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[Click on the Education Link above for related information including some PowerPoint Presentations]

Page last edited: 17/05/2017 

NB New Link added 17/11/2016 BBC Documentary "Will Britain Ever Have  a Black Prime Minister?" [No longer available  on BBC Iplayer but currently available on You Tube here

Click here and here for recent contributions to debates around ethnicity and attainment from Tony Sewell and David Gillborn respectively and click here for a profile of Tony Sewell and here for a recent video lecture by Professor David Gillborn.

Click here for The Voice {info on Emag etc]

Click here for information from the NAS/UWT on the EMAG and its aftermath.  This is quite useful on specific education policies affecting ethnic minority students. NEW LINK added May 2017

Click here for a detailed article by Louise Archer. This is a technical  article but it does have an interesting, accessible  chart on teacher' perceptions of the "ideal pupil" NEW LINK added May 2017

Click here for The Educational Strategies of the Black Middle Classes and here for a useful summary and here for a Guardian article [Prof. C. Vincent, Dr. N Rollock, Prof. Stephen Ball, Prof. David Gillborn] NEW LINK added May 2017

Click here for paper from JRF

 

New Links December 28th 2016

Click here for new Social Mobility Commission Report ; Ethnicity, Gender and Social Mobility  and here for a fairly detailed press release from the Commission

Click here for Guardian Coverage of new Social Mobility Commission Report

Click here for BBC coverage of new Social Mobility Commission Report

This report provides detailed information on the extent and causes of gender and ethnic inequalities in educational attainment.

 

 

I have been updating this document at intervals for the last 5 or 6 years and in this revised version I have  updated my sources of  data on ethnicity and educational achievement and added more information on educational achievement and the white working class . Further information on this topic may be found in the above mentioned Social Mobility Commission Report.

The data sections of the document may now seem a bit daunting and students may choose instead to rely on  This Sutton Trust  Report  [Class Differences: Ethnicity and Disadvantage published on  November 10th 2016] and students may also  click here for a detailed paper by Professor Steve Strand {Ethnicity, deprivation and educational achievement at age 16 in England ;trends over time .}. In this paper Professor Strand provides a clear comprehensive graphical description of relevant trends as well as detailed analysis. The charts and tables on pp40-50 provide the best description that I have seen of trends relating ethnicity, free school meal eligibility, gender and educational attainment at GCSE level.

A new secondary school accountability system was introduced in 2016 and you may  click here    for DFE statistics relating to 2015/16 GCSE results which are  based on this new system. For data on ethnicity, free school meal eligibility and gender scroll down to pp16-25 of the statistical first release. Click here for further information in the accompanying Characteristics National Tables. New link added January 2017

You may also click here for a recent DFE Report on destinations of pupils after Key Stages 4 and 5 which has useful information on access to Higher Education and ethnicity, free school meal eligibility , gender and special educational needs on pp 23- 28....and much more . New link added January 2017  

I hope that students will find the subsequent  essay on ethnicity and educational attainment to be useful for examination purposes.

 

Data Sources.

 This Sutton Trust  Report  [Class Differences: Ethnicity and Disadvantage published on  November 10th 2016]  has excellent data on ethnicity and educational attainment .  I rely also  primarily on the following sources and links to these sources will appear again at intervals throughout the document .

A new secondary school accountability system was introduced in 2016 and you may  click here    for DFE statistics relating to 2015/16 GCSE results which are  based on this new system. For data on ethnicity, free school meal eligibility and gender scroll down to pp16-25 of the statistical first release. Click here for further information in the accompanying Characteristics National Tables. New link added January 2017

 

You may click here for DFE statistics relating to 2015/16 GCSE results. These results are based on a new secondary school accountability system introduced in 2016. For data on ethnicity, free school meal eligibility and gender scroll down to pp16-25 of the statistical first release. Further information can be found in the accompanying Characteristics National Tables.

You may  Click here for DfE publication; Revised GCSE and equivalent results in England 2014-15 [DFE]    . It is very important to note that in this SFR publication rather less data are provided on attainments of pupils eligible for free school meals because a wider measure of social disadvantage is introduced in this publication. although full Free school meals data are provided in the supplementary tables and I have used these data later in this document [Again once you reach the DFE  page you may find it best to click on the SFR [Statistical First Release]  PDF link  which provides  information educational attainments at GCSE level relating to Gender, Ethnicity, Free School Meal Eligibility and whether or not English is the pupils' first language. More detailed information may be found by clicking on National and Local Authority Data and finding Tables 1 and 2]  .

Click here for some graphics on Ethnicity, Free School Meal Eligibility ,Gender and Attainment at GCSE Level in 2014/15. The data are extracted from the above DFE Report. [Please note that Chart 3 is blank . The data in Sheet 3 appear in Chart 4!!] .

You may  Click here for the  DFE statistics relating to  2013/2014 GCSE results   . It is very important to note that as a result of various methodological changes introduced in 2013/14  the 2013/14 examination statistics are not comparable to those of previous years.

You may click here    for the  DFE statistics relating to  2012/2013GCSE results and trends between 2008/09 and 2012/13  . [Once you reach the DFE  page you may find it best to click on the SFR [Statistical First Release]  PDF link  which provides trend information educational attainments at GCSE level relating to Gender, Ethnicity, Free School Meal Eligibility and whether or not English is the pupils' first language. More detailed information may be found by clicking on National and Local Authority Data and finding Tables 1 and 2.. 

You may Click here for Demos Hub on Ethnic Integration .

 You may click here for the House of Commons Education Committee Report: Underachievement in Education by White Working Class Children [June 2014]. Chapter Two of this report contains detailed data on trends in the attainment levels of disadvantaged pupils in different ethnic groups between 2006/7 and 2012/13 although the main focus of the report is , of course on White working class pupils. I refer again to this report in the section below on Ethnicity and Economic Disadvantage.

You may click here for a detailed paper by Professor Steve Strand {Ethnicity, deprivation and educational achievement at age 16 in England ;trends over time .}. In this paper Professor Strand provides a clear comprehensive graphical description of relevant trends as well as detailed analysis. The charts and tables on pp40-50 provide the best description that I have seen of trends relating ethnicity, free school meal eligibility, gender and educational attainment at GCSE level.

You may click here for a detailed DFE Report: A Compendium of Evidence on Ethnic  Minority Resilience to the Effects of Deprivation on Attainment 

You may click here for a Conversation article  article by Saeeda Shah [Reader in Education University of Leicester] in which she discusses some of the findings of the above two reports.

You may click here for a presentation from the Institute of Education: Raising the Achievement of White British Pupils

The following links provide information on Ethnicity, Advanced Level attainment and access to Higher Education.

 

Background to Success [Differences in A Level entries by ethnicity, neighbourhood and gender: Sutton Trust]

 Guardian article on above report 

Socio-economic, ethnic and gender differences in HE participation {Detailed IFS Report for BIS] 2015

Ethnicity and Participation in Higher Education [IFS Observation from above Report NEW November 2015

 

 

 

 

 

This document is divided  into two sections as follows.

·         Section One:

1.      The Meaning of "Race" and Ethnicity

2.       Data on Ethnicity and Educational Achievement.

3.      "Race" , Ethnicity and IQ Theory

·         Section Two: Sociological Explanations of Relationships between Ethnicity and Educational Achievement

1.      Ethnicity, Material circumstances and Educational Achievement

2.      Ethnicity, Family Life, Language, Youth Culture and Educational Achievement.

3.      Ethnicity, the Schools and Educational Achievement

The statistical data in my document may now appear a little overwhelming [or so I have been told!] and students may prefer instead  to rely on their own textbooks for statistical data perhaps supplemented by a few of my sources. They may need  to focus in examination questions especially on the information in Section Two which is written in more or less essay format.

Section Two is approximately 6 pages in length and can be used as a "stand alone" section . It  contains  a  brief summary of the Section One information followed by more detailed information on sociological explanations of relationships between Ethnicity and Educational Achievement so that students may if they wish proceed directly to Section Two and use the Section One materials for reference purposes.

You may also click here for some new information on Educational Attainment and the White Working Class.

 Alternatively students may use the above links to dip into the document as they see fit!

 

Part 1: The Meanings of "Race" and Ethnicity

·         The meaning of "Race"    

1.UN Statement on Race and Racial Prejudice 1978

Any theory which involves the claim that racial or ethnic groups are inherently superior or inferior, thus implying that some would be entitled to dominate or eliminate others, or which bases value judgements on racial differentiation has no scientific foundation and is contrary to the moral and ethical principles of humanity.

2.M.Banton and J Harwood [The Race Concept 1975 quoted in "Race in Britain : Continuity and Change edited by Charles Husbands 1982]

As a way of categorising people, race is based upon a delusion because popular ideas about racial classification lack scientific validity and are moulded by political pressures rather than the evidence from biology

2. Robert Winston [Human Instinct]

Scientists believe that over 90% of all genetic difference can be found within a given "race" rather than between "races", so that, biologically speaking, a white Londoner is likely to be just as similar to or different from his or her white neighbour as he or she is to a neighbour from Jamaica or Kuala Lumpur.

As social contacts increased between Europeans and the peoples of the Americas, Africa, Asia , China and Australasia following the so-called voyages of discovery, the expansion of international trade [including the egregious slave trade] and increasing imperialist colonialisation, European   people turned increasingly to the modern concept of race to understand the clearly observable physical differences between themselves and the people of far off lands.

The word "race" had apparently entered the English language in 1508 and the precise meaning and usage of the term has varied considerably since then Prof. M Banton's Racial Theories 1987?] but the modern concept of race was formulated in so called theories of scientific racism which developed in the course of the C18th and C19th in the work of writers such as Georges Cuvier and Arthur de Gobineau. Broadly speaking these theories contained the following elements.

1.      The world population could be classified into a limited number of distinct races on the basis of differences in observable physical characteristics  such as skin colour, head shape or cranial capacity, hair texture and  facial characteristics such as eye shape and lip thickness. It was agreed also that there could also be physical variations within these   broadly defined races.

2.      Different theorists suggested different classificatory schema but the following table outlines  one well known schema indicating 3 broad races with considerable variations within them. Here, .for example Chinese , Japanese and other South and East Asians and Northern and Latin American Indians are all classified as "Mongoloid" while Indians , North Africans, Middle Easterners as well as Europeans are all classified as "Caucasoid" . Remember also there are noticeable physical differences  as between Southern and Northern Europeans.

Racial Group

Eyes

Hair

Skin

Face

Main locations

Negroid

Brown

Black, tightly curled

Dark brown-black

Broad nose, wide nostrils, thick lips, sparse beard

Sub-Saharan Africa

Mongoloid

Brown, slanted

Black, straight

Yellow-reddish brown

Flat, high cheek bones, sparse beard

South and East Asia, North and South America, Pacific Islands

Caucasoid

Light blue-dark brown

Straight, wavy or curly; balding more common

White-dark brown

Narrow nose, thin lips, more facial hair

Europe, Middle East, North Africa, India

 

       3. These physical differences among the races and especially the racial differences in cranial capacity were presented as evidence biologically determined differences in intellectual abilities and moral and cultural tastes among the races.

      4.  Of the three races in the above schema the Caucasoid race was recognised as the intellectually, morally and culturally superior race and within the Caucasoid race White Europeans were recognised as especially intellectually, morally and culturally superior. although not if they happened to be Jewish or Irish.

      5. Since the intellectual, moral and cultural capacities of the different races were biologically rather than socially determined there was no possibility that the supremacy of white Europeans at the top of the racial hierarchy could be overturned.

