Achievement within education is very varied across cultures, with some such as Chinese and Indian students performing above the average, and African-Caribbean and Pakistani students performing well below average.
There are many factors which can reduce a child from an ethnic backgrounds attainment:
Social class and material factors – Minority ethnic children are more likely to live in low-income households. This means they face the problems that Douglas highlighted, the material factors, such as poor quality housing, no working space etc.
Language – For many children of an ethnic minority English is not their mother-tongue. This can be a disadvantage because they may not understand exams as well as others. Also they might struggle to express themselves with limited English. Finally, some teachers may mistake poor English for a lack of intelligence, when actually this could be completely untrue, meaning that a clever child may be let down by the teacher who might not push the student to their full potential.
Family Life – African-Caribbean communities have a high level of lone parenthood. This can mean that many face financial problems, this can lead to lower achievement in school (Douglas’ material factors). Conversely, single mothers can be a positive role model or influence for many young girls, meaning they perform better in education.
Racism – There are two key ways in which racism can affect attainment amongst children on ethnic minority:
- A culture of resistance – Racism can lead to low-self esteem among ethnic minorities. A marxist Hall said that this can lead to a rejection of school, he called it a “culture of resistance”
- Teacher stereotyping, labelling and conflict in the classroom – whilst very few teachers are consciously racist some may subconsciously hold prejudice against ethnic minorities. This can lower the students attainments in many ways, one is that the teachers give the student lower grades. Another way is that the teacher negatively labels a student of ethnic minority which can lead to self-fulfilling prophecy. Racism can also lead to conflict between students and teachers, making learning much harder.
Ethnocentric school curriculum – Many aspects of the school curriculum are ethnocentric (see glossary). There are several reasons why ethnic minorities may struggle due to this curriculum. One is that the subjects often focus on British culture; naturally White British students will have grown up with this culture, so they might have a greater understanding of the content than students who grew up in a different culture. Another reason is that the content of the curriculum could lower ethnic minorities self-esteem, this is because often the white character is seen as “good” and superior whilst the ethnic minorities are seen as “evil” and inferior (i.e the white and black knights)
It is important to remember however that some ethnic minorities do better than the average in education. Reasons for this could be:
Teacher stereotyping: Some teachers might stereotype some ethnic minorities (such as Chinese and Indian) to be intelligent and hard-working. This can bring with it all the benefits high teacher expectations bring
Family Life – Research has shown that some parents of ethnic minority, such as Chinese and Indian, take more interest in their child’s education, they also encourage their child more than other in other cultures. This obviously leads to higher achievement for the child