Assess the Importance of School Factors Such as Racism and Pupils Response to Racism in Creating Ethnic Differences in Educational Achievement Essay

There is an obvious correlation between educational achievement and ethnicity, and many sociologists believe this is to do with two factors; Internal (School) Factors and External (Out Of School) Factors. Both factors play their part in the educational achievement of a pupil however ethnicity is very difficult to measure as both Internal Factors and External Factors should be considered. Many sociologists believe Internal Factors play a major part as racism within the school, from pupils and teachers, can severely affect educational achievement.

Pupils at a young age do not understand how offensive racism is and teachers are not always directly racist but are inadvertly racist. A very good example of this is labelling student which comes as almost second nature to teachers, and people in general. For example if a student labels a student as ‘bright’ they are more likely to stick to this label and achieve higher grades. Unfortunately this also works on the opposite side of the spectrum. Teachers may label students due to their ethnic background without considering their actual level of cleverness.

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For example black students do not fit the ideal pupil silhouette and may therefore be labelled as a ‘troublemaker’, leading them to not do as well as, say, white British pupils. Cecile Wright (1992) found that Asian pupils are a main target of labelling by the teachers. Teachers may speak down to them assuming that they can not speak the English language as well as white pupils. Because of this they are more likely to be left out of class discussions and will therefore feel isolated. Wright explains that Asian students are seen as a “problem they can ignore”.

She found that this leads teachers to have ethnocentric views about these students. Gillborn and Youdell also back up this view with black pupils, showing that teachers tend to view black students as having behavioural problems, even if they are the most well behaved in the class. This can lead the teacher to leave them out of class discussions and essentionally try to avoid them, and Gillborn And Youdell believe this is due to racial stereotypes. If a student feels they are a victim of racism/labelling, they will either revolt against this label and try even harder (which unfortunately does not ake much of a difference) or more commonly simply accept this label and go along with it. Within the group of students who do revolt, they will tend to group together with other students of the same race. A study by Heidi Mirza (1992) identified three types of teacher racism that occurs within the school; the overt racists (teachers who believe white pupils are superior and that black pupils are inferior), the colour blind teachers (teachers who believe in race equality but will still let racism carry on) and the liberal chauvinists (teachers who have low expectations of black pupils as they believe them to be culturally deprived).

Although many teachers do not consciously do these, it still occurs. Mirza also showed that black girls were more likely to go against their label and work even harder to prove the teacher wrong. However, even though school factors are a main part of the educational achievement, there are other factors that must be considered. An example of these other External factors are Home factors. Gordon Bowker (1968) believes that foreign students not been able to speak standard English is a major barrier towards the educational progress.

On the other hand sociologists like Gillborn who found that, despite the language barrier, Indian pupils do very well in education. Another factor is parental support/family structure and black families are seen as a single-parent families, and this causes many problems such as not having a role model of male achievement. Charles Murrey (1984) supports this idea stating that the lack of a male role model can lead to educational underachievement. However, Ken Pryce (1979) believes that Asian students are higher achievers as they are more resistant to racism whereas black students are not.

He believes this boils down to the slavery of black people and any racism today brings back the attitude of the slavery period whereas Asians have had hardly any experience of this. Although Asian students tend to be higher achievers, there are many home factors that go against this. For example, Asians tend to live with an extended family structure where 3-4 generations may be under one roof. This therefore gives no privacy, or silence for that matter which is essential for when you’re revising or doing homework. This s backed up by 15% of ethnic minorities live in an overcrowded household, where as only 2% of whites do. Foreign families tend to live in poorer conditions as racism does not only occur within the school but at work as well. Pakistani workers will get paid as little as ? 1. 50 per hour in some cases, leading onto a poor working class household. This will therefore directly affect the educational achievement of the children, and if it is a single parent household the problem is escalated. John Rex (1986) explains how racial disrimination in many cases can lead to social exclusion.

Mike Noon (1993) backs this up with his famous experiment where he sent out 100 identical letters to 100 companies but with one signed “Evans” and the other “Patel”. The majority of companies wrote back to the ones signed “Evans” as they would prefer to have a white British person working for them than foreign people. Another experiment carried out by the BBC sent a employe of the BBC to work in a buisness undercover, and it showed how the buisness were a lot more likely to hire white British than Polish, for example.

In conlusion, even though Britain likes to think of itself as a multiculteral society rasicm is still very prominent. Within the school, just by the colour of a students skin, their futre can be decided from day one. This is due to labelling and major steriotyping, which can make a pupil stop trying or make them work even harder. This can be escalated through Home factors via extreme poverty and family structures. School factors and Home factors combined can severley affect a students educational progress and achievement.


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