Institutional Racism in Education: Internal Factors



Ethnocentric- Describes an attitude or policy that gives priority to the culture or viewpoint of one particular ethnic group disregarding others. 

 Coard (1971,2005) explains how an ethnocentric curriculum can affect achievement.

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Three strands of ethnocentrism in education

1. Institutional Racism

  • Linked to having an ethnocentric curriculum.
  • Institutional racism is different to individual racism.
  • Institutional racism is discrimination that is built into the way institutions such as schools and colleges opperate. 
  • The 11+ exam was an example of institutional racism in education. 

Locked-in inequality:

  • Institutional racism is seen as locked-in inequality.
  • "The scale of historical discrimination is so large that there no longer needs to be conscious intent to discriminate- the inequality becomes self-perpetuating:it feeds itself".
  • Gillborn applies this concept to education. 
  • He sees this inequality "so deep rooted and so large that it is a practically inevitable feature of the education system".
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Three strands of ethnocentrism in education 2

2. Marketisation and Segregation:

  • Moore and Davenport believe two factors in the selection process have led to disadvantages for ethnic minorities. 
  • They show how selection procedures lead to ethnic segregation, due to minority groups unable to get into high achieving schools because of discrimination.
  • They found that primary school reports were used to highlight pupils with language difficulties, while the application process was difficult for non-English speaking parents to understand. 
  • These procedures favoured white pupils disadvantaged those from ethnic minority backgrounds. 
  • Ethnically stratified education system: putting procedures in place which the education system knows will place white pupils in popular schools and black and ethnic minority pupils in low achieving schools. 
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Criticisms of the National Curriculum

Ball (1994)

  • The National Curriculum is ignoring ethnic diversity and is promoting an attitude of 'little Englandism'.
  • Tries to recreate a 'mythical age empire and past glories', while ignoring the history of Black and Asian people.

David (1993)

  • Describes the National Curriculum as a 'specifically British' curriculum that largely ignores non-European languages, literature and music.

Troyna and Williams (1986)

  • Note the meagre provision for teaching Asian languages as compared wiith European languages.
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The Curriculum- Assessment

  • Gillborn argues that the assessment is rigged to validate the dominant culture's superiority.
  • If black pupils succeed, the rules will be changed to turn re-engineer failure.
  • For example, in primary schools;
  • Baseline assessments were replaced with foundation stage profiling (FSP).
  • Black pupils started to do worse than white pupils.
  • FSP is based on teacher's judgements rather than baseline which used written tests.
  • FSP is completed at the end of reception year whereas baseline is at the start of the year. 
  • Gillborn says that official statistics show whites are over twice as likely as black Caribbeans to be identified as gifted and talented, and 5 times more likely than black  Africans. 
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The Curriculum- Assessment 2

  • Gillborn concludes that the education system is institutionally racist, creating an environment in which ethnic minority pupils are routinely disadvantaged. In his words "Race inequality is a constant and central feature of the education. Racism (is) a fundamental defining characteristic of the education system."
  • Gillborn says there is no genuine measure of 'potential'.
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Criticisms of Gillborn

  • Black boys underachievement- Sewell rejects this view, as although he does not believe that racism has disappeared from schools, he argues that it is not powerful enough to prevent individuals from succeeding.
  • Sewell says we need to focus on external factors such as boys' anti-social attitudes, the peer group and the nurturing role of the father. 

Indian and Chinese achievement-

  • Indian and Chinese students perform better than the white majority, so if these two groups do so well, how can there be institutional racism in education, as critical race theorists claim?
  • Gillborn responds by arguing that the image of Indians and Chinese as hard-working 'model minorities' performs an ideological function. It conceals the fact that the education system is institutionally racsit.
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