Internal Factors and ethnic differences in achievement

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Labelling and teacher racism

Studies have shown that teachers often see Black and Asian pupils as far from being the 'ideal pupil'. For instance they see black pupils as disruptive and Asian pupils as passive. Negative labels (Stigma's) may lead to teachers treating ethnic minorities differently. These disadvantages may lead them to failure. 

Percentage of teachers from Black and Ethnic minority backgrounds:

  • 1.7% Black
  • 2.6% Asian
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Black pupils

Gillborn and Youdell found that teachers were quicker to discipline black pupils than others for the same behaviour. This is as a result of teachers 'racialised expectations'. This led to pupils misbehaving as they felt judged. (Self-Fufilling prophecy)

They concluded that the conflict between black pupils and teachers originated from racial stereotypes, rather than the behaviour of the pupils. This may explain the higher levels of exclusion rates of black boys. 

Foster found that teachers stereotyping black pupils as bad could result in them being placed in lower 'sets' compared to a white pupil with the same abilities.

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Asian Pupils

Wright- Did a study of a multi-ethnic primary school, her study shows that Asian pupils can also be the victims of teachers' labelling. Teachers continue to have ethnocentric views. This view effected how they related to Asian pupils. For example teachers assumed they would have a poor grasp of english and left them out of class discussions/used simplistic, childish language when speaking to them.

Asian pupils began to feel isolated when teachers expressed disapproval of their customs or mispronouced their names.  Teachers saw them not as a threat(Unlike black pupils) but as a problem they could ignore.

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Pupil responses and subcultures

Fuller- did a study of a group of black girls in a London comprehensive school. The girls were high achievers in a school where most black girls were placed in low streams(Where children are seperated into different ability groups/classes). The girls did not accept the negative stereotypes placed on them, they channelled the anger into educational success.

They did not seek the approval of teachers they relied on their own efforts, and also remained friends with black girls from lower streams. The study highlights two important points. Firstly, pupils may succeed even when they refuse to conform. Secondly, negative labelling does not always lead to failure. The girls rejected the labels placed on them, and they remained determined to succeed. There was no self-fulfilling prophecy here. 

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Pupil responses and subcultures Continued.

Mac and Ghaill- Studied black and Asian 'A' level students at a sixth form college and reached similar conclusions to Fuller. Many of the students did not accept the label placed on them. How they responded depended on factors such as their ethnic group and gender.

For example some girls felt that their experience of having attended an all girls school gave them greater academic commitment that helped them overcome negative labels. As with Fuller's study this study also shows that a label does not inevitably produce a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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Pupil responses and subcultures Continued.2.

Mirza- studied ambitious black girls who faced teacher racism. She found that racist teachers discouraged black pupils from being ambitious through the advice they gave them about careers and option choices. A large majority of teachers in the 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 have low expectations of them.
  • The overt racists: Teachers who believe blacks are inferior and activley discriminate agaisnt them.

Much of the girls' time at school was spent trying to avoid the effects of teachers' negative attitudes. The girls' were selective about which staff to ask for help, they would get on with their own work instead of getting involved in class. These strategies put them at a disadvantage by restricting their opportunities. Unlike the girls in Fuller's study their strategies were unsuccessful, despite having high self-esteem.

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The ethnocentric curriculum.

Troyna and Williams- describe the curriculum in British schools as being ethnocentric because it gives priority to white culture and the English language.

Ball- Criticises the National curriculum for ignoring cultural and ethnic diversity and it promotes 'little Englandism'. For example the history curriculum recreates a 'mythical age' while ignoring the history of black and Asian people.

Coard- The ethnocentric curriculum produces under-achievement. And it promotes a view that black people are infereior to white people, this undermines black peoples self-esteem.

It still isn't clear what the impact of the ethnocentric curriculum has on people.

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Institutional racism

Troyna and Williams-  They argue that explanations of ethnic differences in achievement need to go beyond simply examining individual teacher racism to look at the whole institute and how they discriminate agaisnt ethnic minorities. They make two distinctions:

  • Individual racism: that results from the prejudiced views of individuals.
  • Instituntional racism: discrimination that is built into the way institutions such as schools operate.

From this point of view, the ethnocentric curriculum is an example of institutional racism because the racism is built into the schools teachings. This results in the ethnic minorities being routinely disadvantaged by the system (school) that disregards their needs.

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Selection and Segregation

Gillborn- argues that marketisation(a policy of introducing forces of supply and demand into areas run by the state, it encourages competition between schools and choice for parents) has given schools greater scope to select pupils and this puts some ethnic minority pupils at a disadvantage, because they aren't seen as the 'ideal pupil'.

Moore and Davenports study supports this view- They did a study on how selection procedures lead to ethnic segregation with minority pupils failing to get into better schools. They found that these shcools discriminate agaisnt 'problem students'. Also the procedure to get into schools was difficult for less educated or non-English speaking parents to understand. These procedures favoured white, middle-class pupils. They thus conclude that selection leads to an ethnically stratified education system. 

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Ethnicity, class and gender.

Evans- Claims we need to understand the relationship between ethnicity and achievement, we need to to look at how ethnicity interacts with gender and class. 

Connolly- Did a study of 5-6 year olds in a multi-ethnic inner-city primary school, he shows how pupils and teachers construct masculinity differently depending on the child's ethnicity. He also found that Asian children were seen as keen and passive but when they misbehaved were seen as immature and silly rather than threatening, this led to bullying from black pupils as they would say male Asians were too feminine.

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