fail at school and become inadequate parents themselves.

The New Right put forward similar explanations.
Charles Murray (1984) argues that a high rate of lone parenthood and a lack of positive male role models lead to the under achievement of some minorities.
Anthony Flew (1984) belives that ethnic differences in achievement stem from cultural differences outside the education system, not discrimination within it.
Roger Scruton (1986) sees the low achievement levels of some ethnic minorities as resulting from a failure to embrace mainstream British culture.

5 of 12

Criticims of Cultural Deprivation

Geoffrey Driver (1977) criticises cultural deprivation theory for ignoring the positive effects of ethnicity on achievement. He shows the black Carribean family as being far from dysfunctional, provides girls with positive role models of strong independant women. He argues this is why black girls tend to be more successful in education than black girls.
Errol Lawrence (1982) challenges Pryce's view that black pupils fail because their culture is weak and they lack self esteem. He argues that black people under achieve not because of low self-esteem, but  because of racism.
Critics oppose compensatory education, they see it as an attempt to impose the dominant white culture on children who alread have a coherent culture of their own.
Proposing two main alternatives;
- multiculural education; a policy that recognises and values minority cultures and includes them in the curriculum
- anti-racist education; a policy that challenges the prejudice and discrimination that exists in schools and wider society.

Some sociologists argue that material deprivation rather than cultural  deprivation is the main cause of under-achievement.

6 of 12

2) Material Deprivation and Class

This means a lack of those physical necessities that are seen as essential or normal fpr life in today's society. In general, working-class people are more likely to face poverty and material deprivation.

Material deprivation explanations see educational failure as resulting from factors such as substandars housing and low income.
Ethnice minorites are more likely to face these (Flaherty 2004);
- Pakistanis and Bangladeshis are over three times more liely than whites to be in the poorest fifth of the population.
- Unemployment is three times higher for African and Bangladeshi/Pakinstani than it is for whites.

This inequalities reflect differences in the proportion of children from different ethnic groups who are eligible for free school meals.
These inequalities parrallel those seen in educational achievement.

Gillborn and Mirza argue that social class factors do not override the influence of ethnicity.

7 of 12

3) Racism in Wider Society

While material deprivation and poverty has an impact on the educational achievement of some ethnic minority children, some sociologists argue that poverty is itself the product of another factor -  namely, racism.

David Mason (1995); 'Discrimination is a continuing and persistent feature of the experience of Britain's citizens of minority ethnic origin.'

John Rex (1986) shows how racial discrimination leades to social exclusion and this them worsens the poverty faced by ethnic minorities. In housing for instance, discrimination means that minoritiesare more likely to be forced into substandard accomodation than white people of the same class.

8 of 12

Internal Factors and Ethnic Differences in Achieve

Gilborn and youdell (2000), in one local education authority African Carribean children were the highest achievers on entry to primary school, yet by the time it came to GCSE, they had the worst results of any ethnic group.
If a group can begin their compulsory schooling as the highest achievers and yet finish it as the lowest achievers. suggesting that factors internal to the educational  system itself may be playing a mjor part in producing ethnic differences in achievement. Internal factors including;
1) Labelling and teacher racism
2) Pupil responses and subcultures
3) The ethnocentric curriculum
4) Institutional racism
5) Selection and segregation

9 of 12

1) Labelling and Teacher Racism

To label someone is to attach a meaning or definition to them.
For example; teachers may label a pupil as a trouble maker or cooperative, bright or stupid. (This in turn may lead to the self fullfilling prophercy.) Interactionist sociologists study the face-to-face interactions in which such labelling occurs.

When looking at ethnic diffferences in achievement, interactionists focus on the different labels teacheres give to children from different ethnic backgrounds.

Studies shown that teachers often see black and Asian pupils as being far from the 'ideal pupil'. Negitive labels may lead teachers to treat ethnic minority pupils differently.

Overall this disadvantages them and may result in their failure.


10 of 12

2) Pupil Responses and Subcultures

Research shows that pupils can respond to teacher racsim and negative labelling in a variety of ways. They may respond by becoming disruptive or withdrawn. Alternatively, pupils may refuse to accept the label and even decide to try and prove it wrong. Negative labels do not automatically turn into the self-fulfilling prophercy..

Fuller and Mac an Ghail reject negative labels

Mirza failed strategies for avoiding racism

Alarge majority of teachers in the Mirza's study held racist attitudes. Mirza identifies three main types of teacher racism;
- The colour blind; teachers who believe all pupils are equal but in practice allow racism to go unchallenged.
- The liberal chauvinists; teachers who believe black pupils are culturally deprived and who have low expectations of them
- The overt racists; teachers who believe blacks are inferior and actively discriminate against them.

11 of 12

Sewell; The variety of boys' responses

Tony Sewell (1998) examines the responses and strategies black pupils adopt to cope with racism.
Using Robert Merton's (1949) classification of conformity and deviance, Sewell identifies four ways in which the boys responded to racist stereotyping.

The Rebels; the most visible and influential group, However only a small minority of blacks. Often excluded from school, and rejected the goals and rules of the school. They were contempuous of white boys.

The Conformists; the largest groups. Boys were keen to suceed, accepted the school's goals and had friends from different ethnic groups. They weren't part of a subculture and were anxious to avoid being stereotyped by teachers or peers.

The Retreatists; were a tiny minority of isolated individuals who were disconnected from both school and black subcultures. Despised by the rebels.

12 of 12


No comments have yet been made

Similar Sociology resources:

See all Sociology resources »See all Education resources »