This question cam up in the recent 2021 AQA Education and Theory and Methods Exam, as a 10 mark, with item question.
In the 10 mark education question, you get an item which directs you to two specific issues you need to analyse, and it’s good practice to give equal weighting to both issues.
NB there are no marks for evaluating in these questions, it’s all analysis (in-depth logical explanation).
It’s crucial to draw the links between the ’cause’ and the ‘effect’ explicitly!
Read Item A below and answer the question that follows.
Some sociologists claim that the curriculum taught in schools today prioritises some cultures over others. Research also suggests that teacher expectations can be based on stereotypes.
Teaching and learning in schools may affect the educational experiences of minority ethnic groups
Applying material from Item A, analyse two ways in which teaching and learning in schools may affect the educational experiences of minority ethnic groups. (10 marks)
The two focuses from the item are:
- the curriculum prioritising some cultures over others.
- teacher expectations based on stereotypes
Because this is a question on ethnic minority groups, it makes sense to discuss both of these as they relate to a range of different minority groups, and treat both focuses separately.
The curriculum prioritizing some cultures over others
The school curriculum has been criticised for being ethnocentric, which means it focuses on the experiences the main ethnic group, which in British schools means white British and White Europeans. Examples of this include the school year and holidays being based around a Christian timetable, European languages being the main ones offered, and history having a white-European focus, looking at things from the perspective of the colonising powers rather than the colonised, for exampled.
This can have negative effects on minority ethnic groups: school calendars are not necessarily in sync with Hindu or Muslim festivals for example, so students may take time off to celebrate these, and notoriously Ramadan frequently coincides with the A-level exam period, meaning fasting Muslim students may underperform because of this ‘ethnocentric timetabling’.
Many schools have a huge proportion of ‘minority’ students who speak African, Asian or Middle Eastern languages and yet there is rarely an option to study these as part of language options, these students may not see the point in studying another European language when they are already bilingual and might even feel offended that their own languages are not taught more widely to the majority white students.
The Prevent Agenda, which is part of the formal curriculum has also been criticized for being biased against Muslim students, with Muslim children feeling as if they are being singled out and being watched as potential terrorist threats more so than white children, which can be alienating.
Teacher expectations based on stereotypes
David Gilborn (1990) famously claimed that teachers expect black boys to be more aggressive and so they are more likely to punish them for being disruptive in class compared to white children doing the same. This may explain the higher expulsion rates for black boys compared to white boys. For those who aren’t expelled it might create the experience of the feeling of injustice about why they are being treated unfairly which could lead to less trust in teachers and less willingness to try hard in school.
Gilborn also found that black children are less likely to be put into the top sets by teachers because teachers expect them to be less able to cope due to their having higher poverty and lone parent rates, this means there will more able black students in lower sets getting frustrated because they are not being pushed, and blocked from sitting higher tier exams.
Wright found that teachers expect Asian girls to be passive and so didn’t include them in class room discussions as much, with can lead to them feeling excluded.
Similarly, teachers tend to assume Chinese students will always do well, something which less keen Chinese students don’t enjoy very much!
There is lots of good material relevant to this question in this post: ethnicity and differential achievement: in school factors.
The above question was taken from the AQA’s November 2021 A-Level Sociology Education with Theory and Methods Paper.