Posted on November 26, 2008

Education League Tables Are Fuelling ‘New Kind of Racism’ in Schools

Times of London

Education league tables showing Chinese children as high-flyers and Afro-Caribbeans as failing are fuelling a new kind of racism in schools, an academic has said.

Heidi Safia Mirza, of the Institute of Education, gave a warning that teachers can unintentionally hold back the performance of black children by underestimating their academic abilities.

Similarly, Chinese children, who routinely outperform teenagers of all other ethnic groups at GCSE level, often have their academic horizons restricted and are discouraged from studying arts and humanities because teachers assume they are good only at maths and related subjects.

In a lecture in London today, Professor Mirza will argue that the bureaucratic obsession with league tables results in the constant “sifting and sorting of pupils” into tiers and streams by perceived ability. As a result, she said, a “new cultural racism has slipped in by the back door”.

Professor Mirza’s comments follow research from Steve Strand, of Warwick University, suggesting that white pupils were significantly more likely to be entered for the top maths and science exams at the age of 14 than their black classmates.