These conclusions, apparently based upon the best that contemporary scientific method had to offer coalesced with a longer history of British prejudice especially against Black people but also against the Jews and the Irish reaching back into the 16th Century even if prior to the 18th Century the word "race" was not actually used in relation to such prejudices. Examples of sources of British prejudice against Black people include the following sources which in their time were considered highly authoritative.

  1. David Hume [1771] "I am apt to suspect the Negroes..... to be naturally inferior to the Whites. There never was a civilised nation of any complexion other tan white, or even any individual eminent in either action, or speculation. No ingenious manufactures among them, no arts, no sciences. There are Negro slaves dispersed all of Europe, of which none ever discovered any symptoms of ingenuity."
  2. The Encyclopaedia Britannica [1884 edition] "No full blooded Negro has ever been distinguished as a man of science, a poet, or an artist, and the fundamental equality claimed for him by ignorant philanthropists is belied by the whole history of the race throughout the historic period."

If the prejudiced notions of Black racial inferiority and White racial supremacy received the support of eminent philosophers such as Hume and in eminent publications  such as Encyclopaedia Britannica it should come as no surprise that such prejudices were widespread in Britain as well as in Europe and the USA. It is also clear that such notions were used in attempts to legitimise a range of economic and social processes which operated to the advantage of the White race and against the interests of the Non-White races or against the interests of certain sections of the White race, most notably ,of course , the Jews. Such processes included:

  1. Slavery and the slave trade;
  2. European imperialist colonisation which may ,however, have aided the peoples of the colonised lands to some extent although they were certainly keen to regain their independence as soon as possible;
  3. The Apartheid regime in South Africa;
  4. The racially discriminatory laws operative in  the Southern States of the USA until the late 1960s;
  5. The persecution in Nazi Germany of the Jews who although they were White had come to be defined as a separate race in Nazi ideology.

However especially from the 1940s onwards the notions that it was possible to classify the human population into separate races on the of physical traits such as their skin colour , cranial capacity and facial features etc and that these physical differences were  evidence also of differences in intellectual capacity and moral and cultural taste came under increasing attack as a result of important developments in population genetics. Population genetics is a highly complex discipline and I can only sketch  in  a non-technical fashion  some of its key findings which are undermine the concept of race as outlined above. Thus

  1. Individuals each have approximately 50,000 individual genes and the significance of many individual genes for the development of each individual person is as yet unknown.
  2. About 75% of all known human genes do not vary in any way as between different individuals.
  3. Differences in skin colour, facial characteristics and hair texture are influenced by the combined characteristics of a very small number of individual genes.
  4. It is likely that once  members of Homo Sapiens began to migrate northwards out of Africa about 70,000 years ago various environmental influences led to modification in the genes which over a period of many years resulted in a gradual lightening of the skins of people who had migrated to less sunny, colder climates. For example the lightening of the skin may have been a genetic response to the limited availability of sunlight or to the colder climate while the continued existence of black skin in Africa protects against the dangers of skin cancer and may also permit black people to work more strenuously in hot climates than would be possible for white people. It is likely also that the differing shapes of white and black individuals' noses derives from a long term evolutionary genetic response to colder European air.
  5. About 25% of known human genes do vary as between different individuals  and  population geneticists have drawn very important conclusions from their analysis of these variable human genes  which can be illustrated broadly in the following example.
    • It is clear that the genetic endowments of individuals within the entire population of the world do vary considerably.
    • If we now consider the white population of Britain [who we shall describe as a "white British tribe" of the "white race" in general] we find that approximately 85% of the genetic endowment  within the population of the entire world is present among the individuals of this "white British tribe".
    • Approximately another 5-10% of the total world variation in genetic endowments  is accounted for by the genetic variation between the "white British tribe" and other "white tribes" such as the Germans, the French, the Spanish and so on.
    • Finally the last 5-10% of the total world variation in genetic endowments is accounted for by genetic variation between the "white race " as a whole and the "black race" as a whole.
    • It follows that  the overall average genetic differences between say, white British and black African people are very small and , indeed, far smaller than genetic differences which exist within the white British population. Therefore Professor Robert Winston state that "biologically speaking, a white Londoner is likely to be just as similar to or different from his or her white neighbour as he or she is to a neighbour from Jamaica or Kuala Lumpur."

In view of these discoveries it has been widely argued that the concept of race can be rejected as biologically meaningless since although there are indeed observable physical differences say between African, Asian, Chinese and European people, these physical differences are trivial by comparison with the overwhelming genetic similarities between these groupings. Those who reject the concept of race in this way often write the word "race" in inverted commas to signify their recognition of its biological meaninglessness while at the same time they recognise that the socially constructed, widespread and inaccurate belief in the existence of different biological races [without inverted commas] has had and continues to have many very unfortunate consequences.

Many of those who use the term race will be unfamiliar with even the basic findings of population genetics and will believe that there are highly significant genetic differences between the races and in some cases the users of the term may believe that observable physical differences between the races also signify differences in intellectual , moral and cultural capacities as in the 18th and 19th Century theories of race. It is clear that such racial prejudice is widespread in contemporary UK society and that various forms of racial discrimination continue to exist in relation to political representation, employment, housing allocation and in the operation of the criminal justice systems.

We may note that not all of those who oppose racial prejudice and racial discrimination argue for the placement of the word "race" in inverted commas to signify its biological meaninglessness. The famous  Professor of Genetics at University College London Steve Jones agrees that genetic differences between the races are small but the fact that they exist at all means that the term race does have some usefulness .However he also emphasises that in his view there is no  valid biological evidence to support the view that any one race is intellectually superior to another.

However , old ideas die hard and some academics, sand as we shall see in Unit 13,some academics continue to argue that ethnic differences in educational achievement are influenced by ethnic differences in genetically inherited intelligence,  a view that has attracted widespread criticism. Click here for  recent controversy surrounding these issues

·         The Meaning of Ethnicity

In Units 12, 13 and 14 we shall be analysing in some detail the relative educational achievements of Black, Asian, Chinese and White pupils.  These pupils are classified by sociologists not in terms of their "race" but in terms of their ethnicity and so it is important to distinguish carefully between these two concepts. It is recognised that there are observable physical differences between Black, Asian, Chinese and White individuals but these physical differences are far less significant than the overall genetic similarities between so-called "races". However ethnic differences between these groupings may be substantial and they may influence the relative educational achievement of the different ethnic groups in several ways.

An ethnic group is a group of individuals   whose members have several important similarities which influence their behaviour in various ways so as to differentiate them as members of their ethnic group from members of other ethnic groups. Thus  ethnic groups within a given society may differ for several inter-connected reasons.

1.      Members of a given ethnic group may be conscious of their own history which differentiates them in various ways from members of other ethnic groups.

2.      They may originate from  different parts of the world by comparison with other ethnic groups.

3.      They may follow different religions than members of other ethnic groups.

4.      They may speak different languages as their "first language" than members of other ethnic groups.

5.      They may feel that they are discriminated against in various ways if they are a relatively powerless ethnic minority group within a particular society. This may be especially likely to occur if members of an ethnic minority group share physical characteristics which mean that they are defined unfairly as a separate and inferior "racial " by the dominant ethnic group within a society.

6.      All of these factors may combine to ensure that members of a given ethnic group will develop their own distinctive values, attitudes and norms of behaviour which together define the overall culture of the ethnic group which is different in various ways from the cultures of other ethnic groups.

On the basis of these points we may distinguish between the following main ethnic groups within the UK: White British, Black African, Black Caribbean, Chinese, Indian,  Bangladeshi and Pakistani. However within the White British category many Roma, Irish , Scottish and Welsh people may regard themselves as members of separate ethnic groups as will many white immigrants for example from Eastern Europe .

There are also important variations within ethnic groups as well as between them : for example within a given ethnic group, not all members necessarily follow the same religion; there may be significant social class-based differences in attitudes and values within the White British ethnic group; there may be significant generational differences in attitudes and values within all ethnic groups and particularly in the younger generation many members of one ethnic group may be prepared to adopt the  attitudes, values and indeed the fashion accessories more often associated with other ethnic groups. It is also the case that individuals are prepared to define themselves as members of different ethnic groups at different times depending upon the circumstances.

Despite these complexities sociologists believe that the classification of individuals into separate ethnic groups does serve some useful purposes not least in the investigation of ethnic differences in educational achievement.

[A fuller discussion of Ethnicity can be found in "Sociology: Themes and Perspectives" [M. Haralambos and M. Holborn].

Activity

  1. Explain the meaning of the concept of  race as it was used in the 18th and 19th Centuries.
  2. How did the findings of population geneticists undermine the concept of race as it was used in the 18th and 19th centuries?
  3. Why do many sociologists choose to pace the word "race" in inverted commas?
  4. Explain briefly  the differences between "race" and ethnicity.
  5. Give five examples of  ethnic tensions and conflicts which have troubled the world in recent years.

·         Part 2:   Ethnicity and Educational Achievement : Data

It is , for several reasons, difficult to summarise the relationships between Ethnicity and Educational Achievement .

1.      We must distinguish the achievements of   several ethnic groups [which may be further divided into sub-groupings and mixed ethnicity groupings] in different generations and at varying levels such as Key Stage 1 and 2 and 3 Levels, GCSE Level, Advanced Level, Degree Level and Post-Graduate Level. We should also ideally investigate ethnic educational achievements on the wide variety of professional courses which are currently available.

2.      We find that in relation to GCSE Level patterns of ethnic educational achievement at age 16 do not provide a complete picture because of ethnic differences in the willingness to remain in education for at least one more year to re-take GCSE examinations so that ethnic patterns of educational achievement are slightly different depending upon whether we choose to compare the educational achievements of 16 year olds or 17 year olds.

3.      Our conclusions will vary also depending upon which comparisons we choose to make. We may, for example, focus on percentages of pupils gaining 5 or more GCSE A*-C pass grades or on percentages of pupils gaining, say 5 or more A*-G GCSE pass grades and on 5 or more GCSE passes including or excluding English and Mathematics or, most recently,  on percentages of pupils achieving A*-C grades in all GCSE EBacc subjects  .

4.      It has been argued that because many   schools focus primarily on increasing the proportions of their  gaining 5 or more A*-C GCSE passes attention is  distracted  from the particular educational difficulties experienced by low achieving students.

5.      It is vital to note that the educational achievements of all ethnic groups students vary also according to gender and according to economic circumstances which may be assessed approximately by pupils' eligibility or ineligibility for free school meals.

6.      Most  comparisons of ethnic educational achievement are made on the basis of national education statistics but it is important to note that there are some very significant local variations in ethnic educational achievements .There is evidence also from some small scale surveys that Pakistani and Bangladeshi-origin students are likely to be more successful especially in areas where they are highly concentrated and there are more ethnic minority teachers.

7.      National statistics on the educational achievements of ethnic minority students are usually presented in terms of very broad ethnic categories and I have followed this procedure here. However it is vital to note also that small sub-groupings within these broad ethnic categories face particular difficulties as is indicated in research by Jill Rutter.

Here I shall be describing only the national statistical trends in the GCSE performance of 16 year-olds as measured by the proportions of pupils gaining 5 or more A*-C GCSE passes including English and Mathematics . I believe that this limited  description of the multiplicity of  relevant trends will provide an adequate basis for a discussion of some of the factors which help to explain ethnic differences in   educational achievement.

Data Sources:

3.      Data Source One :Recent Trends 1989-2004

The following information is extracted   from the Youth Cohort Study of 16 Year olds published in Feb 2005 and amended in June 2006. It illustrates trends in educational achievement at GCSE level [as measured by attainment of 5 or more GCSE grades A*-C in Year 11] between 1989 and 2004 according to the  ethnicity of the students estimated on the basis of   samples which range between  24922 and 13,698.

