A Discussion Of The Key Issues Within The Sociology Of Education


Published: 2019-11-27
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Published in: Reference & Education

Sociology is expressed as the study of society and the factors that contribute to society. In terms of education, society can affect how a child learns. Influences include their peers, teachers as well as their direct family and indirect family through relationships they have built within sports clubs, religious backgrounds, and communities. The social factor I will be discussing in this essay is ’race and ethnicity’. Race is defined as ones genetically inherited physical characteristics, whereas ethnicity is described as your cultural and religious beliefs as well as your physical attributes. 

Schneider (2011) described educational attainment as the “highest level of educational attainment an individual has successfully completed”(Schneider, 2011). Race and ethnicity is vital theme in terms of a child’s educational attainment, it is common that young children from certain race or ethnicity are discriminated or pre judged against other children, not only by their peers but teachers also, against what they can achieve educationally. In a BBC (2016) interview with British comedian Sir Lenny Henry he celebrated his old university for the diverse ethnic minorities that were catered for within the institution and studying “48% are from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds” Henry goes on to say “This institution understands that education is a right…Birmingham City University can provide you with life-changing opportunities, whatever your background”  this is reinforced by Teaching Times (n.d.) “The goal of education in all diverse communities must therefore be to instil a sense of belonging to the wider community”. All children have the right to an education, and their race or ethnicity should not hold them back from achieving this (BBC, 2016) (Teaching Times, n.d.). 

Three common factors children from ethnic backgrounds discover during their school time are discrimination, prejudice and stereotyping. Discrimination is depicted as treating a person differently based upon the colour of their skin, their gender or culture, whereas prejudice is construes as making judgement upon a person due to a perceived stereotype already formed in one’s head. Similarly stereotyping is described as labelling someone based on their race, gender or culture. These components are still circulating in mainstream education today. For example, it is a stereotype that children from Asian descent achieve higher than their white or black peers “Reid 1992 – found ‘Asian’ girls were achieving higher GCSE results than ‘white’ boys” (Brown, 2017). This certain type of pressure amongst the young Asian community is unfair as they are expected to attain greater results than their counterparts. 

Human beings were classified into three racial categories during the nineteenth century; Caucasoid (white European), Negroid (black African) and Mongloid (Mongolian and Chinese). During the early twentieth century just after the Second World War, there was an increase of West Indian people arriving in the UK. The West Indians were invited over – as they were allies for Great Britain through the war – to assist in rebuilding the economy and buildings. They came over in a ship famously called the MV Empire Windrush which arrived at the Tilbury Docks in Essex in 1948. Due to the increase of immigrants in England, ethnic minority families were forced into poor conditioned, cramped accommodations and areas because of a housing shortage. 

The Plowden Report was an important educational document reviewing the various aspects of primary education; from how children were learning, to how they were being taught. Also included were the subjects children were studying and the numerous types of young children a teacher may come across – whether they were disabled or had a learning difficulty. Children born in the Sixties were considered the second Windrush generation. In the period of the Sixties, the 1967 Plowden report suggested for more consideration for children of the said ‘Windrush generation’ and other ethnic minorities. 

 In the report it was stated approximately how many children of immigrants were in English schools that academic year, “West Indians 57,000, Indians 24,000, Pakistanis 7,800, Cypriots 13,200” (Labour Government, 1967). Furthermore, a breakdown in verbal communication between the educators and the parents due to a language barrier was a common problem aroused in the Plowden Report; this is reinforced by “teachers cannot communicate with parents; parents are unable to ask questions to which they need to know the answers” (Labour Government, 1967). Issues with the language barrier between teachers and parents can be detrimental to a child’s education, as they would not be able to find out if they are progressing or not within their subjects. This is rarely a problem today in the twenty first century, as there has been the introduction of media to help translate non-English speaking parents. 

A decade later, the Labour government under James Callaghan initiated the Race Relations Act in 1976. It stated “it is unlawful…to discriminate against a person – (b) by refusing or deliberately omitting to accept an application for his admission to the establishment as a pupil” (Labour Government, 1976). The government wanted the public as well as educational establishments to be more welcoming of the different ethnic cultures, rather than seeing them as a hindrance to society.  

Under the influence of Margaret Thatcher’s Conservatory government, the Rampton Report was introduced in 1981. This particular article was based on the West Indian children in London schools, and why they were underachieving, also included was what teachers could do alongside their school to help change this and how could the government combat this. The first evidence of underachievement was dated eighteen years prior to the document in 1963; it declared “the performance of west Indian children was, on average, much lower than that of white children in reading, arithmetic and spelling” Conservatory Government (1981) this is partly because there was a stereotype based that West Indian children were academically slower than their white classmates, so teachers may have assigned them easier work and put them in lower class sets, or even worse completely ignored them altogether (Conservatory Government, 1981). In addition, after speaking to family members I learnt that many West Indian children were not encouraged enough by their parents to challenge their white peers, and this is what may have caused underachievement levels amongst West Indian children in the Eighties. 

In the period of the last few decades, there has been the emergence of faith schools. Faith schools are institutions catering for children of certain religions or cultures; whether it is Christianity, Greek Orthodox, Islam or Judaism.  Many faith schools were starting to get state school status, a Greek Orthodox school in North London, England was the first of their kind to receive such status, the BBC (2013) said “The school will teach classics including Greek and Latin alongside mainstream curriculum”(BBC, 2013). Faith schools are able to manipulate the curriculum in their favour to a certain extent, however they still have to teach the core subjects – English, Maths and Science; some may see this as a good thing, others bad. Kelly (2013) mentioned “For their raison d’être is religious indoctrination…this can be as reprehensible as that of the political kind” Kelly could be implying that the only reason why faith schools exist is so that teachers can preach propaganda onto the students (Kelly, 2013). This is in line by an article from the Teaching Times (n.d); “Twenty one schools were recently investigated by Ofsted following claims of an attempt to make the ethos of schools in Birmingham more conservative and Islamic” (Teaching Times, n.d.) 

Bartlett & Burton (2016) expressed “Class, gender and ethnicity…remain significant factors that operate at different levels and in various ways to influence educational outcomes” (Bartlett&Burton, 2016). To conclude, I found the key issues within the sociology of education for young children of an ethnic background were; the mistreatment against them, being stereotyped against and lack of parental involvement. Children from ethnic minorities were seen as outsiders in society and more than overlooked by their peers and teachers. It has taken decades of hard work from the British government to overcome the mistreatment of the youth from minority backgrounds, by enforcing many reports and policies in order to aid them. However there is still evidence of oppression in mainstream education today, which is affecting children’s education. The final issue children had was lack of encouragement from parents. Without assistance from parents or guardians, children were more likely to miss out on educational opportunities, as well as the ability to progress further within education. I.e. enrol into higher education.  

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