Several ethnic groups have in recent years become some of the worst academic performers in the current educational environment. It is many peoples view that these statistics are the result of racial discrimination in schools. A number of sociologists have therefore decided to analyse performance based on the treatment of individual ethnic groups. Figures from Drew and Gray’s study in 1990 entitled “The fifth year examination achievements of black young people in England and Wales” showed some already anticipated results.
As a lot of people had suspected, many non-white ethnic groups were suffering in the existing education system, in particular people with an African-Caribbean origin. One group of sociologist who found this of major concern and decided to take action were those who adopted a post-modernist mind-set. In the years that followed, countless studies were done into why African-Caribbean’s did poorly in schools.
Many focused on males in this ethnic group as across the spectrum they were receiving some of the lowest marks. Gillborn’s study in 1996 found that males from this group were: more likely to be given labels such as ‘unruly’ or ‘disrespectful’: and also far more likely to be given detention than other pupils. Whether they were in fact more unruly or badly behaved was not addressed by this particular study and therefore assumptions were made into the reasons for this form of labelling.
However, Gillborn also noted that the teachers appeared to respond to the dress and manner of speech of these Afro-Caribbean pupils as a challenge to their authority, which resulted in punishment. What these teachers failed to realise is that by giving the pupils labels of this kind they were in fact spurning them to act in accordance with their labels, thus worsening the problem considerably. It is not only boys in ethnic groups that have recently become the subject of several sociological studies.
Wright’s study of discrimination in classrooms in 1992 gave some additional disturbing results. She found that teachers paid less attention to Asian pupils, in particular girls. Teachers were often seen to involve them less in discussions, and use simplified language as they often assumed them to have an inferior English ability, which many of the pupils found patronising. Teachers were also observed to have very little sensitivity towards aspects of their culture and failed to recognise the importance certain customs and traditions carried to many pupils.
They openly disapproved to many of these, which had the effect of giving the girls a far less positive attitude to school, and also encouraged pupils to discriminate this group as the pupils picked up comments and the attitudes the teachers had towards to Asian minorities. Another startling finding of Wrights was that she observed Afro-Caribbean pupils being treated more harshly for actions than similar actions made by white pupils. Discrimination can also come from other areas than just the actions of people within the school environment.
Many sociologists feel that the curriculum taught in schools can disadvantage some ethnic minorities. What they learn in schools can often vastly contrast with the beliefs of their own culture and religion. In 1971 Coard found History and Music to be particularly discriminating to non-white groups as the majority of the people pupils learnt about were of a white ethnic background. However, in recent years large changes have been made to the National Curriculum in light of the results that emerged from sociological studies.
The curriculum is now aimed to best meet all of the ethnic groups and not just those with a white ethnic background. This has made a more ‘multicultural’ education environment to meet that of today’s society. In conclusion, I feel that although the starting view would have been very appropriate about 10 years ago, as studies from that time have shown that it was the case. However, to apply a statement like that to today’s society wouldn’t give an accurate assessment of the treatment ethnic groups in education. Therefore I disagree with the statement to quite a large extent.