Attainment of 5 or more GCSE grades in Year11 by ethnicity 1989-2004

Year

1989

1990

1991

1992

1993

1994

1995

1996

1997

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

Weighted sample

14116

 

14511

24922

 

18020

 

15899

 

14622

 

13698

 

16707

 

14003

Percentage of the group defined at each row

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

White

30

 

35

37

 

43

 

45

 

47

 

50

 

52

 

55

Black

18

 

19

23

 

21

 

23

 

29

 

29

 

36

 

34

Asian

29

 

26

33

 

36

 

38

 

45

 

48

 

52

 

55

  • Indian

n/a

 

n/a

38

 

45

 

48

 

54

 

60

 

60

 

72

  • Pakistani

n/a

 

n/a

26

 

24

 

23

 

29

 

29

 

40

 

37

  • Bangladeshi

n/a

 

n/a

14

 

20

 

25

 

33

 

29

 

41

 

45

  • Other Asian

n/a

 

n/a

46

 

50

 

61

 

61

 

72

 

64

 

65

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 The above   data indicate that the attainments of all ethnic groups listed have improved since between 1989 and 2004 but that significant ethnic inequalities in educational achievement remain.  

2. Data Source Two  More Recent Trends : Ethnicity and  Percentages of Students achieving 5 or more GCSE Pass Grades A*-C including English and Mathematics  in recent years .

You may click here    for DFE statistics relating to  2012/2013GCSE results and trends between 2008/09 and 2012/13. [Once you reach the DFE  page you may find it best to click on the SFR [Statistical First Release]  PDF link  which provides trend information educational attainments at GCSE level relating to Gender, Ethnicity, Free School Meal Eligibility and whether or not English is the pupils' first language. More detailed information may be found by clicking on National and Local Authority Data and finding Tables 1 and 2..  

The following data have been extracted from recent DFE SFR data 

 3. Data Source Three

 Ethnicity, Gender and Percentages  of Pupils Gaining 5 or more A*-C GCSE Pass Grades  including English and Mathematics 2007/08 and 2014/15 . [These data have been extracted from the above mentioned DFE sources.]

[BFSM and GFSM refer to the percentages of Boys and Girls respectively eligible for Free School Meals.  BNFSM/UC  and GNFSM/UC refer to Boys and Girls respectively either ineligible for Free School Meals of as unclassified eligible of ineligible. We shall refer to these categories later in the document but for the time being I shall refer only  to the final 6 highlighted Columns of the table ]

 

B FSM 07/08

BFSM 14/15x

GFSM 07/08

GFSM

14/15x

Total FSM/ 7/08

Total FSM 14/15x

B NFSM/UC 07/08

BNFSM UC14/15x

GNFSM/UC 07/8

GNFSM/UC 14/15

Total NFSM/UC 07/08

Total NfSM/UC 14/15

Allboys 7/8

All Boys 14/15

All Girls07/08

All Girls 14/15

All pupils 07/08

All Pupils 14/15

 

All Pupils

20.5

29.3 27.8 37.2 23.8 33.1 47.6 56.2 55.9 65.8 51.7 60.9

44.2

52.5

52.3

61.8

48.2

57.1

White

16.6

24.3 22.6 32.3 19.5 28.3 47.8 55.9 55.9 65.7 51.7 60.7

44.6

52.2

52.3

61.7

48.4

56.8

White British

16.3

24.0 22.0 32.0 19.1 27.9 47.8 56.3 55.7 66.1 51.7 61.1

44.7

52.4

52.4

62.1

48.4

57.1

Irish

17,8

25.9 30.0 37.7 24.6 32.1 57.7 72.1 67.0 75.1 62.5 73.6

52.3

66.4

61.7

69.9

57.0

68.2

Traveller/Irish

0.0

11.8 x 14.3 x 12.9 x 20.8 x 32.0 x 26.5

4.5

14.7

9.2

20.9

7.3

17.6

Gypsy/Roma

6.3

5.5 4.5 5.3 5.4 5.4 4.6 9.1 10.6 12.5 7.7 10.1

5.3

7.7

8.3

9.6

6.8

8.6

Any other White

24.2

33.4 34.5 42.8 29.4 37.9 45.1 50.4 53.2 59.0 49.0 54.6

42.0

48.3

50.2

57.1

46.0

52.6

Mixed

24.3

34.5 31.2 40.6 27.9 37.5 48.6 58.9 52,6 67.2 52.1 63.1

44.1

54.2

50.7

62.0

47.4

58.1

Asian

32.7

45.0 42.8 51.6 37.6 48.2 50.2 60.4 60.9 68.2 55.3 64.2

45.8

57.4

56.4

65.1

50.9

61.1

Indian

41.3

52.5 50.5 58.2 45.9 55.3 62.4 70.5 72.3 77.0 67.2 73.6

60.4

69.0

70.1

75.5

65.1

72.1

Pakistani

28.1

38.5 37.0 45.8 32.3 42.0 38.9 50.8 48.8 58.9 43.7 52.7

35.3

47.8

45.0

55.7

40.0

51.6

Bangladeshi

35.9

53.0 47.6 59.6 41.7 56.2 41.7 60.8 54.6 69.4 48.8 65.0

38.9

58.3

51.2

66.3

45.0

62.2

Any other Asian

35.6

47.7 46.5 52.8 40.5 49.9 48.8 62.9 62.2 72.4 55.0 67.5

46.4

60.7

59.5

70.1

52.4

65.1

Black

25.8

35.6 34.7 46.8 30.4 41.2 37.9 50.1 51.7 61.2 44.9 55.7

34.4

48.4

46.8

57.6

40.7

52.0

Black Caribbean

23.3

24.4 29.0 40.9 26.2 32.4 31.8 44.0 46.3 55.7 39.2 49.9

30.0

39.3

42.5

52.4

36.4

45.9

Black African

27.0

41.8 37.0 50.8 32.1 46.2 43.0 53.8 56.4 64.4 49.9 59.1

37.5

50.6

50.0

60.8

43.9

55.7

Any other Black

24.8

25.4 35.9 38.0 30.7 32.1 36.5 45.9 47.4 56.0 42.8 51.8

33.6

48.9

45.6

52.6

39.6

46.7

Chinese

55.3

67.6 71.5 88.6 63.1 74.0 64.9 70.5 76.6 83.1 70.8 76.8

63.8

70.4

76.0

82.9

69.9

76.6

Any other Ethnic Group

31.0

46.1

40.7

52.4 35.3 47.0

43.6

54.9 55.7 65.5

49.2

59.9

39.3

52.5

50.6

62.1

44.6

57.0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As is well known girls outperform boys nationally at GCSE level and it is the case also that girls outperform boys in every ethnic group as is indicated by the red and blue column data in the above table  for  2007/8- 2014/15.

Let us note the following  in relation to data sources two and three :

1.      Comparing data sources 3 and 4 it  is clear that the educational attainments of both White British and Black and Minority Ethnic Groups have improved.

2.  Chinese and girls and boys achieve the best pass rates at GCSE level.

3.      There are significant variations in educational attainment among the ethnic subsections of the Asian and Black ethnic categories.

4.      Asian pupils as a composite grouping  outperform White British pupils.

5.      Within the Asian category Indian pupils are especially successful.

6.      The rate of improvement in educational achievement has been greatest for Bangladeshi and Pakistani pupils in recent years.

7.      Bangladeshi pupils and Black African pupils now achieve better results than White British pupils

8.      The attainment gaps between White British pupils and Pakistani pupils, between White British and Black pupils and between White British  and Black-Caribbean pupils  have all narrowed

9.       There remain  especial concerns around the relative underachievement of Black boys in general and Black Caribbean boys in particular. However we may note also that the attainment gaps between Black and Black Caribbean boys and White British boys has narrowed in recent years.

 

 We may also note the following additional general points

·         Ethnic minority pupils are more likely than white pupils to retake GCSE examinations thereby improving their relative educational attainments between the ages of 16 and 17.

·         The educational achievements of ethnic minority students have certainly improved over time with the result that young members of ethnic minority groups are more likely to be well qualified than are older members of these groups.

·         We should note that ethnic minority students are more likely than white students to enrol on degree level courses.

·         However, they are currently less likely to enrol at "high status" Universities and also less likely to gain First Class and Upper Second Class degrees.

·         Addition July 2014click here for an LSE paper on Black and Minority Ethnic Access to Higher Education and  click here for Guardian coverage of this LSE research .

 Source Four: School Exclusions

Click here for data from Poverty.Org  and scroll down to Graph Three for on Ethnicity and School Exclusions. where you will find that Afro-Caribbean origin boys are the gender/ethnic category most likely to be excluded from school.

Activity

1 Using Data Source Two  in which 3 ethnic groups are females most successful at GCSE level and in which 3 ethnic groups are female students least successful at GCSE level?

2 Using Data Source Two in which three ethnic groups are males most successful at GCSE level and in which 3 ethnic groups are males least successful at GCSE level.?

3. Using Data Source Two why might it be rather dangerous to generalise about the overall performance of ethnic minority students at GCSE level?

4. Using Data Source Two why might it be dangerous to generalise about the overall performance of Asian students at GCSE Level?

5. Source Three indicates that the educational attainments of all ethnic groups have improved between 1989 and 2004. Why , in your opinion , have examination results improved?

6. Source Four highlights the relative underachievement of Black boys in general and of Black Caribbean boys in particular. State two possible reasons for these findings.

7. Why are Afro-Caribbean boys relatively more  likely to be excluded from school? Give two possible reasons.

 

·         Data Source Five: Differences in Economic Circumstances : Ethnicity and Poverty in the UK

Although members of ethnic minorities are found throughout the UK class structure, Afro-Caribbean, Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin students are especially likely to be found in the lower sections of the working class and to experience poverty. Social theorists analysing poverty distinguish between absolute and relative concepts of  of poverty and on the basis of the most widely used official definition  relative poverty is said to occur when individuals receive incomes lower than 60% of the median income . However data are also collected for individuals receiving below 50% and 70% of median income and it is noted also that there are significant differences in the extent of relative poverty depending upon whether it is measured before or after housing costs

Most recent data on ethnicity and Poverty can be found in the annual DWP publications entitled Households Below Average Income, the most recent version of which was published on July 1st 2014 and contains data on relationships between poverty and ethnicity for 2012/13. It is estimated that in 2012/13  15% [before Housing costs] and 21%[After housing costs] of the UK population were living in relative poverty. The ethnic differences in the incidence of poverty remain in 2012/13 : thus taking the 60% of median income after housing costs definition the ethnic variation in the incidence of poverty was as follows : White 19%; Mixed Ethnicity 38%; Asian/ Asian British 39%; Indian 25%; Pakistani 48%; Bangladeshi 56%; Chinese 46%; Any Other Asian 42%; Black/African/ Caribbean/ Black British 39% Any other ethnic group 40%.

Fuller data  appear on page 38 of the report but if you require slightly more detailed data click here for Supporting Data Tables and the consult chapter_3_risk_hbai14

·         .Data Sources  Six, Seven and Eight : Differences in Economic Circumstances: : Ethnicity, Gender, Free School Meal Eligibility  [FSM]]

Data Source Six

You may click here for the House of Commons Education Committee Report: Underachievement in Education by White Working Class Children [June 2014]. Chapter Two of this report contains detailed data on trends in the attainment levels of disadvantaged pupils in different ethnic groups between 2006/7 and 2012/13 although the main focus of the report is , of course on White working class pupils.

 All of this information is presented clearly and succinctly and it could perhaps provide the basis for some interesting class discussion.

