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Using material from Item 1B and elsewhere, assess sociological explanations of ethnic differences in educational achievement

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Introduction

Using material from Item 1B and elsewhere, assess sociological explanations of ethnic differences in educational achievement Sociological research has challenged the view that ethnic differences in achievement reflect innate differences of intelligence and ability; this has become a view that very few sociologists now put forward. Ethnicity refers to the shared cultural traditions and history, which are distinct from other groups in society. The level of achievement of different ethnic groups varies greatly in Great Britain. This may be due to factors such as home background, class, language and in-school factors. Recent studies highlight the effects of racism. It is believed that ethnicity influences such factors, leading to an impact upon their education. This essay will assess sociological explanations of ethnic differences in educational achievement, using research from sociologists such as Modood et all, Gillborn, Mirza and Wright. Modood et all [1997] produced the Policy Studies Institutes fourth survey of ethnic minorities in Britain. He found figures on the higher and lower levels of achievement from different ethnic groups. The survey found that Chinese, African Asians and Indian groups were more qualified than whites, it was also found that Afro-Caribbean women were more likely to have A-levels than white women. Ethnic minorities were more likely than white pupils to continue into further education. On the other hand, Bangladeshi and Pakistani women were least well qualified. ...read more.

Middle

Mac an Ghaill [1992] also studied ethnic minority groups and found that all of the students have experienced problems in education due to racism, but they had generally succeeded in dealing with these by using different survival strategies such as avoiding teachers who had a reputation for being racist, whilst making an effort to build positive relationships with others. This supports Mirza's theory that an explanation for under achievement from ethnic minorities is due to difficulties within school. Wright found that primary teachers were ethnocentric, and disregarded Asian customs and assumed Asian children had language problems. Meanwhile, they previewed Afro Caribbean children as disruptive and a potential threat. Evidence of discrimination is given in the Commission for Racial Equality's study of Jayleigh Comprehensive. This research found that Asian pupils were put in lower sets because of assumptions made about their abilities. Similarly, Paul Connolly (1998) also carried out a study of primary school and found that black and white boys saw Asian boys as effeminate, by bulling and exclusion from boy games. Teachers shared views and saw them as needing protection. These findings show that again, supporting previous arguments, it is the staffing and attitudes which have a strong influence in the success of ethnic minorities. The national curriculum is also a key factor in educational achievement among different ethnic groups. Troyna and Williams (1986) ...read more.

Conclusion

So, this explanation cannot be generalised to the category "Asian" as not all Asian ethnic groups perform well. Social class also has an impact on educational achievement of children, and this too is linked to ethnicity. A point that reflects this is that Afro-Caribbean, Pakistani and Bangladeshi pupils are mostly made up of working class families, which are much more economically deprived than White and Indian families. This can lead to deprivation of school resources and also limits the type of school that children can attend. This again shows that material factors can heavily influence students, however, class is not always directly related to ethnicity. Although there is no clear and direct link of ethnicity to educational achievement, there are many factors which when grouped together can have an affect on educational success. It is clear that assumptions from teachers can have a heavy influence on students of different ethnic groups, and it is whether they are able to resist these or not as to how successful they are. However, students may also be held back materially, and factors from their background and class may also affect their success in the education system. Evidence does however seem to suggest that the major factor for underachievement of ethnic minorities comes from in school factors such as labelling and racism. Other factors may also need to be considered such as gender and class. Evidence of this is Afro-Caribbean girls perform well in comparison to Afro-Caribbean boys, indicating that gender also has an influence on educational achievement. ...read more.

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