Topic 6: Educational attainment and ethnicity

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  • Created by: zoolouise
  • Created on: 19-05-16 15:11

Link between attainment and ethnicity

In all ethnic groups, there are children who are high achievers and committed to education, just as there are those who remain indifferent. White children can be accepted as the average or norm, but only because the vast majority of children in schools are white.

  • Functionalists tend to see some ethnic minorities as pre-disposed to fail in school and look for cultural and genetic explanations.
  • Marxists are concerned with class and so ethnicity tends to be overlooked in favour of the class status of ethnic minorities.
  • Interactionists tend to look at labelling, teachers and institutional racism is the cause of school under-attainment.
  • Feminists suggest girls from ethnic minorities experience a double disadvantage, that being sexism and racism.
  • The New Right agree with functionalists, they're very concerned about the recent perceived failure of boys. West Indian Boys lack suitable role models as single parenthood is more common.
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Poverty and class

Strand (1999) found that in primary and secondary schools in Londom, both Black and white able children from disadvantages blackgrounds failed to make expected progress; Chinese and Indian heritage pupils did better than predicted. There may be many reasons for this, above the known effects of social class. Suggestions include the fact that ethnic minority children tend to attend low-performing schools, have low expectations placed on them by teachers, are perceived as having problem behaviour. The worst performing ethnic groups in education are white Traveller groups and white working-class British pupils. This suggests that whilst issues of racism are significant, they don't explain why some pupils from ethnic backgrounds underachieve.

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Cultural differences

Government data shows 10% of children in English schools have English as an additional lanuage. They use a different language at home. 

The case of Gypsy/Roma or Traveller children shows that culture may impact on educational attainment. These groups tend to be from disadvantages families. Traveller children attend primary school more than they do attend secondary schools, this suggests many families don't register their children at school. It's thought this may be for child care and work reasons. 

On the other hand, Chinese children are consistently among the highest attaining children and it's thought that Chinese parents strongly encourage or even demand high educational attainment of their children. At GCSE, Chinese children on FSM perform better than the national average for all pupils. Chua described the Chinese parents as 'Tiger Parents' who can't accept failure.

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The Swan Report of 1985 recommended schools should promote the idea of multicultural Britain as many schools were institutionaly racist. Sociologists and ethnographers such as Gilroy, Sewell, Modood and Safia Mirza pointed to racict attitudes among schools and teachers. 

Childline reported that in 2013, there was 1,400 children reporting incidents of racist bullying in schools, and evidence that young Muslims are being called offensive names linked to terrorism. This is an increase from 802 in the previous year, it's difficult to tell whether there's more bullying or more open reports. Childline claimed that teachers were unable to help pupils. Stuart Hall suggested that racism in schools led to a rejection of schooling by Black Caribbean boys which he called a culture of resistance.

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Ethnocentricity and single parenthood

Ethnocentricity is the view that one's own culture is central to an understanding of the world. Sociologists claimed that the National Curriciulum is ethnocentric and overlooks the contribution of non-white groups to british history. Black people are considered in a context of negative stereotypes such as slavery so the contributions of non-white British people are frequently overlooked. This resulsts in damage to the self-esteem of pupils that aren't white.

African Carribbean commuities tend to have relatively high levels of lone parenthood. This means families may face financial challenge, this plays a large factor in low school attainment. The New Right have been very critical of single motherhood, they see it as contributing to huge social problems among the poor in our society. Wright and others have pointed out that single mothers can be positive role models for young people who perform better in education knowing they may raise a family on their own. This also may account for high rates of achievement among Black Caribbean girls compared to boys.

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