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The view that ethnic inequalities in educational achievement are caused by teachers and processes within school is a complex argument. Within school there is a clear pattern which demonstrates that the white population perform much better than the ethnic minorities which are doing worse, there are clear and concise figures from the Office for National Statistics, 47% of White British Males achieve 5 or more A – C at GCSE in comparison to 39% of Pakistani Male.
There are studies which show that ethnic inequalities at school influence educational achievement, for instance; sociologist Wright (1992) study shows that teacher racism is still existent in schools. On the other hand, if this was the case that ethnic inequalities produced in schools, cause a failure in educational achievement then why is it that Chinese (69% of boys) and Indian (61% of boys) are significantly outperforming the white population (47% of boys).
Therefore, this does not mean that ethnic inequalities are caused at school and that there could be cultural explanations at home which influence the failure of educational achievement, e. g. in Afro-Caribbean culture there is a high rate of male desertion which creates a barrier for education. In this essay I will outline whether processes within school i. e. ethnic inequalities influence the failure of educational achievement or would be the factors at home which influence this. There is much evidence which supports the view that ethnic inequalities in educational achievement are caused by teachers, as mentioned the study by Wright (1992).
He had acknowledged that teachers had held racist labels for students of an Asian background, as they believed that Asian students had a poor knowledge of the English language which had meant that when during classroom discussions they would be left out due to this disadvantage or whilst discussion are taking place they would be spoken to in more simpler terms for them to understand. This shows how they haven’t been given an equal opportunity to join in rather they were just left out because of their disadvantage, this process makes them feel not part of the classroom therefore could also produce sub-cultures which is the most likely outcome.
Interactionists study how teacher’s labelling has an influence on pupils educational achievement and how the label from different ethnic groups causes ethnic inequalities amongst the pupils. The main ethnicities which were affected by racial labelling were the Black and Asian pupils. Wright’s study also showed that Asian girls were seen as discreet and submissive this stereotyped them into being ‘invisible’ in class. Afro-Caribbeans were seen as both with behavioural problems and of low academic potential, resulting into conflicts with teachers.
To contradict the view that Asians are predominantly racially abused, sociologist Fuller’s studies (1984) found that the teacher’s labels were a way of motivation for them. The labels which were given already by teachers as to becoming failures, made students more and more determined to achieve success and especially to prove the teacher wrong that they can be successful. This would be the case for students of a Chinese and Indian heritage; 70% of Chinese boys were achieving 5 or more A – C grades at GCSE and 61% of Indian boys were to, in contrast to just 47% of White British Boys (Office for National Statistics).
This shows that even ethnic minorities were achieving substantially higher than students of a British background, this challenges the Interactionists perspective as it shows that ethnic inequalities can be a good source of competitiveness and that it does not have to cause a failure in regards to educational achievement. However, there are further suggestions from sociologist Mirza’s study (1992)which supports the view that ethnic inequalities within educational achievement are caused by teachers and the processes within school themselves.
Her study ‘Failed Strategies for Avoiding Racism’ outlines how some students are not able to develop strategies which help to cope with ethnic inequalities such as when they are faced with teacher racism and teacher labelling. Her study found that when black pupils were discussing careers and plans for further education they had ‘cooled down’; this shows how sub-standard they are viewed as they didn’t help them by providing guidance instead they casually just listened.
She identified that there were three types of teacher racism; the first one being that they were ‘colour blind’: this meant that teachers views of all the pupils were equal however during practise they allowed racism to go unchallenged, this was passive racism. The second type was the ‘liberal chauvinists’ they had views of Black pupils being less privileged in terms of culture, which had led them to have low-expectations of their academic ability. Lastly, the ‘overt racists’: teachers would classify black pupils as ‘second class’ they were less superior and were discriminated actively.
Also in 2007 a published report by Channel 4, they had uncovered the level of degree of racist attacks at schools, they had access to these rights via the Freedom of Information Act. The report had showed that over the past years there had been a substantial rise in the number of racial attacks a staggering 100,000 occurrences had been documented, this shows how racial attacks are still in Contemporary Britain and that they are still rising in today’s world.
Nothing has been done to stop these incidents from happening and they are still going unnoticed. This view is also argued by Mirza, she believes that this is still a significant problem and that these figures are an underestimation of the problem itself. If this problem is not stopped this could further lead to a barrage of bullying as well as they are likely to underperform in their education. As well as this, the influence which teacher labelling has on pupils when they try to cope with teacher racism reinforces subcultures within the school.
This is the case especially for Afro-Caribbean students as there are numerous studies which emphasise this point, one of the most significant studies from Gillbourn and Youdell’s (2000) study ‘Rationing Education’, the study showed that teachers were quick and hasty when it came to disciplining Black pupils which had shown bad behaviour and when it came to the other ethnicities whom had a similar behaviour were more lenient.
This would be because teachers had held ‘racialised expectations’, as such teachers misinterpret behaviour and see Black pupils as anti-authority. This inturn creates conflict between teachers and pupils which reinforce stereotypes and leads to further problems. On the other hand, there are several, external reasons for why there are ethnic inequalities in education. One of the main ones would be language; foreign students would experience obvious difficulties when learning because English is not their first language.
They would have difficulty interacting with other students as well as the teacher having the English language not their usual language; this would be the case for black British students as they are perceived as having non-standard English. Sociologist Mac an Gail (1988) supports this view, as he states that speakers of black British English may be labelled as less intelligent because of the form of language they use. As a consequence of this students may feel prejudiced against and actually use their language to ‘resist’ schooling.
Lastly, in support of the statement there is further evidence from Sociologist Tony Sewell he had conducted an observation at a boy’s secondary school. Sewell (1998) observed the different approaches Black boys use when they cope with racism. He outlined that there were four main responses to teacher racism; the first response was the conforming type, this was suggested as there was clear evidence which had shown that majority of black pupils accepted the values of the school and they were keen to be successful.
Next was the rebellious type, this was the most influential group but was still a minority; this subculture rejected the values of the school and opposed the school by joining a peer group. These reinforced the negative stereotypes of ‘Black Machismo’. Thereafter, the retreatists who were a small minority which were secluded and disengaged from peer group subcultures and the school. Lastly the innovators, they were the second largest subculture who was both pro-education as well as anti-school. They distanced themselves from ‘Conformists’ enough to keep credibility with the ‘Rebels’ whilst valuing education success.
From Sewell’s conclusion it was clear that teachers had held a stereotype of ‘Black Machismo’ – seeing Black pupils as rebellious and anti-authority. To conclude from this, I do agree with the statement that ethnic inequalities in educational achievement are caused by teachers and the process within school however to some level degree. There is much evidence which supports this view as sociologist Mirza and Sewell have similar arguments which support the statement as teacher racism and labelling is very influential in terms of educational achievement.
If students feel undermined by education because of labelling they would conform to being a ‘failure’ as because of their teacher’s expectations. However, it is fair to say that it could also work the other way and motivate students to become better and prove their teacher that they have the capability for success (being the case for Chinese and Indian students). There are also factors such as culture and language which have an influence and also can reproduce ethnic inequalities in educational achievement.