4 Reasons Why Government Plans For Improving the Achievement of Ethnic Minorities Are Inadequate

Francis Gilbert's picture

David Cameron has called for universities and schools to play a greater role in boosting the achievement of ethnic minority students, blaming Oxbridge in particular for not serving black students well. He conveniently ignores 5 key reasons why there is persistent under-achievement of ethnic minority students in the western world. These are:

1. The historical legacy. Centuries of reactionary thinking and policies have oppressed people from minorities in all sorts of ways. It was conservative thinkers who set up and wanted to maintain the slave trade, who argued for the colonisation of other countries, who have pursued vicious social policies which led to many black people living in dire poverty, and who have declared either a literal or metaphorical "war" upon the cultures that many black people come from. One cannot under-estimate the power that these reactionary forces have upon young people from ethnic minorities today; the fractures caused from the colonial legacy alone are played out in hidden and subtle ways in our schools. 

2. The social policy agenda. Conservative social policies, going back to the Thatcher era, have consistently refused to support people from poorer backgrounds -- and the statistics show that by and large people from ethnic minorities are poorer than white "equivalents". Hence the government's cutbacks to countless benefits and social services will have a disproportionate effect upon black people. Poverty has the biggest effect upon school achievement. It is because the government's policies fuel inequality which means that inevitably children from less advantaged backgrounds will not fair well in the education system. There's a raft of evidence to back this up, much of which is to be found in the book The Spirit Level: Why Equality Is Better for Everyone. Conservative education policies have generally, and still do, privileged the rich; they mask this agenda in rhetoric about "narrowing the attainment gap" but a close look at their policies shows that the rich benefit financially from them in terms of social policies such as tax breaks etc.

3. The government's privatisation agenda. The Conservative agenda of blaming the education system for all the ills of society is actually ideological and not really interested in narrowing the attainment gap at all. The governments wants to, and is in the process of, privatising the entire education system. Schools are being turned into academies, which are private companies in all but name, and universities are being forced to become businesses. The reason why the Conservatives can do this is because they say that the system is broken; the blaming of under-achievement of ethnic minorities upon the education system is just the latest in a long line of claims that the education system is broken. It is all part of what Naomi Klein calls The Shock Doctrine which has been used by right-wing governments across the globe to push through a privatisation agenda that benefits the rich and powerful, and leaves the rest of us powerless. 

4. The Blame Game. Alienating teachers and lecturers won't help the situation. The government's "naming and shaming" of institutions and people for failing to educate certain groups adequately won't work; this sort of blame game never does. And the government knows this. Very difficult problems like under-achievement are only solved when all "stakeholders" work together to find solutions. But this is not the government's agenda, which is to, as I've said, to privatise the system, and to deflect attention away from policies which are tearing up the social fabric of this country. 


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