Once again you may click here    for DFE statistics relating to  2012/2013GCSE results and trends between 2008/09 and 2012/13. but you will need to access the accompanying tables to access information on Ethnicity, Free School Meal Eligibility and attainment  [Once you reach the DFE  page you may find it best to click on the SFR [Statistical First Release]  PDF link  which provides trend information educational attainments at GCSE level relating to Gender, Ethnicity, Free School Meal Eligibility and whether or not English is the pupils' first language. More detailed information may be found by clicking on National and Local Authority Data and finding Tables 1 and 2.. However there is also a menu in the top right hand corner of Table 2a which enables you to choose several different years and patterns of achievement in relation to differing  attainments at GCSE Level including in most recent years the newly introduced English Baccalaureate. You may click here for a Guardian article by Professor David Gilborn in which he outlines his views on the possible implications of the EBacc for ethnic minority students. 

Meanwhile, however, I have retained my own table of statistics which  have been extracted from previous DFE SFR data but concentrate now on the significance of Free School Meal Eligibility .

 Attainment of 5 or more A*-C GCSE Grades Including English and Mathematics in recent Years : Ethnicity, Gender and Free School Meal Eligibility [2007/08- 2014/15. Data collated from various DCFS/DFE publications. ] .[BFSM and GFSM refer to the percentages of Boys and Girls respectively eligible for Free School Meals.  BNFSM/UC  and GNFSM/UC refer to Boys and Girls respectively either ineligible for Free School Meals of as unclassified eligible of ineligible.] 

This table may be rather difficult to read . Click here for some graphics on Ethnicity, Free School Meal Eligibility ,Gender and Attainment  at GCSE Level in 2014/15. The data are extracted from the above 2014/15 DFE Report. [Please note that Chart 3 is blank the data in Sheet 3 appear in Chart 4!!] .

 

 

B FSM 07/08

BFSM 14/15x

GFSM 07/08

GFSM

14/15x

Total FSM/ 7/08

Total FSM 14/15x

B NFSM/UC 07/08

BNFSM UC14/15x

GNFSM/UC 07/8

GNFSM/UC 14/15

Total NFSM/UC 07/08

Total NfSM/UC 14/15

Allboys 7/8

All Boys 14/15

All Girls07/08

All Girls 14/15

All pupils 07/08

All Pupils 14/15

All Pupils

20.5

29.3 27.8 37.2 23.8 33.1 47.6 56.2 55.9 65.8 51.7 60.9

44.2

52.5

52.3

61.8

48.2

57.1

White

16.6

24.3 22.6 32.3 19.5 28.3 47.8 55.9 55.9 65.7 51.7 60.7

44.6

52.2

52.3

61.7

48.4

56.8

White British

16.3

24.0 22.0 32.0 19.1 27.9 47.8 56.3 55.7 66.1 51.7 61.1

44.7

52.4

52.4

62.1

48.4

57.1

Irish

17,8

25.9 30.0 37.7 24.6 32.1 57.7 72.1 67.0 75.1 62.5 73.6

52.3

66.4

61.7

69.9

57.0

68.2

Traveller/Irish

0.0

11.8 x 14.3 x 12.9 x 20.8 x 32.0 x 26.5

4.5

14.7

9.2

20.9

7.3

17.6

Gypsy/Roma

6.3

5.5 4.5 5.3 5.4 5.4 4.6 9.1 10.6 12.5 7.7 10.1

5.3

7.7

8.3

9.6

6.8

8.6

Any other White

24.2

33.4 34.5 42.8 29.4 37.9 45.1 50.4 53.2 59.0 49.0 54.6

42.0

48.3

50.2

57.1

46.0

52.6

Mixed

24.3

34.5 31.2 40.6 27.9 37.5 48.6 58.9 52,6 67.2 52.1 63.1

44.1

54.2

50.7

62.0

47.4

58.1

Asian

32.7

45.0 42.8 51.6 37.6 48.2 50.2 60.4 60.9 68.2 55.3 64.2

45.8

57.4

56.4

65.1

50.9

61.1

Indian

41.3

52.5 50.5 58.2 45.9 55.3 62.4 70.5 72.3 77.0 67.2 73.6

60.4

69.0

70.1

75.5

65.1

72.1

Pakistani

28.1

38.5 37.0 45.8 32.3 42.0 38.9 50.8 48.8 58.9 43.7 52.7

35.3

47.8

45.0

55.7

40.0

51.6

Bangladeshi

35.9

53.0 47.6 59.6 41.7 56.2 41.7 60.8 54.6 69.4 48.8 65.0

38.9

58.3

51.2

66.3

45.0

62.2

Any other Asian

35.6

47.7 46.5 52.8 40.5 49.9 48.8 62.9 62.2 72.4 55.0 67.5

46.4

60.7

59.5

70.1

52.4

65.1

Black

25.8

35.6 34.7 46.8 30.4 41.2 37.9 50.1 51.7 61.2 44.9 55.7

34.4

48.4

46.8

57.6

40.7

52.0

Black Caribbean

23.3

24.4 29.0 40.9 26.2 32.4 31.8 44.0 46.3 55.7 39.2 49.9

30.0

39.3

42.5

52.4

36.4

45.9

Black African

27.0

41.8 37.0 50.8 32.1 46.2 43.0 53.8 56.4 64.4 49.9 59.1

37.5

50.6

50.0

60.8

43.9

55.7

Any other Black

24.8

25.4 35.9 38.0 30.7 32.1 36.5 45.9 47.4 56.0 42.8 51.8

33.6

48.9

45.6

52.6

39.6

46.7

Chinese

55.3

67.6 71.5 88.6 63.1 74.0 64.9 70.5 76.6 83.1 70.8 76.8

63.8

70.4

76.0

82.9

69.9

76.6

Any other Ethnic Group

31.0

46.1

40.7

52.4 35.3 47.0

43.6

54.9 55.7 65.5

49.2

59.9

39.3

52.5

50.6

62.1

44.6

57.0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Students [ and website writers!] may find it difficult to summarise the above data . Superb graphical presentations of trends in relationships  between ethnicity, gender and free school meal eligibility , and GCSE attainment [measured by attainment of 5or more GCSE A*-C grades including English and Mathematics can be found if you  click here for a detailed paper by Professor Steve Strand {Ethnicity, deprivation and educational achievement at age 16 in England ;trends over time } and scroll to pages 40-47. This won't take long and will be worth your time.

 

In relation to the above table [and the previous linked source] note the following points.

 

1.      Boys and girls  in every ethnic group are less likely to be successful in GCSE examinations if they are eligible for free school meals.

2.      However the  effects of free school meal eligibility vary considerably between different ethnic groups .

3.      Note that White and White British boys and girls who are eligible for Free School Meals attainment poorer results than boys and girls eligible for Free School Meals in any other ethic group. The gaps in attainment for white pupils eligible and ineligible for free school meals are greater than for any other ethnic group and this has generated considerable concern as to the prospects of white working class students. This topic will be considered in more detail presently.

4.      Furthermore consider  the results of Bangladeshi, Chinese, White British Indian ,and Black Caribbean pupils .

o    For Bangladeshi pupils the difference  in results between those pupils eligible and ineligible for free school meals is small.

o    For  Chinese pupils  the difference in results between those pupils eligible and ineligible for free school meals is again small.

o    Contrastingly, the differences in results between White pupils eligible and ineligible for free school meals are  much greater.

o    Indian and Black Caribbean students occupy  intermediate positions.

 Sociologists have suggested three main types of explanation for the above relationships between ethnicity, free school meal eligibility and educational achievement.

·         It is suggested that eligibility for free school meals is an imperfect measure of the relative economic  deprivation suffered by pupils of different ethnic groups and that more accurate measures of economic deprivation would show that economic deprivation is a more important explanatory factor than the free school meals data suggest.[ As mentioned, several methods may be used to measure levels of economic deprivation but the comparison of these methods is technically complex and I shall not consider this point any further here. ]

·         It is suggested that the differential educational achievements of different ethnic groups may be explained partly by a range of cultural factors operative for some ethnic groups  so that some ethnic groups are more successful than others in overcoming the effects of material deprivation. It is widely believed  Indian and Chinese families are especially likely to value education highly and that these cultural attitudes enable poor Indian and Chinese students to offset more effectively the effects of poverty.

·          Note that on the basis of the above data the NFSM-FSM discrepancy is smaller in all ethnic minority groups than it is among white students.

·         Others have is suggested that the cultural differences between ethnic groups have been much overstated and that  instead a range of processes internal to the schools themselves may operate to the relative disadvantage of some ethnic groups rather than others. Thus for example poor Afro-Caribbean students and also poor white students may be more likely than poor Chinese and Indian students to experience negative labelling in schools.

[ N.B. Important as the above data are it is important to remember that in every ethnic group pupils eligible for free school meals make up a much smaller percentage than pupils ineligible for free school meals so that although White and White British boys and girls eligible for free school meals  are less likely than pupils eligible for FSM  in any other ethnic group to achieve 5 or more A*-C  GCSE grades this is not the case when we compare  all pupils eligible and ineligible  in all ethnic groups  as has been indicated in data source 5 above.  There can be a danger that a focus [especially perhaps in certain sections of the mass media,] on the limited attainment of White and White British pupils eligible for free school meals distracts attention from the educational disadvantages affecting members of other ethnic groups whether they are eligible for free school meals or not , a point emphasised by Professor David Gilborn in his study "Racism and Education: Coincidence or Conspiracy 2008.] This point of clarification has been added on April 5th 2012 after I finished reading Professor Gilborn's book! Highly recommended for students requiring more detailed information on this issues considered here. 

Nevertheless many  sociologists do  regularly use eligibility for free school meals as a general indicator of economic deprivation  and you may  Click here for Guardian coverage of Professor Ramesh Kapadia's  2010 research indicating that poverty [as measured by free school meal eligibility is especially likely to depress the GCSE results of white pupils. NEW LINK added April 2012.  [Here , however, we must remember that  some ethnic minority groups [most notably Bangladeshis and Pakistanis ] are especially likely to experience poverty so that even if fairly large percentages  Bangladeshi and Pakistani pupils succeed in overcoming the potentially adverse effects of poverty on their educational attainment this nevertheless means that many are unable to do so.]

 

 

Activity : Relationships between Ethnicity, Economic Deprivation   and Educational Achievement

4. The data in Source 8   indicate that the NFSM-FSM difference in examination results is relatively small for  Bangladeshi and Chinese pupils . Can you state two possible reasons why this might be the case?

5. The data in Source 8  indicate that the NFSM-FSM difference in examination results is large for  White pupils. Can you state two possible reasons why this might be the case?

6. Further reading: click here for a Guardian report of recent research on interconnected social class and ethnicity disadvantages and their effects on 3 year olds

 

 

 

Update March 2016: Education and the White Working Class

 

In the late C20th the educational attainment levels of Black and Minority Ethnic pupils [ other than those of Chinese and Indian origin] were considerably lower than those of  White British pupils and sociologists advanced a variety of theories [to be discussed later in the document] as to why this might be the case. However more recent statistics on GCSE attainment indicate that patterns of ethnic educational attainment at GCSE Level have changed significantly.

These data on Free School Meals and educational attainment have generated increasing concerns about the relative underperformance of "white working class" exemplified most recently in  the House of Commons Education Select Committee Report: Underachievement in Education by White Working Class Children [June 2014 Click here]. However it is recognised that in the Report that reliance on Free School meal eligibility as an indication of social class membership does present some problems.

