In modern day Britain, I think it is safe to say that we have a long way to go with incorporating and accepting diversity into society. The most accessible way I think there is to achieve this is through the education system. White students consistently perform better in education than students from minority ethnic groups. Something needs to change. I am proposing that the school curriculum should be made more accessible to students from other cultures, but we need to start somewhere.
Therefore, I believe that the government should focus on incorporating more diversity into the history curriculum as this would help to reduce the impact of ethnocentrism on minority ethnic students in an education system that is predominantly based on white middle class culture.
In my experience of the English education system, I can confidently say that I have only encountered black history when studying the slave trade. This gives the impression that this is the only part of black history worth learning about. However, I believe that it is imperative young people learn about other parts of black history and the history of other cultures. From looking at the national curriculum for history for key stages 3 and 4 there are essentially no units focusing specifically on the history of a wide range of cultures, for example, Indian history might be studied but only in context of the British Empire. I am not saying that the subject areas offered by the national curriculum are not important as I believe there is value in learning any part of history. However, the evident lack of diversity in the history curriculum cannot be denied. Whilst I understand that the Egyptians and Romans are taught in some primary schools, I think it is important that this diversity is spread into secondary school learning and is made more modern and relevant to reflect current world issues.
It is proven that minority ethnic students, especially Bangladeshi girls, Gypsy traveller students and black Caribbean boys, do not perform as well as white students in education. This could be due to a variety of factors. It seems that the education system is based on white middle class culture; for example, the changing room arrangements for subjects like physical education not taking into account the needs of other cultures and religions and the school holidays largely being based around the christian liturgical year. This ethnocentric system seems to make it hard for students from minority ethnic groups to enthusiastically engage with education as they feel that there is virtually no representation for them in their schooling. This further extends into schools with minority ethnic teachers not usually being promoted into senior positions in schools. This institutionalised racism further contributes to the feelings of isolation that minority ethnic groups may experience due to the lack of diverse representation in schools.
When sociologists noticed that girls were underperforming in education, there were policies put into place to help them achieve, for example WISE (women into science and engineering). We also saw a rise in the educational achievement of girls in line with the women’s movement as there were more female role models and representation for girls to look up to, encouraging them to strive for academic success. The same was done for boys when it was seen that they were not performing as well as the girls, coursework was removed from GCSE examinations as it was shown that this form of examination disadvantaged male students. I am proposing that we take this thinking and apply it to the educational achievement of minority ethnic students. We saw a rise in educational achievement in girls with more female representation. This could be replicated with more representation of different cultures and ethnicities in schools. The history curriculum is an easy place to incorporate this as students already study different places and ways of life in these lessons.
Gillborn and Youdell pointed out that black boys are likely to be put into the “no hope” category of educational triage meaning they are less likely to gain GCSEs. Could their attitude to learning be changed and developed if they saw themselves represented in their lessons more frequently? I think the answer to this question is yes. Representation in education is extremely important as it is vital that minority ethnic students feel valued and feel that their culture is valued within the curriculum that they are being taught. Furthermore, a more diverse history curriculum would attract a more diverse demographic of history teachers allowing non- white pupils to see themselves represented in a position of knowledge and authority. Schools should make an effort to reduce the culture clash between white middle class culture and the cultures of other ethnicities. Incorporating more diversity into the history curriculum is an accessible way to achieve this and a step in the right direction in addressing the difference in educational achievement between different ethnicities.
I think that incorporating more diversity into the history curriculum would help improve life in the UK because it would hopefully improve the educational achievement of minority ethnic groups. The benefits of this would be widespread and life changing for many people. Currently in the UK, 4% of white people are unemployed compared with 8% of people from all other ethnic groups. Pakistani and Bangladeshi, mixed and black ethnic groups currently have the highest rates of unemployment. This would make sense as these are also the groups that have the lowest educational achievement. In every region of England and Scotland, unemployment rates are higher for minority ethnic groups than they are for white people. Higher educational achievement correlates with your likelihood of being employed. Therefore, my proposed improvement to the history curriculum, which I believe would improve the educational achievement of minority ethnic groups, would result in higher levels of employment amongst these people.
Minority ethnic groups also have higher levels of homelessness than people from a white background in the UK. Studies from 2017 and 2018 found that 14% of all homeless households were Black, 9% were Asian and 4% were from a Mixed ethnic background. This again correlates with the ethnic groups who tend to have low educational achievement and also the ethnic groups experiencing high unemployment rates.
Changing the school curriculum just slightly could have an extremely widespread and prevalent impact on the lives of minority ethnic people living in the UK. It is so important for everybody to feel represented in their education as this will lead to higher levels of engagement and therefore educational achievement of students part of minority ethnic groups. Gaining educational qualifications is vital in achieving success as we live in a meritocratic society where jobs and pay are allocated based on the educational achievements, talents and skills of individuals. Reducing the impact of ethnocentrism on students from minority ethnic groups will help improve life in the UK as these people will gain more educational qualifications which will provide more opportunities for them, reducing unemployment and homelessness rates for people from minority ethnic groups in the UK.
Whilst a mere change in the history curriculum may sound small, I strongly believe that the effects of this change will be revolutionary in improving life in the UK, especially for those in minority ethnic groups. It will change the way that young people view different cultures and ethnicities in their education and they will not just be celebrated during black history month, but talked about all year round as different cultures and ethnicities need to be represented frequently to reduce the impact of the UK’s ethnocentric curriculum. Not only will this change benefit students from minority ethnic groups as it will support them to gain the educational qualifications they need in order to access job opportunities, but it will also provide white students with a greater understanding of the people they share a classroom with and as they grow older the people that they will share a workspace with.
Whilst this singular change to the history curriculum may not be enough, this could be a catalyst for a sea change in the education system, where diversity will become an integral part of the curriculum across all subjects. Improving the lives of people from minority ethnic groups in the UK improves the lives of everybody in the UK as it enriches our society, diversifies our schools and offices and makes the UK a more inviting and friendly place for everyone who lives here.