As well as social class, ethnicity also plays an important part in educational achievement. Just as we can think of everyone as belonging to a social class, we can also see individuals being part of an ethnic group. Lawson and Garrod (2000) define ethnic groups as ‘people who share common history, customs, language and religion, and who see themselves as a distinct unit’.
A difficulty of studying ethnicity is deciding who is included in an ethnic group, whether by continent, country, religion, etc…
It is a mistake, defining ethnicity by physical features (such as skin colour). Although many ethnic minority groups in Britain are non-white, this is not true of all groups. Many of the largest minority groups however, are non-white – African, Caribbean or South Asian. Despite this, Crystal (2003) claims that well over 100 languages are in routine use in the UK. Children from minority ethnic backgrounds make up about 21% of all pupils in English schools.
As stated in item A, “at GCSE, on average, Chinese and Indian pupils perform better than White, Bangladeshi, Pakistani or Black pupils” In addition, it is found that there are major class differences in performance with many working class white pupils performing at a lower level than that of other ethnic groups. For example, Hastings (2006) sees that white pupils make less progress from 11 to 16 years of age, than black or Asian pupils and it is possible that whites may soon become the worst performing ethnic group in the country, due to the rapid improvement of minorities. Sociologists are interested in the reasons for those differences in achievements, and have put forward a number of explanations.
Many sociologists believe these differences can be explained by looking at factors outside the school – in the home, family and culture of the child, and the impact of wider society. The