Nevertheless it is true that at GCSE level Chinese, Indian and Bangladeshi pupils now out perform White British pupils; that Pakistani pupils have almost caught up White British pupils ; and that the attainment gap between Black [including Black Caribbean ] pupils and White British Pupils has narrowed significantly and furthermore that  among pupils eligible for Free School Meals  White British pupils are especially likely to underachieve and  the attainment gap between pupils eligible and ineligible for Free School Meals is greater for White British pupils than for any other ethnic group.  

Sociologists have long recognised the existence of significant social class inequalities in educational attainment and have sought to explain these inequalities  in terms of some combination of partly genetically inherited social class differences in intelligence, working class material and cultural disadvantages and organisational factors in the schools themselves involving streaming , banding and setting which might result in positive and negative labelling processes. It should be noted that many sociologists are critical of theories based upon social class differences in inherited intelligence and on theories focussing on the alleged cultural deprivation of working class parents and their children while often preferring to emphasise that working class parents and children may not be lacking in aspiration but that they may lack the cultural, social and economic capital necessary  to translate their positive aspirations into successful strategies to improve educational attainment.

All of these arguments are discussed in the Select Committee Report  in attempts to explain the relative underachievement of white working class pupils relative to working class ethnic minority students. The Report suggests , however that more research will be necessary to resolve these difficult issues and this has led the DFE to sponsor further research leading to the publication of two significant reports in 2015 the publication

 

 

You may click here for a detailed paper by Professor Steve Strand {Ethnicity, deprivation and educational achievement at age 16 in England ;trends over time .}. In this paper Professor Strand provides a clear comprehensive graphical description of relevant trends as well as detailed analysis. The charts and tables on pp40-50 provide the best description that I have seen of trends relating ethnicity, free school meal eligibility, gender and educational attainment at GCSE level.

You may click here for a detailed DFE Report: A Compendium of Evidence on Ethnic  Minority Resilience to the Effects of Deprivation on Attainment . Pages 17-25 of this Report contain useful information on possible reasons for ethnic differences in attainment among pupils eligible for free school meals.

 You may  Click here for a recent report on access of white working class students to HE

 

 

 In the latter Report the authors summarise  some of the available research studies which aim to assess the relative importance of school factors, and parental and student attitudes as determinants  of the trends in ethnicity, free school meal eligibility and student attainments.

  My own conclusions  , such as they are, are as follows.

  1. It is important to note the relative underachievement of White British pupils eligible for free school meals in comparison with ethnic minority pupils eligible for free school meals.
  2. However it is dangerous to assume that the attainments of pupils eligible for free school meals provide an accurate estimate  of the attainments of all working class pupils many of whom are not eligible for free school meals.
  3. It is very difficult to explain the reasons for the relative underachievement of white pupils eligible for free school meals compared with ethnic minority pupils eligible for free school meals.
  4. Several studies point to differences in aspirations as between different ethnic groups but the most recent DfE Report on this issue emphasises that this conclusion should not be accepted without question and that further research into this question remains a priority.
  5. It should be remembered that theories based around the alleged cultural deprivation of working class students and their families have a long history in Sociology and that they have been subjected to several significant criticisms. Further information on these theories can be found here and more detailed information can be found here.
  6. Click here for a thought provoking article by Garth Stahl on the nature of white working class aspiration and click here for an article by Prof. Tony Sewell and click here for further comments from Garth Stahl and click here for  a recent Guardian article by Tim Lott and click here for  a recent  Guardian article by Gaby Hinchcliffe . The differing emphases of these articles may generate useful discussion.
  7. You may  Click here for a recent report on access of white working class students to HE

  8. This is clearly a topic which you might like to discuss in more detail with your teachers.
  9. I have now revised my essay [see below] on ethnicity and educational achievement to include a short discussion of the educational attainments of white working class pupils. I hope that that summary information will be useful for examination purposes.

 

·         Part 3: Explaining Ethnic Differences in Educational Achievement [1] :  IQ Theory 

        The comparison of IQ test scores of members of different ethnic groups has occurred more frequently in the USA than in the UK and in the USA the available data suggest that Americans of Asian origin typically score slightly higher in IQ tests than White Americans who in turn have typically scored  10% -15% higher than Black Americans although the gap between White American and Black American test scores is narrowing.

Supporters of IQ Theory such as Arthur Jensen, Hans Eysenck, Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray make the following claims:

  1. Intelligence can be clearly defined.
  2. Intelligence, once defined, can be measured accurately in IQ tests.
  3. Between 40% and  80% of the variation in intelligence between individuals can be explained by genetic factors.
  4. Average differences in intelligence between upper, middle and working class people can be explained to a considerable extent by genetic factors although the precise significance of heredity and environment in this respect cannot be known with certainty
  5. Genetic factors help also explain  differences in intelligence  between ethnic groups  although once again the relative importance of genetic and environmental factors cannot be known with certainty.
  6. However in "The Bell Curve" [1994] Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray suggest that it may be reasonable to assume that 60% of the variation in intelligence between Black and White Americans may be explained by genetic factors.

[Charles Murray also developed a theory of the "Underclass" in the USA in the 1980s which he explained the intergenerational persistence of mainly Black and Hispanic  poverty partly in terms of the fatalism and lack of ambition of Blacks and Hispanics which he believed to have been caused by their excessive reliance on generous welfare benefits which creates a "culture of dependency" from which they cannot escape. In The Bell Curve Murray and Herrnstein suggest that Black poverty may result also from the lower inherited IQ of black people. and their  ideas have been seized upon by the supporters of the "New Right" who argue that since poverty is to be explained  mainly  or at least partly by genetically inherited low IQ , increased government spending on social security and education will be unlikely to solve the problem. However IQ theory in general and The Bell Curve in particular have also attracted several criticisms]

Many sociologists are critical of  arguments that differences in intelligence can be accurately measured by IQ tests and that differences in IQ test scores between Blacks and Whites  can be explained to a significant extent by  differences between Blacks and Whites in their genetic inheritance of intelligence.

With regard to the limitations of IQ tests sociologists point out that::

  1. It is difficult to define what "Intelligence " actually is although Eysenck and Jensen have defined it as "abstract reasoning ability."
  2. It is open to question whether so called Intelligence  Tests or IQ tests can accurately  measure current intelligence or the potential to increase one's intelligence in the future. The fact that one can quickly improve one's test scores with a little practice suggests that these tests are unlikely to measure our fundamental intelligence or our potential to develop our intelligence in the future.
  3. These tests may be culturally biased in various ways as where they demand knowledge more likely to be available to white [and middle class],  respondents
  4. Related to the above point such tests may therefore be may be testing knowledge rather than intelligence .
  5. Test results are likely to vary according to the conditions surrounding the test. In racist societies the self-confidence of ethnic minority members may have been systematically undermined so that they under-perform in IQ tests much as they have sometimes done  in the education system more generally.
  6. More straightforwardly the tests results may fail to accurately measure intelligence  because some respondents may be nervous, unwell or may not take the test seriously.

Let us now consider the arguments that claims that differences in IQ test scores between Blacks and Whites  can be explained to a significant extent by  differences between Blacks and Whites in their genetic inheritance of intelligence.

  1. Herrnstein claimed in the late 1960s that between 40% and 80% of the differences in IQ scores between individuals could be explained by inherited differences in intelligence. The relative importance of heredity and environment as determinants of intelligence may be estimated in a variety of ways  most notably via the study of separated identical twins reared in different environments such that any observed similarity in IQ tests scores might be explained more reasonably by the similar genetic endowments of the twins than by environmental factors which would be different in the case of each separated twin. However, critics of Herrnstein such as Leon Kamin have pointed out that the separated twins were often reared in similar environments and indeed in different branches of the same family so that the observed similarities in IQ test scores could be explained much more by environmental factors than suggested by Herrnstein. Kamin further claims that a careful analysis of other types of study designed to isolate genetic and environmental influences on IQ test scores suggest that environmental influences are far greater and genetic influences far smaller than is suggested by Herrnstein.
  2. In The Bell Curve [1994] Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray do not of course wish to argue that difference in IQ test scores are determined entirely by genetic factors. Thus they state that " the debate about whether and how much genes and environment have to do with ethnic differences remains unresolved" but having made this statement they quickly  re -iterate, [despite the criticisms of Kamin and others]  the original Herrnstein estimates that hereditability explained between 40%  and 80% of individual differences in IQ test scores [and hence, according to them, in intelligence ] so that it might be reasonable to assume that a mid-point figure that of 60%  of  the difference in IQ test scores between Blacks and Whites might be explained by differences in inherited intelligence between Blacks and Whites.
  3. When critics claimed that the differences in IQ test scores could be explained by the  higher average socio-economic status [i.e. social class position] of Whites which meant, for example, that Whites, on average,  had more years of schooling than Blacks , Herrnstein and Murray rejected these criticisms on the grounds that  Whites were shown to achieve higher IQ test scores  than Blacks   even when the test scores  of Blacks and Whites in the same social class position were compared.
  4. Herrnstein and Murray also rejected all of the potential criticisms of IQ tests which I have outlined above .

 

Not surprisingly The Bell Curve has attracted massive criticisms including the following.

  1. It is pointed out [as was mentioned early in the previous Unit] that overall variations between "racial" groups are far smaller than variations between "racial" groups leading many to claim that the concept of "race" has no scientific validity or usefulness or at least that such small differences between races as do exist are highly unlikely to result in differences in intelligence.
  2. It is pointed out that no intelligence gene has so far been discovered so that the strength or weakness of genetic influence on intelligence must be a matter of speculation. Acknowledged expert sociologist and geneticist  respectively   Christopher Jencks and Steve Jones both state that the relative influences of heredity and environment on intelligence are currently unknown and even probably unknowable.  May it not be just as  possible that Black Americans have inherited greater intelligence than White Americans rather than vice versa?  
  3. It is pointed out that in the USA there has been considerable intermarriage between Black and White individuals so that many "Black" and "White" Americans might more accurately be described as of "Mixed Race." 
  4. Although  Herrnstein and subsequently Herrnstein and Murray have claimed that because there are differences in IQ test scores between Blacks and Whites in all social classes this indicates a limited environmental effect on intelligence , we may note  that in 1972 Bodmer had pointed out that over two hundred years of prejudice and discrimination in the USA against black people prevents an equalisation of the environment with whites and this undermines the validity of the Herrnstein comparison of  IQ test results because even if it is possible to control for the effects of membership of different social classes it is impossible to control for the adverse effects of racism which is likely to affect blacks in all social classes. It is difficult to see how Jensen and Eysenck could make valid comparisons between black and white people in racist societies because even when they attempted to compare blacks and whites from the same social classes  these groups might have similar incomes  but black people would still be socially disadvantaged as result of the effects of racism. Identical criticisms were made in the USA of Herrnstein and Murray almost immediately after the publication of The Bell Curve.
  5. There is considerable evidence that environmental influences on the relative IQ test scores of Blacks and Whites are considerable.
  • The higher IQ test scores of Northern relative to Southern Blacks in the USA for much of the 20th Century may be explained partly by the greater levels of discrimination faced by Southern Blacks.
  • Researchers such as James Flynn have pointed out that IQ test scores are rising on average at the rate of 3% per decade  and that in the USA, for example, Black and White IQ scores have been rising at annual rates of 0.3% and 0.45% respectively which means that in perhaps another 40-50 years Black scores will have overtaken white scores. [James Flynn was interviewed as part of the  recent Channel Four Series: Race: Science's Last Taboo]
  • Such rapid increases in IQ scores cannot possibly be explained via genetic evolution which occurs only very gradually but can certainly be linked to environmental factors such as improvements in health, housing and education.

