Wednesday, March 10, 1999 Published at 12:19 GMT
Countering schools' inherent racism - what you think
Let's not think that there are only blacks that go through racism. My child is white and has battled extra hard in the Georgia school system not only for her colour but because she is a gifted child way above her grade level. I'm a very involved mother who has stood outside my child's class and watched my child ask her teacher a question only to be totaly invisible to her teacher yet seconds later a black child asks a question and his gets 100% attention. Now what's right is right and what's wrong is wrong. All I want is for my child to get her education and I don't care if all her teachers are black as long as they prepare her for college.
R J Powell, USA
It is interesting how both countries seem to have similar problems. Integration in the US was somewhat paused by the use of bussing as a way of creating racial balance in the schools. The way to improve the situation would be to encourage multiculturalism in the school system by way of workshops, etc. Or try having teachers that are also non-white.
The answer to the question is, like the issue, is difficult.
I believe that the problem lies with the expectations teachers have of their students.
Far too often non-white children (and also poorer kids) are failed by their teachers as they are not sufficiently encouraged or supported. We need to stress the pursuit of excellence to all children. Encourage them to believe in themselves and I help them challenge the pressures of their peers and society. If we tell children they can do well and really support them they will do well, regardless of race, class, gender etc.
It is not that there is institutionalised racism in schools, the problem is that some families make no attempt to integrate into society. The ethnic minorities that have this problem should take a lead from the Jews, Indians and Africans, all of which are giving Europeans a run for their money.
It seems to me we should be more worried about the performance of White pupils being lower than that of Asians. After all, the whites are the majority and it makes more sense to raise the standard of the majority of pupils rather than just a few minorities. But I suppose that does not win many new votes for our corrupt political parties, does it?
This report shows that 'the performance of Indian, Chinese and other Asian pupils continues to outstrip that of white pupils'. This is exactly the result predicted by the 'racist' authors of The Bell Curve. Unfortunately, Asians may simply be smarter than any other race. As I white man I have nothing to gain by promoting the intellectual superiority of Asians. It would be much 'fairer' if everyone had the same level of intelligence - but life is not fair and maybe race is more than just appearances. Having said that, every child should have access to a first rate education and every employee should be judged on ability not race.
Academic performance of Black, Pakistani and Bangladeshi pupils is not par with other minorities like the Chinese and Indians. Indians and Pakistanis look alike by and large. So why the difference?
Despite what people think many Black children do go to traditionally
white schools- not just predominantly Black schools and the racism
encountered by teachers (some unwittingly, often uttering sentiments
such as "racism doesn't exist in this school") makes it tough. A lot
parents often want to protect their children from this, and hence send
their child to a predominantly Black school (good or bad).
Funny though when it comes to sports ( I happened to one of the best sprinters in my year) -
the encouragement couldn't have been better. They would have been quite
happy to let my school work slip in order for me to train and go to
sports meetings up and down the country.
I am not saying that parents don't have part to play in their child's
educational achievement. They do. Often my parents were told I was
doing well, if they enquired as to how I could improve on my B or C
grades at school. Luckily they weren't as accepting as other parents and pushed for better.
The problem with Britain, is nobody wants to accept there may be an
ounce of racism within the education system. There are good and bad schools, good and bad teachers, but let no one say that there is no racism.
The National Union of Teachers should stop trying to contest the term "Institutionalised Racism" like the Metropolitan Police force and start solving the problem. Differential attainment levels between ethnic minorities and whites in Britain has existed for many years now and nothing radical has ever been done. This has to change, more reports and observations should been made and an extensive restructuring and revision measures should be implemented. At the end of the day it is the ethnic minority student that suffers and that affects job prospects and general life chances in modern British society.
