Ethnicity In Education In The UK

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This essay will be focusing on Ethnicity and how this social variable has an impact on educational experience and attainment in the UK education system. Ethnicity is one of many factors such as social class, gender, and disability, that impacts a child’s educational experience and attainment, as children in different ethnic groups have different results in their educational attainment. Although the UK has a high percentage of White ethnic backgrounds, it also has a high percentage of different ethnic groups, the largest ethnic group being black British with African or Afro-Caribbean background. Regardless of the educational laws and policies that are put in place for every child in the UK to ensure they have access to education despite their ethnicity, social class, or gender, there is a lot of evidence to show ethnic minorities underachieving.

The UK has now become a very diverse country which is now why schools in Britain have a high proportion of ethnic minorities. Ethnicity is defined as someone who belongs to a certain social group that shares a common national or cultural tradition. Ethnicity has a significant impact on a child’s educational experience and attainment. Ethnic minorities perform significantly worse than students with white ethnic backgrounds at ages 3 and 5 (Dearden and Sibieta 2010). Pakistani and Bangladeshi students particularly perform worse than other ethnic backgrounds. Overall from 2006/07-2010/11 ethnic students who achieved 5 A* to C GCSE’s results, Chinese students were the highest attaining minority (78.5%), Indian students were the second-highest attaining minority (74.4%) followed by Bangladeshi students (59.7%), white students (57%), Pakistani students (51%) and black students (50%). However recent data showed that from 2015-2016 the percentage of ethnic pupils attaining A*-C in Maths and English GCSEs were 83% of passes was of Chinese students, 58% of Pakistani students, and 63% of black African students. Indian and Chinese students have consistently outperformed the white British average as for both groups the odds of achieving 5 A*- C grades are over twice as high for white British students (Strand 2015).There was a big improvement for Bangladeshi students as before they were achieving below the white British average but by 2013 they are now achieving above the white British average. These results show the fluctuations in attainment in education and different ethnic groups performing better than the others. The Swann report (1985) was the first government report that looked at what was affecting educational attainment for students from different ethnic backgrounds. the aim of this report was equality for all students within the British education system.

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Explanations for why ethnic students underperform could be because of either external or internal factors. External factors being material or cultural deprivation. Families who are from ethnic minorities are more likely to live in poverty. Bangladeshi families from the UK are one of the most socio-economically deprived communities (Strand 2015). Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and Black minorities have a higher percentage of students who come from working-class backgrounds with low incomes. This shows that their ethnicity affects their class which could result in their ability to achieve in education, as low income means lack of school equipment. 15% of ethnic minority families live in crowded homes when compared to 2% of white families. This shows another factor that affects a student’s education, is their working conditions as in a crowded home there is no working space, no desk to work on.

Cultural deprivation suggests that the upper class, compared to the working class, are better off in society especially in education. Bordieu’s theory argues against this and suggests that the failure of the working class is the fault of the education system and not because of working-class culture. Upper-class families, mainly the White ethnic group, have an advantage in the education system as they have been socialised in a dominant culture with power and money. Gillborn et al (2012) suggested that teachers applied different labels to students from different ethnic backgrounds. their belief was that teachers negatively stereotyped black students which gave them a negative label, they were labelled as ‘disruptive, ‘not interested in education this has a negative impact on students. C Wright (1992) found in a study that Asian students were often excluded from classroom discussions as their teachers thought they had a poor understanding of the English language and when they did converse with them, they used simplistic English. These negative labels result in negative comments from other students which can dishearten ethnic students from education.   

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