Most of the above discussion surrounds the analysis of differences in IQ test scores between Black and White Americans. Comparisons of ethnic differences in IQ test scores have rarely been made in the UK but the Swann Committee Report [Education for All 1985] did attempt to investigate the possible strength of  environmental influences on IQ test scores and came to the conclusion that ethnic differences in IQ were insignificant once environmental factors were taken account of. Furthermore we now find that students in all ethnic minority groups are more likely than white students to enrol on undergraduate degree courses which hardly suggests that members of  ethnic minority groups are on average genetically less intelligent than white people.

Activity

1. Re-read the information on Intelligence, IQ tests and their limitations . To what extent do you accept or reject the conclusions of IQ theory in relation to the educational achievements of different ethnic groups? Give reasons for your answer.

 

Other explanations for ethnic differences in educational attainment are outlined in the following essay

 

"Race", Ethnicity and Educational Achievement: Section Two

  In this section of the document I summarise briefly the materials on concepts of "race" and ethnicity and on IQ theory which have been described in more detail in Section One . I also refer briefly to data on ethnicity and educational achievement which have also been considered in more detail in Section One  but  the main focus of Section Two is on sociological explanations relationships between ethnicity and educational achievement . Section Two is written more or less in essay format but you may also  use the following links to pick out particular items of interest.

 

  Introduction

Before analysing trends in ethnic educational achievement it is important to clarify the distinction between the concepts of "race" and ethnicity. In many Sociology textbooks the term "race" appears in inverted commas because sociologists and many others are sceptical as to the validity of the term.  "Racial" differences refer to supposed biological differences between individuals such as differences in skin colour, hair texture or shape of eyes or noses and it has in the past been alleged that these biological differences are correlated with differences in intellectual or cultural characteristics suggesting the cultural and intellectual superiority of the white "race" over all other "races" . However geneticists have shown that real genetic differences between so-called biological "races" are extremely limited such that ,for example, it is entirely possible that if two black persons and one white person are chosen at random there may be more genetic similarities between one of the black persons and the white person than between the two black persons although many geneticists may still argue that the genetic differences which exist between different races are sufficient to make race a meaningful scientific term although they agree very strongly  that ideas of racial superiority have been exposed as sickening but nevertheless dangerous myths . Sociologists therefore aim to investigate ethnic cultural rather than "racial" biological  differences in educational achievement.

In the late C20th the educational attainment levels of Black and Minority Ethnic pupils [ other than those of Chinese and Indian origin] were considerably lower than those of  White British pupils and sociologists advanced a variety of theories [to be discussed later in the document] as to why especially   Afro- Caribbean origin boys and Pakistani and Bangladeshi students in the UK were  less successful educationally than their whites peers .The focus of attention was often been on ethnic differences in GCSE and GCE Advanced Level performance but it was noted that even among ethnic minority groups whose members underachieved at school overall rates of enrolment on Higher Education courses were higher than for white students although white students were disproportionately likely to enrol at the more "prestigious universities."

 However more recent statistics on GCSE attainment indicate that patterns of ethnic educational attainment at GCSE Level have changed significantly.

Several explanations were advanced to explain the relatively poor performance of Black and Pakistani and Bangladeshi students but the students of  Chinese and Indian  ethnic minority groups have for many years out-performed White British students and since in recent years Bangladeshi students have overtaken White British students while Pakistani and to a lesser extent Black students are beginning to catch up White British students we must now recognise that although Black and Minority Ethnic pupils continue to face some educational disadvantages the education system they are beginning to surmount them and it has become increasingly necessary to analyse also the educational problems faced by White British pupils [and particularly White British working class pupils {especially boys}] within the education system.

You may click here for a Conversation article  article by Saeeda Shah [Reader in Education University of Leicester] in which she discusses these changing trends in patterns of ethnic educational achievement .

In the remainder of this essay I first discuss some of the theories which have been used to explain the relative educational underachievement of some black and ethic minority group students  before turning to the recent relatively slow improvement of White British students educational attainments.

  IQ Theory

It has sometimes been argued that the relatively poor performance of some ethnic minority students  can be explained in terms of their lower mainly genetically inherited intelligence but sociologists are generally critical of this view .Thus they point out that. it may be impossible to define exactly what ""Intelligence" is; IQ tests may be culturally biased; they may not measure "Intelligence" but simply the ability to do IQ tests; individuals’ IQ test results depend upon whether they were nervous when taking the test  and on how seriously they have taken the tests ; that even if it could be shown that individual intelligence is to some extent inherited this would not prove that , for example, Asians as an ethnic  group had inherited greater intelligence than Whites as an ethnic group; that IQ test scores depend upon a range of economic, cultural environmental factors and  that  with the current state of knowledge it is not possible to assess the relative importance of heredity and the environment as factors influencing Intelligence.

We may note also that Blacks' IQ test scores have increased relatively quickly in the USA since the introduction of Civil Rights reforms and in South Africa since the ending of Apartheid and that if current trends continue it will not be long before Blacks' IQ scores surpass Whites' IQ scores; that American East Asians currently outscore both American Whites and American Blacks ; and that given the "racial" similarities between Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis it is surely nonsensical to explain differences in educational achievement among these groups in terms of racially inherited differences in IQ. In any case in England Chinese and Indian students have long outperformed White British students at GCSE Level; Bangladeshi pupils have overtaken White British pupils in recent years and the performance gap between Pakistani students and White British students and between Black and White British students are narrowing.


  Ethnicity , Social Class and Material Circumstances

Click here for data from Poverty.Org

When ethnic minority students do underachieve in education this may be explained partly by social class disadvantages and partly by educational disadvantages related specifically to their ethnicity.

Although members of ethnic minorities are found throughout the UK class structure, Afro-Caribbean, Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin students are especially likely to be found in the lower sections of the working class and to experience poverty. Social theorists working with a relative definition of poverty usually define poverty to exist where individuals are receiving an income below 60% of the median income in the UK as a whole and relative poverty in the UK can be shown to be widespread. with 13.5M individuals in relative poverty on this definition in 2007/08 . Furthermore on this basis approximately 20% of Whites, 25% of Indians, 30% of Black Caribbeans, 35% of Black Africans, 59% of Pakistanis and 69% of Bangladeshis were living in poverty in 2005/06-2007/08. [See above link for these and other relevant data.]

It follows that because ethnic minority members are disproportionately likely to experience poverty they are in effect experiencing class disadvantages which are also made more likely because they are more likely than white people to be located in the lower sections of the working class partly because of the effects of racial discrimination. Ethnic minority students from poor backgrounds  may have poorer diet causing lack of energy , concentration difficulties and illness leading to absence from school. They may be forced to miss school to look after sick siblings if their parents cannot afford to take time off work ; they may not have a quiet comfortable study room; they may be forced to take part-time jobs which reduces the time available for study; their parents may be unable to afford books, computers, expensive school trips and private tuition. Poorer students are more likely to live in deprived areas and to attend relatively ineffective State schools which gain relatively poor examination results and moving to more affluent areas with more effective State schools or the choice of successful but expensive Private schools  will not be possible for them. Also the possible financial sacrifices associated with higher education may be especially alarming and this  may prevent talented ethnic minority children from poor families from entering Higher Education.

Nevertheless it is also the case that BAME pupils eligible for Free School Meals outperform White British Pupils eligible for Free School Meals so that although poverty may well inhibit the educational attainment of many BAME pupils they appear to be able to offset the effects of poverty more effectively than White British pupils although this does not mean that the adverse effects of poverty are insignificant.

 

  Ethnicity and Subculture: Language, Family Life  and Youth Culture

Before commencing the analysis of the possible cultural influences on ethnic minority educational achievement I hope the students will forgive a brief digression  on the relative educational underachievement of white working class pupils which is perhaps relevant to the explanation of ethnic educational achievement. You may recall that  that several sociologists attempted in the 1960s and 1970s to explain the relative underachievement of working class pupils at least partly in terms of assumed working class cultural characteristics such as lack of ambition, fatalism and unwillingness to "defer gratification" in order to plan for the future all of which resulted in generally negative attitudes  toward education. In summary: in these theories the relative educational achievement of working class pupils was explained in terms of the cultural deficit, the cultural deprivation or indeed the cultural pathology of working class people themselves. Critics of such theories retorted quickly that they were based upon invalid evidence; that many working class parents were keen for their children to achieve educational success; and that this emphasis on cultural deprivation   deflected attention from the disadvantaged material circumstances and inequitable school process which were more significant contributors to relative working class educational under-achievement.

However  it also came to be argued in theories associated mainly with Pierre Bourdieu that working class pupils might face disadvantages within the education system not because of cultural deprivation but because of the existence of cultural differences which meant that  although the cultures of the upper, middle and working classes may well be different, they are equally valuable  the upper class has the power to establish its culture as the dominant culture in society and to ensure that educational ability is assessed mainly in terms of the possession or non- possession of this dominant culture.  Because possession of the dominant culture is likely to guarantee access to high paid occupations, the dominant culture is referred to as Cultural Capital and it is because the  upper and middle classes  possess much more Cultural Capital than the working class. that they are more successful in the education system. 

Bourdieu's theories have been extended to suggest that even many ambitious working class parents who could not remotely be described as culturally deprived might  be unable to translate their ambition into effective practical help, partly because of financial constraints and partly also because they are less able than middle class parents to facilitate educational leisure activities and hobbies for their children, less able to help with homework and less able to establish positive relationships with their children's teachers.  In the following discussion of ethnicity, culture and educational achievement I shall be accepting the above major criticisms of cultural deprivation theory as applied to working class and ethnic minority parents and children while  accepting nevertheless that despite their best efforts some ambitious ethnic minority parents may find it difficult to make optimum use of the British education system . It has been claimed also that ethnic minority students may face further disadvantages specific  to their ethnicity

 

Sociologists have also considered how ethnic minority family life might affect educational attainments. Writing in 1979 Ken Pryce argued that Afro-Caribbean students might to some extent be disadvantaged by their family characteristics and later writers have emphasised the large proportion of single parent families among Afro -Caribbeans. Against this it has also been claimed that Afro-Caribbean single parents are often resilient, receive considerable help from [often female ] wider kin and often take their children's' education very seriously. There are several studies [such as Driver and Ballard1981 and Ghazala Bhatti[1999] which suggest that Asian parents [Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi] do see their children's education as very important and both Afro-Caribbean and Asian parents are more successful than white working class parents in encouraging their children to stay on in school after post-compulsory education. [Notice, however, that in the case of some ethnic minority groups this is because the students concerned are still trying to achieve Level 2 qualifications and less successful than white students in finding employment. However their willingness to remain in full-time education even in these difficult circumstances clearly also shows  a recognition of the importance of educational qualifications.]

 Further evidence of ethnic minority parental interest in their children's education is shown by telephone poll data reported in the recent 2005 DfES study which reported that on the basis of a telephone survey of approx 1500 ethnic minority parents or carers that they were more likely than a representative sample of the whole UK population to feel very involved in their children's education and more likely to see parents as mainly responsible for their children's education. In addition 82% of ethnic minority parents/carers  were  likely to attend parents evenings at every opportunity and 40% stated that they were always confident helping children with homework although the figures were a little lower in the case of Pakistanis[36%], Bangladeshis[34%] and those for whom English was not their first language[34%]. We may note also that in some cases where ethnic minority students have been relatively unsuccessful in education their parents have shown themselves ready to organise special weekend schools in an attempt to raise their achievements again pointing to very high levels of parental interest.