Ethnicity is often confounded by cultural factors (such as frequent and lengthy absence, and by socio-economic factors. Improving the achievement of minority ethnic children will certainly involve a system of funding for multiple disadvantage that's much more sensitive and fulsome than the present systems. The monitoring of achievement by ethnicity is necessary - and lots of schools do not do it - some of them because of misguided advice from proponents of equal opportunity that such ethnic monitoring will itself constitute institutional racism. The educational establishment, in particular the DfEE, is not adequately aware of the best and most recent insights from research and theory in bilingual education.
Schools and Universities must introduce anonymous marking to remove any possible bias from the examiner.
It would be useful to include more international themes in education. Ffor example if there are a high proportion of Indian students in the class, include lessons on Indian history/literature/culture etc. Schools could also allocate more resources for English as a Second Language classes for students having problems with the language.
I feel confused about this issue since some ethnic groups did
better than average and others, for example those of African origin,
did worse. How then did they conclude that the educational system
is inherently racist?
I feel that we are now looking for racism and finding it when it is
not there. What this report suggests that the culture of the parents has a large impact on their children's performance at school.
Can we not ask the Chinese and other Asian families for advice on how
to improve the performance of ALL children. This is what I call
We grapple with the same issues in this country and despite all kinds of social engineering and the expenditure of millions of dollars, we certainly have not solved the problem. Nonetheless, from our experiences, I have drawn some conclusions.
Any child's primary teachers are his parents. Schools have children for a few hours a day. Most of their time is spent at home. If a child is receiving a good education at home, the school's job is fairly easy. If the child is receiving virtually no education at home, then the school's task is very difficult. If parents are setting high expectations for a child, if they are working with the child at home, then the child will usually perform at his highest level. If school work is not important the child's parents, then there is no reason to believe it will be important to the child.
It seems to me that the focus in both the UK and the US should be on educating the parents of school age children. We should teach them what they can do at home to support the educational process that goes on in the schools. We should encourage them to become active participants in their children's' education. Only then can progress be made.
To blame schools and teachers, who are obviously succeeding with so many students, is unfair.
A young man on a Canadian Indian reserve who was a star pupil recently committed suicide. An inquiry found that his family derided his success and told him he didn't need "any of that white man rubbish". Perhaps a British parallel can be drawn here. Perhaps the problem is with the home culture or is that too politically incorrect to consider?
Schools exist in a community and only the community faced by the problem can change that problem. They are close at hand and it effects them (The reaction of the Gay community to AIDS should clearly illustrate how a community under threat can react and create social change). As for the role of government, that is to provide resources and monitor how they are used, to evaluate but make evaluation meaningful (set targets which are challenging and not unobtainable). What is more, central government has to let go, to give each school community the opportunity to solve its own problems and to give each school community the ownership of the solutions.
I can't see how schools can be labelled inherently racist if, as you have pointed out, pupils from South-East Asia and India attain better GCSE results than white pupils. My primary school was 50% black, 50% white and when it came to choosing a secondary school, my mother chose one which regularly attained good results. No parents of the black children from my primary school class chose this school. Instead, the vast majority of them chose a mainly black school in the area - renowned for it's problems!! WHY?
The education system should not be blamed for the failure, I think it has to do with their society and cultural values, or else then how come Indians/Vietnamese are doing better through the same system.
Doesn't the fact that a higher percentage of Asian pupils achieve good GCSEs than white children tell us something about ethnic social conditioning to schoolwork? It seems silly to jump to the conclusion that 'children from ethnic minorities are being neglected in our schools' merely because black Carribean children do worse at GCSE than white children. If Asian children do better than white children, surely, by the same reasoning, white children are neglected too? No. I think that the family background and attitude to education is far more responsible for these statistics. If you look at A-level and degree level results, surely students from Asian backgrounds do better too? And what percentage of university students are black compared with their proportion of the general public?
It seems, to me, that the problem does not lie with the schools but with the social upbringing of these children, their parents, siblings and peer group. If parents are not willing to take an active interest in and support the education of their children, then they should stop complaining that schools are failing their children.
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