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Society in Britain is multi-cultural; therefore there are numerous inhabitants from ethnic minority backgrounds. Racism and discrimination affect many of these people, especially pupils and their achievements in education. This is due to internal factors having negative outcomes on the pupils’ educational attainments due to racism and discrimination, which is proved by many studies. However, external factors such as family and social class cannot be ignored, as they may also have an impact on the pupils’ achievements, and discrimination and racism are not solely the cause for the under achievements of pupils with ethnic minority backgrounds.
Teachers have different attitudes towards pupils from ethnic minority backgrounds, which is a key internal factor resulting in underachievement. Cecile Wright supports the theory that teachers discriminate pupils in her study of four multi-racial inner city primary schools. Wright found that there was discrimination in the classroom as Asian children were excluded from group discussions because teachers assumed they would have a poor command of English. In addition, African Caribbean pupils had “expectations of bad behaviour, along with disapproval, punishment and teacher insensitivity to the experience of racism.” Consequently, pupils from ethnic minority backgrounds became labelled by the teachers, causing the pupils to live up to their label. This caused the pupils to underachieve as teachers had lower expectations of them, which had a negative effect on their self-fulfilling prophecy. Jane Elliot supports the fact that underachievement is linked to discrimination, as her study creates a microcosm of society by discriminating pupils with brown eyes and then blue eyes, as opposed to their ethnicity. The pupils who weren’t discriminated against achieved higher as they believed that they were better than other pupils. As a result, it is clear that teachers can cause pupils from ethnic minority backgrounds to underachieve.
Teachers also made the decisions of which set/stream to put individuals into. This meant that, due to the educational triage, more pressure was put on pupils from ethnic minority backgrounds to achieve. They were put into lower streams, meaning that they hardly received any help as teachers expected the pupils to fail anyway. Gillborn’s study confirms that the teachers did treat pupils in this manner as he found that non-white children were usually put into lower sets and not given the opportunities to succeed. Consequently, failure was more imminent for these pupils.