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Factors Affecting Ethnic Minority Progression to University

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Education
Wordcount: 1556 words Published: 29th Aug 2017

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It has been established that there is a very close connection between education attainment and upward social mobility (Ball 2010), hence, it is not unusual for ethnic minority to desire an upward social mobility and avoid discrimination in the work place, through the mechanism of obtaining higher qualification. However, this can be elusive as there are challenges that are capable of limiting the process or perhaps terminate the hope of obtaining higher qualifications.

This commentary aims to discuss some the factors that affects the progression of ethnic minority children to higher education, in doing so attempt will be made at explaining the concept of race and ethnicity.

Race and ethnicity

Although it seems convenient to describe a person race based on certain physical characteristic, such as, colour of skin. However, there is no scientific basis for this classification, because there is no specific gene that distinguish a person of colour to white, classification is the based on people desire. According to Sternberg, Grigorenko et.al, the concept of race is not scientific but rather a social construct, it does not have any place in the genetic sequence (Sternberg, Grigorenko et al. 2005).  Even though, the concept of race is unscientific it does have factual consequences according to (Walters. 2012), as people face what is called racial discrimination, segregation among other things. In order to define ethnicity, it is vital to describe the characteristics makers of ethnic group, as well as determining if these characteristics are permanent (Cartrite 2003). Defining ethnicity is a complicated issue, as there is no consensus among political scientist as to what the makeup of an ethnic group is (Cartrite 2003). Ethnic group refers to “a social group that share common and distinctive culture, religion, language, ancestry or the like” (Dictionary.com). Ethnic minority denotes a group of people distinguished from the social mainstream, those who hold the majority spots of social supremacy in a society, and possibly will be definite by law (Wikipedia). The classification is based on some of the characteristic described in the definition of Ethnic grouping.  Ethnic group in the UK according to 2001 are white, black, Asian, mixed, Chinese and other. The word race and ethnicity are commonly used interchangeably, but they do not mean the same thing, as said earlier race is an artificial concept with factual reality, while ethnic group might be a real concept.

Race equality and education policy

The government have put in place a number of policy to address the issues relating to race, equality and education as it relates to ethnic minority. However, the wording of some of the policy are problematic, for example “1976 Race Equality Act”, because it sounds like it is promoting a concept that is designed to crate division. The 1976 Race equality act makes it unlawful for any school to discriminate against any pupil because of their ethnic background as well as Crate “Commission for Racial Equality” (CRE). This was in attempt to stop the exclusion ethnic minority from education. In 1985 the swan report make recommendation that the inclusion of multicultural perspective in the curriculum in all the schools (Swann 1985). “2004 Higher Education Act” Introduces further changes that offer more support particularly to students from lower economic background, this is to allow those children from poor social economic background go into university (Barr 2004). Various policies brought in by the government to limit discrimination and encourage Ethnic Minority participation in education are not sufficient and has not eliminated the fear of going into debt among ethnic minority.

Afro- Caribbean (AC) education experiences

It is worth noting that most journals and articles tend to concentrate on concentrate on AC as the ethnic minority, according to department of education black Caribbean are 3 to 4 times likely to be excluded from school. AC often have problematic connection with teachers in school, as they are seen as threatening. They tend to apply to higher education while in employment at an older age compared to their white counterparts (Stoll, Bolam et al. 2006). According to the system every Child is important, however, the failure and social exclusion of Black children is a norm – which suggest that they matter, but not as much. It might be necessary to employ personalisation so as to enable Black pupils to fulfil their real potential, this will not be possible as long as teachers’ opinion is formed by hidden bias (Stoll, Bolam et al. 2006)

Key factors affecting the progression of ethnic minority into higher education language barrier

Favourable cultural capital can be traded for more prospects.The most valued cultural capital is usually linked to that which prevailed in society which is a source of social inequality (Szeman and Kaposy 2010). Some ethnic minority may not be opportune to possess the cultural capitals that are valued in society, most migrant parent ideally has foreign cultural capital and probably poor English, that may result in low expectation and wages. However, the real problem is that universities tend to not that into account other cultural capitals (Dickinson, Griffith et al. 2012).


This is the key to success as it determines engagement and efforts. Due to high aspiration ethnic minority children tend to remain in full time education beyond the age of 16 in compares to their white counter part (Owen, Green et al. 2000). According to Connor et al, ethnic minority children punch above their weight when their percentage representative in university is compared to that of the general population (Connor, Tyers et al. 2004), It can be said that high aspiration among ethnic minority is responsible for this, because according to a study by university of Bristol 90 % of ethnic minority children aspire to stay in education beyond the age of 16 compared to 80% of their white counterpart (Wilson, Burgess et al. 2006)

Social economic factor

Poverty does reduce the chances of doing well in school, hence, cost and fear being in debt can be a factors capable of limiting ethnic minority progression into higher education. ethnic minority child that comes from a poor social economic background does face an uphill battle of trying to avoid getting into debt as a result of going into university. Due to their social economic background it is quite possible for their parents to not to be educated themselves, hence, they may not understand the value of education.


although there are numerous factors that have the potential of limiting ethnic minority children from progressing into higher education, but there is no sufficient evidence to suggest that any of the factors, is a deterrent individually, however their collective effect is yet to be determined, it is also worth mentioning that high aspiration tend to be a major factor that enhances their chance of progression. According to Gillborn (2008) underachievement among ethnic minority may be caused by inadequate cognizance of policy-makers concerning the outcome specific policies will have groups


Ball, S. J. (2010). “New class inequalities in education: Why education policy may be looking in the wrong place! Education policy, civil society and social class.” International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy 30(3/4): 155-166.

Barr, N. (2004). “Higher education funding.” Oxford review of economic policy 20(2): 264-283.

Cartrite, B. (2003). Reclaiming their shadow: Ethnopolitical mobilization in consolidated democracies.

Connor, H., et al. (2004). “Why the difference? A closer look at higher education minority ethnic students and graduates.” Institute for Employment Studies research report(552).

Dickinson, D. K., et al. (2012). “How reading books fosters language development around the world.” Child Development Research 2012.

Owen, D., et al. (2000). Minority ethnic participation and achievements in education, training and the labour market, DfEE Publications.

Sternberg, R. J., et al. (2005). “Intelligence, race, and genetics.” American Psychologist 60(1): 46.

Stoll, L., et al. (2006). “Professional learning communities: A review of the literature.” Journal of educational change 7(4): 221-258.

Swann, B. M. S. (1985). Education for all: The report of the committee of inquiry into the education of children from ethnic minority groups, HMSO.

Szeman, I. and T. Kaposy (2010). Cultural theory: an anthology, John Wiley & Sons.

Wilson, D., et al. (2006). “The dynamics of school attainment of England’s ethnic minorities.”


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