 

 It has been argued that ethnic minority students may face a range of cultural disadvantages which undermine their educational prospects .Firstly they may be disadvantaged because in some Asian households English is not the first Language and some Afro Caribbean origin people may speak and write in Creole or Patois which are non- standard English dialects , the use of which may inhibit their understanding of more formal English. However there is considerable dispute as to the importance of language : and several studies such as those of Driver and Ballard[1981] and the Swann Report [1985] suggested that initial language difficulties had mostly been overcome by the age of 16 while the Policy Studies Institute Fourth National Survey of Ethnic Minorities (Modood et al1997)  suggested that it was mainly older ethnic minority people who often did have significant language difficulties.

Recent  research published by the DfES in 2005  suggests that although language difficulties may affect some ethnic minority pupils quite significantly in the early stages of their education, the adverse effects of language disadvantage declines significantly by the age of 15-16 so that students for whom English is a second language do on average perform only slightly worse at GCSE level than other students for whom English is a first language. However it might also be argued that if they had not had some language difficulties in the early years of their schooling their results may have been even better.

The issue of language has also be linked with the issue of so-called negative self-images among ethnic minority students. It has been suggested that if West Indian origin students consistently speak and write in Creole and this is consistently graded as incorrect by teachers, this could result in these students generating a negative self image which would restrict their overall progress although of course  this is not the only process which could generate negative self-images.. Attempts have been made to assess the self-image of ethnic minority students using so -called "doll studies" where students are shown black and white dolls and asked which they prefer and the relative preference of ethnic minority children for white dolls is taken as evidence suggesting that some ethnic minority students do indeed have a "negative self-image". However, and not surprisingly, several critics have warned against drawing too clear conclusions from these studies : many ethnic minority children clearly have very positive self-images  which are encouraged by ethnic minority parents.

There has been a veritable parade since the end of the Second World War of mainly White youth subcultures differentiated according to their tastes in fashion and music but also, to some extent, according to the attitudes and values of their members. Discussion of the appearance, behaviour and attitudes of successive waves of Teddy Boys, Mods, Rockers, Hippies, Punks and Goths has often pre-occupied certain sections of the mass media and that section of the Sociology profession specialising in the analysis of "youth subcultures." Furthermore, sociologists specialising in educational  issues have explained the  relative educational underachievement of white working class boys not necessarily in terms of their subcultural styles, but at least partly in terms of the development of an anti-school pupil subculture which is thought to arise partly out of the general condition of working class life   but also as a response to processes such as streaming, banding and setting operative in the schools themselves.

More recently, while relatively little attention has been given to the youth subcultures which may among  Chinese, Indian, Bangladeshi and Pakistani pupils, it has been argued that certain aspects of youth subculture operative among Afro-Caribbean boys may help to explain their relative educational under -achievement. Perhaps the best known study of Afro- Caribbean youth subculture in the UK has been provided by Tony Sewell in "Black Masculinities and Schooling" [1997], which is based upon an investigation of Afro-Caribbean boys in a boys only 11-16 comprehensive school. Sewell distinguishes between four main responses among Afro-Caribbean boy to education which  he terms conformity, innovation, retreatism and rebellion.

Thus 41% of the Afro-Caribbean pupils in the sample are described as "Conformists" who accept school rules and regulations and are ambitious for educational success; 35% are "Innovators" who are also ambitious for educational success but they are critical of school rules and regulations and distance themselves from both teachers and conformist teachers because they wish to be educationally successful but on their own terms; there are a small proportion [6%] of "Retreatists" [often pupils who have been defined as educationally subnormal]   who aim simply to keep a low profile and stay out of trouble  but unfortunately are nevertheless unlikely to be successful; and finally Sewell describes 18% of the pupils as "Rebels" who identify closely with Black Macho street culture as portrayed especially in certain sections of the mass media and music industries, lack ambition and are likely to behave in confrontational ways which teachers believe   reduce the prospects for effective class teaching and may represent a blatant challenge to teacher authority.

It is important to note that only 18% of these boys are classified as rebels in comparison with the  76% who are keen for educational success although admittedly 35% of the pupils pursue success in a way that some teachers might regard as "unorthodox" . In relation to the "Rebels" it is possible that in some cases these boys youthful self-confidence may provoke negative over-reactions by teachers who may have misinterpreted their behaviour as confrontational and threatening.  Also if these boys do show anger within the school environment, such anger may be understandable given their experiences of racism and blocked opportunities in the wider society and of what they perceive to be discriminatory setting procedures and excessive rates of school exclusion relative to boys in other ethnic groups [especially white boys] who can be just as disruptive but are less likely to be excluded.

Tony Sewell's study has been criticised in some quarters for its alleged excessive emphasis on rebellious youth subculture as an explanation of relative educational achievement among Afro-Caribbean origin boys . However although he does indeed focus on the rebelliousness of some Afro-Caribbean origin boys Tony Sewell does also describe the teacher racism [sometimes unintended] and generally poor teaching which the pupils receive in many but not all classes as well as the extent to which teacher-pupil confrontations arise partly as a result of rebellious pupil behaviour but also partly as a result of teachers' misinterpretation of this behaviour. Other analysts do, however focus more than Tony Sewell on the impact of poverty and/or of school organisation and less than Tony Sewell on aspects of Afro-Caribbean youth culture.

Click here  for a recent article by  Tony Sewell and click here for a profile of Tony Sewell.

·         Ethnicity and Culture: A Conclusion

 It is true that lone parenthood is more likely in Black Caribbean and White families than in Asian and Chinese families ; it is true that pupils whose first language is English are more likely to succeed than pupils whose first language is not English; and it is true that the incidence of teenage rebellion may be higher among Afro-Caribbean [and White] boys than among Asian and Chinese boys all of which implies that subcultural factors have some influence on patterns of educational underachievement.

However the evidence suggests that the overwhelming  majority of ethnic minority parents and their children value educational achievement and that ethnic minority cultures in general should certainly not be described as "deprived". However some ethnic minority parents may lack the cultural capital to use the education system to their best advantage [as suggested in relation to working class parents in the theories of Bourdieu] and may face additional difficulties as a result of poverty and some aspects of school organisation which work to their disadvantage.

Click here and here for BBC articles on Racism in Schools

It is argued also that some ethnic minority students may be disadvantaged because of the nature of the  UK education system itself  and in particular as a result of the school curriculum and because they may be subjected to negative labelling processes again partly as a result of their social class background and partly as a result of their ethnicity.Bernard Coard was one of the first critics to argue that the UK education system was in several respects racist and his views have been supported in several fairly recent detailed studies by, for example,   E. Brittan, Cecile Wright  and Heidi Mirza. D. Gilborn and D Youdell have argued that the combination of testing, setting and tiered GCSE examinations operate to the disadvantage especially of black pupils.

Other writers such as S. Sharpe and M .O' Donnell have argued more positively that  that schools are more likely nowadays to have possibly effective equal opportunities policies which reduce the extent of discrimination against ethnic minority pupils but David Gilborn in is short critique of education policy under New Labour has argued that many of the criticisms of British education over the last 30 years have still not been addressed. even by 2005 . Further controversy ensured when a DfES Report asserted that the relatively high rate of school exclusion of Afro-Caribbean boys could be explained partly but not entirely by "institutionalised racism" operating in the schools themselves, a view quickly rejected by spokespersons for the education profession.

One of the first people to focus on the role of the British education system in the generation of West Indian underachievement was Bernard Coard. In his study How the West Indian child is made educationally subnormal in the British school system: the scandal of the Black child in schools in Britain [1971] he argued that the British education system made Black children feel inferior in several ways:

1.      They are told that their accent and language are inferior.

2.      White is associated with good and black with bad.

3.      White culture is celebrated while Black culture is ignored.

4.      Pupil racism is widespread.

5.      Black pupils are adversely affected by labelling, streaming and self-fulfilling prophecies .

It has been claimed that Bernard Coard did not support these criticisms of the  UK education system with detailed empirical data but he did nevertheless succeed in articulating very powerfully the concerns of the Black community and other writers have provided strong support for  his general conclusions in their much more detailed studies. The continuing importance the work of Bernard Coard has recently been illustrated by the re-publication , updating and further discussion of his work in Tell It Like It Is: How our schools fail Black children {edited by Brian Richardson  2005] . Also this recent article from a practising teacher may generate some discussion

·         Curricular Issues

It could be that the UK curriculum concentrates excessively on British culture and that as a result ethnic minority cultures are undervalued, a claim that has been made especially since the introduction of the National Curriculum in 1988 .It is very doubtful whether ethnic minority cultures are fully or adequately reflected in UK schools, [although there must be considerable variation, with a fuller reflection of such cultures in areas with a high proportion of ethnic minority members. where there may be Black Studies courses and GCSE courses in ethnic minority languages].

In broad terms, it seems fair to say that school English Literature courses concentrate on white writers writing about white society. School History courses may contain modules on the British Empire and Commonwealth but these are unlikely to be taught in such a way as to focus on ethnic minority cultures. In Geography, various approaches may be adopted: it may be suggested , for example, that some of the problems of the Third World can be partly explained by the exploitative tendencies of the so-called Advanced countries although alternatively  it may be implied that ethnic groups in the Third World are unlikely to make progress without the civilising influence and economic resources of Advanced countries which would have the effect of undermining ethnic minority cultures.

Various aspects of ethic minority cultures  are considered in  GCSE R.E. courses, in Personal Social and Health Education and in Citizenship courses. Also in some schools, in some areas, much greater prominence is given to such issues: there are Black Studies courses and GCSE courses in ethnic minority languages and  a recent OFSTED Report has provided excellent examples of good educational practice in relation to ethnic cultures and policies to improve ethnic educational achievement. However it nevertheless remains highly likely that in general insufficient attention is given to ethnic minority issues and concerns within the British school curriculum.

·         Individual and Institutional Racism?

Click here for Guardian coverage of Professor Steve Strand's 2008 research on the significance of institutional racism. This item also contains a very useful short audio report. NEW LINK added April 2012

 There are also claims that ethnic minority students may experience racism in schools because some teachers are either consciously or unconsciously racist and/or because aspects of school organisation are institutionally racist although others [such as Sue Sharpe and Mike O'Donnell have claimed that most schools have effective anti-discrimination policies in place and that  ethnic minority students are less likely to encounter racism in schools than in other areas of society . The following definition of Institutional Racism helps to focus attention on these issues

The collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture or ethnic origin which can be seen or detected in processes; attitudes and behaviour which amount to discrimination through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racist stereotyping which disadvantages minority ethnic people." From the Macpherson report

 

It is difficult to assess the true extent to which teachers hold racist views and, if they do, the extent to which such views are carried over into classroom practice. However the effects of schools themselves on the educational achievements of ethnic minority members has been researched in several relatively small scale studies which [although they may not be entirely representative]  do point to the existence of some conscious and considerable unconscious racism but suggest also that it is difficult to generalise about students' actual responses to negative labelling .

Thus in Cecile Wright's research in primary schools [1992] it is suggested that teachers often failed to involve Asian pupils sufficiently in class discussion because of an inaccurate assumption that these students had poor language skills and that they also undervalued Asian culture in some respects. However, teachers also had higher expectations of Asian origin than of Afro-Caribbean origin pupils.

Heidi Mirza's 1997 study of black and white secondary school pupils aged 15-19 suggested that although there was evidence of teacher racism and negative labelling this did not undermine  the self-esteem of the pupils. There were also many white teachers who genuinely wanted to help their black students but this help was sometimes misguided and the students actually received more effective help from black teachers. In some cases although the pupils were keen to do well, Mirza believed that they were held back because of poor relationships even with well meaning white teachers.

