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

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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. Afro-Caribbean, Pakistani and Bangladeshi men were least qualified. Pakistani and Afro-Caribbean groups were also less likely to get onto university courses. Afro Caribbean boys were more likely to be excluded from school, set in low streams and do vocational courses. This shows that there are big variations between the average achievement level of different ethnic minority groups, this may be due to social and economic factors.

Item 1B explains views from Tony Sewell (1998). He said there was one reason for under-achievement of black boys is labelling by teachers who hold racist stereotypes of the Black macho lad. This stereotype suggests that all black boys are anti-school and resentful of authority. The department of education has begun to address the rising number of exclusions; however ‘race’ has been almost completely absent from the documents. In Lewisham between summer term 1990 and spring term 1991 black Afro Caribbean students made up 25% of the exclusions from secondary school. Students may not feel directly targeted but books, teaching methods, the ethnicity of teachers and the subjects may mean ethnic minority students may feel isolated or alienated form their education, making them become less motivated and become distant from learning, leading to underachievement. This is one explanation of ethnic differences in educational achievement.

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Mirza’s study [1992], ‘Young Female and Black’, places emphasis on the variety of ways on which ethnic minorities respond to racism in the education system. Mirza studied 198 young men and women including 62 black women aged 15-10 in two comprehensive schools in South London. Mirza observed the students, used questionnaires and conducted informal interviews to better understand the students, and carried out detailed case studies on 3 black women. She argued that there is a myth of underachievement for black women; she also believes that in general the educational achievements of black women are underestimated. The girls in ...

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