M. Mac An Ghaill[1992] investigated the experiences of Afro-Caribbean and Asian origin students in Further Education. All of the students were conscious of racism in UK society generally but disagreed about the extent of racism in the education system. Students did not necessarily allow racism and negative labelling to affect them adversely. Instead they adopted various survival strategies to improve their prospects: "survival through accommodation, making friendships with helpful teachers and keeping out of trouble."

There are claims that setting and streaming may operate to the disadvantage of ethnic minority students. They may be allocated unfairly to lower streams and respond by behaving in such a way that their progress is restricted. Self-fulfilling prophecies may operate with regard to some ethnic minority students as well as with regard to white working class students. Some ethnic minority students are unfairly labelled as failures and their own responses to these labels may actually help to ensure that they do fail.

In a significant study of two London Comprehensive schools, Gilbourn and Youdell[2000] argued that ethnic minority students were disadvantaged in several respects. There were few cases of open teacher racism and many teachers were committed to helping ethnic minority students but the authors argued that the relative failure of Afro-Caribbean students  could be explained by the facts that when all students were tested on entry to the schools , black students were more likely to be consigned  to lower sets and to remain there for the rest of their school careers, which among other things meant that they were most likely to be entered for lower tier GCSE examinations. Then , due to a system of educational triage, teachers concentrated their attention firstly on borderline cases who might gain 5 A*-C GCSEs, secondly on high achievers and only minimally on students [who were often black] who  were considered unlikely to gain A*-C passes. Negative teacher expectations therefore had affected the achievement of black students.

More recent research by Professor Steve Strand supports this conclusion. Professor Strand's article is entitled The White British-Black Caribbean  Achievement Gap: Tests , Tiers and Teacher Expectations and was published in the British Educational Research Journal[ Feb 2012] Here is a brief summary of the conclusions taken from the BERJ website. NEW information added July 2014

 

A recent analysis of the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England (LSYPE) indicates a White British–Black Caribbean achievement gap at age 14 which cannot be accounted for by socio-economic variables or a wide range of contextual factors. This article uses the LSYPE to analyse patterns of entry to the different tiers of national mathematics and science tests at age 14. Each tier gives access to a limited range of outcomes with the highest test outcomes achievable only if students are entered by their teachers to the higher tiers. The results indicate that Black Caribbean students are systematically under-represented in entry to the higher tiers relative to their White British peers. This gap persists after controls for prior attainment, socio-economic variables and a wide range of pupil, family, school and neighbourhood factors. Differential entry to test tiers provides a window on teacher expectation effects which may contribute to the achievement gap.

 

Click here for TES coverage of important new research on ethnicity and school exclusion by Professor David Gilborn and colleagues [New Link added February 2016]

It has been noted also that Afro-Caribbean boys are especially likely to be excluded from school and whereas it has been argued by some sociologists and from within the teaching profession itself that such exclusions derive primarily from youth subcultural factors promoting disruptive pupil behaviour other sociologists have argued that many schools themselves must take part of the blame for this relatively high rate of school exclusion. These arguments were summarised in  a recent Government Report  as follows.

The report suggests that  there are factors external to the schools themselves which help to explain the disproportionate misbehaviour of Afro-Caribbean boys.

1.      They may have developed rebellious attitudes towards white  British society as a result of its long history of racism and the current patterns of inequality and inequality of opportunity which they believe to be indicative of continuing racial prejudice and racial discrimination within contemporary British society.

2.      There may be certain factors within Afro-Caribbean  youth culture which encourage Afro-Caribbean boys to adopt aggressive, confrontational attitudes as a means of confirming their masculinity and getting "respect" which in turn are likely to draw them into conflict with teachers aiming to establish classroom discipline as a means of teaching effectively.

3.      This aggressive, "macho" variation of masculinity to which  Afro-Caribbean teenage boys aspire is very heavily influenced by mainstream mass media presentations of black masculinity and is more likely to be adopted given the relative absence of black fathers from black single parent households.

4.      The fact that Afro-Caribbean boys are more likely to be excluded for violent conduct than are other excluded pupils strengthens the conclusion that it is external factors which are mainly responsible for their exclusion.

However  the Report emphasises under the heading of Factors internal to the schools that the schools themselves may be partly responsible for the ethnic differences in  rates of permanent school exclusion. Again in summary:

1.      Afro-Caribbean boys may be treated unfairly throughout their school careers as suggested, for example, in the studies mentioned above such that the actual incident leading to exclusion may itself arise from long term discriminatory procedures operative in the schools themselves.

2.      Schools and teachers are themselves heavily influenced by media stereotypes of young black men as potentially confrontational and violent and may therefore respond to Afro-Caribbean misdemeanours in ways which themselves increase the possibility of confrontation.

3.      It is claimed that the assumed presence of a subculture of aggressive, macho masculinity among Afro-Caribbean boys is largely a myth and that insofar as  a specifically  Afro-Caribbean youth subculture does exist schools should be able to integrate it positively into everyday school activity without recourse to confrontation and exclusion. 

4.      It is argued that the fact that Afro-Caribbean boys are more likely to be excluded for violent behaviour arises partly as a result of the acceptance  by teachers of inaccurate stereotypes of Afro-Caribbeans which makes it more likely that given  actions are more likely to be defined as violent when undertaken by Afro-Caribbean pupils than when undertaken by pupils of other ethnic groups.   

5.      A range of white youth subcultures also exists. For example, in the report it is pointed out that Goths, by contrast, are perceived as "strange" but not threatening and that Goth -type behaviour is therefore less likely to result in confrontations with teachers. However other white pupils  certainly can be very disruptive and this would tend  to support the view that the higher rate of school exclusion of Afro-Caribbean pupils is to be explained at least partly by discriminatory treatment within the schools themselves.

 

Click here for TES coverage of important new research on ethnicity and school exclusion by Professor David Gilborn and colleagues [New Link added February 2016]

      Click here for a recent video lecture by Professor David Gilborn. [New Link added April 2017]

·         Ethnic Educational Achievement and School Organisation: Ongoing Controversies

We have now seen that several theorists have raised criticisms of processes operative in the schools themselves as factors contributing to the educational under- achievement of some ethnic minority pupils and especially to the under-achievement of Afro-Caribbean boys . However in  Uncertain Masculinities: Youth, Ethnicity and Class[2000] Sue Sharpe and Mike O'Donnell have argued on the basis of a study of 4 London Secondary schools that earlier studies pointing to the existence and adverse consequences of negative labelling may now be rather outdated as head teachers and  classroom teachers have increasingly devised and implemented schools equal opportunities policies which have reduced significantly the likelihood of discrimination against pupils. Yet  in April 2005 several educationalists writing in The Guardian submitted "Letters to the PM" assessing the effectiveness or otherwise of Labour's Education Policies between 1997-2005. In his contribution Professor David Gilborn focussed on  Ethnicity and Education and suggested that most of the criticisms made over the last 30 years of the UK education system's approach to the education of ethnic minority groups were still valid , that the increased use of setting in recent years was if anything making matters worse for many ethnic minority pupils and that many schools were still failing to implement equal opportunities policies effectively.    Click here for  Professor David Gilborn's 2005 letter to the Guardian

Recent data on ethnicity and educational attainment at GCSE level suggest that in recent years the rate of improvement in White British students' pass rates has been slower than for those oin other ethnic groups  and there has been particular concern about the low levels of attainment of White British students [boys and girls] eligible for free school meals. This latter trend has translated into concerns about the relatively low attainment levels of working class students  as a whole although free school meal eligibility is  a far from perfect measure of membership of the working class as a whole.

Nevertheless it has been argued that the relatively low pass rates of White British pupils eligible for free school meals  might be explicable in terms  of some disadvantageous White working class cultural factors  or in term sof limitations of cultural, social and economic capital of some White working class families. Thus some White working class students are said to underachieve because they and their families are in some respects lacking in "aspiration" or because they lack the cultural, social and economic capital necessary to translate their aspirations into effective strategies to improve their educational attainment levels. Also very importantly some sociologists have argued that in any case the concept of "aspiration" requires further analysis in that if many working class students aspire  to traditional working class jobs located within their own working class communities rather than to usually relatively short range upward social mobility into  not necessarily fulfilling routine lower middle class jobs this should not be defined simply as a "lack of aspiration".

Click here to return to some further information on some sociological investigations of these issues which were considered earlier in the document.

It should be remembered that theories based around the alleged cultural deprivation of working class students and their families have a long history in Sociology and that they have been subjected to several significant criticisms. Further information on these theories can be found here and more detailed information can be found here.

Also Click here for a thought provoking article by Garth Stahl on the nature of white working class aspiration and click here for an article by Prof. Tony Sewell and  click here for further comments from Garth Stahl... The differing emphases of these articles may generate useful discussion..

Click here for a recent report on access of white working class students to HE

 

The concept of "Race" and notions of racial superiority and inferiority have been rejected widely as scientifically invalid. Sociologists have accepted the conclusions and, having also noted the limitations of IQ theories have concentrated their attention on the sociological explanation of ethnic differences in educational achievement distinguishing between three main types of theory:

·         theories emphasising variations in the patterns of material advantage and material disadvantage experienced by different ethnic groups;

·         theories emphasising variations in cultural attitudes and values among different ethnic groups;

·         theories emphasising organisational processes and pupil-teacher interactions in the schools themselves which may operate to the relative advantage of some ethnic group pupils and to the disadvantage of others.

It was suggested in the 1960s and 1970s that white working class relative educational underachievement could to some extent be explained in terms of the so-called "cultural deprivation" of many white working class families and similar general arguments have been applied also to some ethnic minority families. Furthermore it has been suggested that some ethnic minority pupils might face additional culture disadvantages because English was not their first language, because of the high incidence of lone parenthood among Afro-Caribbean families and because of problems associated with the rebellious youth culture among some Afro-Caribbean origin boys.

However the severe general limitations of these theories based upon cultural deprivation were soon recognised as it came to be argued that most parents from all social classes and ethnic backgrounds were ambitious for their children and specifically that ethnic minority pupils for whom English was a second language overcame language difficulties by the time they were 15-16, that lone parents often provided a supportive environment for their children; that rebellious Afro-Caribbean youth culture applied only to a minority of Afro-Caribbean origin pupils and that  such rebellion might often arise from perceptions of social injustice in general and unfair school processes in particular; and that in any case all ethnic cultures could be shown to promote educational achievement in several respects. Nevertheless it could still be recognised that poverty could promote pessimism, depression and possible despair which could in some cases lead to the kind of fatalism and lack of ambition emphasised in theories of cultural deprivation.

Many  sociologists have come to argue that ethnic minority underachievement where it exists may be explained in terms of theories emphasising actual financial disadvantage, negative responses to financial disadvantage, the difficulties which some ethnic minority parents may experience in translating their ambitions for their children into meaningful practical assistance, and the ongoing adverse  effects of school organisational processes which continue to disadvantage some ethnic minority pupils but not others.

In recent years as there have been increasing concerns about the relatively slow rates of educational improvement of White British students and particularly of White British students eligible for free school meals it has been widely argued that some White British working class students and their families may be lacking in aspiration relative to their Ethnic Minority peers. A recent DfE Report did quote some studies which were supportive of this view but also concluded that it was in reality difficult to distinguish between the importance of actual differences in aspirations and limitations of  levels of cultural , social and economic capital differences which may limit the capacities of White British working class parents to translate their positive aspirations for their children into meaningful help. Even the most detailed academic reports on this topic point to the need for further research.

Once you have discussed these issues at length with your teachers you may be able to arrive at fuller conclusions!

Recent additional links

Click here and here for recent contributions to debates around ethnicity and attainment from Tony Sewell and David Gilborn respectively and click here for a profile of Tony Sewell.