Rashmee Roshan Lal, Times of India, Nov. 24, 2006
British Indian school children are racing ahead of their white counterparts in national tests that measure the three R’s, new official statistics have revealed.
Indian boys and girls, tested at ages seven and 11 are achieving better grades than white pupils in crucial subjects such as English and Maths, says an analysis of the results notched up nationwide in Britain.
Children of Indian and Chinese descent perform above the national average, the analysis said, with Indian students achieving the very highest scores rising to an impressive 66.6 per cent, up 1.4 points.
Indians are only trumped at the closely-watched frontiers of academic achievement by Chinese children, who have been found still to out-perform those from other ethnic groups. But overall, both Asian groups are leading Britain’s academic field, a realization that has sparked acute consternation in establishment circles at the prospect of white boys and girls ignominiously falling further behind their ethnic minority counterparts.
Even as sections of the Indian community here responded to the revelations with quiet jubilance, Britain’s schools minister was shaking his head over the laggardly performance of white children.
The minister, Lord Andrew Adonis, said, “There are some stubborn disparities between ethnic groups and problems around underachieving boys that need to be addressed. We must remove the barriers to their learning, engage with these children and give them an extra push they need.”
Commentators said much of the establishment is increasingly concerned that white pupils are now reduced to getting a worse grounding in the basics of education than brown, yellow and black students.
The new statistics are seen to underline a problem recently identified by academics at Bristol university, who tracked tens of thousands of poor British schoolchildren only to find that when “futures are decided in the national exams (GCSEs at 16), the white children do worst of all. Poor Indian and Chinese pupils, who have been ahead all along, increase their lead dramatically.” The Bristol findings were seen to underline the growing suspicion of British politicians that “Asians seem to be the new middle class”.
Last October, Britain’s doughty Economist newspaper commented that the Bristol findings underlined the UK’s biggest, unremarked problem, namely that “the nation’s most troubled group, in both absolute and relative terms, is poor, white and British-born.”
It added, “The troubles begin at school. Last year white teenagers entitled to free school meals‚Äîthe poorest tenth‚Äîdid worse in crucial GCSE examinations than equally poor members of any other ethnic or racial group”.
In a sign that much of Britain’s white mainstream political establishment is united across party lines in rising concern over white underachievement compared to academic brown barnstorming, Nick Gibb, the schools spokesman for the main opposition Conservative Party added, “It’s welcome that those minorities are doing well. But it remains a huge concern that so many white children are not improving in the core academic subjects of English and maths which are the foundations for life-long learning.”
Yet another government schools minister, Derek Twigg, said, the results were “positive” overall and “a tribute to all the hard work of teachers, pupils and parents. It also shows that our strategies to tackle minority ethnic under-achievement are working. But there must be no room for complacency and we must maintain this upward trend, so that the gap is closed even further and that all pupils regardless of their ethnic or cultural background fulfil their full potential.”
The new statistics show that white children are falling behind all ethnic minority groups — Indian, Chinese, Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Black African and Black Caribbean pupils — in passing the national tests called GCSEs. The proportion of white pupils achieving the sterling grade called five A stars in GCSE exams this summer rose to 57.2 per cent, a mere 2.1 percentage point increase on 2005. Even though this was progress of a sort because it was above the overall national average of 56.9 per cent, it is seen as ignominious because it was one of the smaller leaps amongst ethnic groups in Britain today. Indians improved their overall attainment of five A stars by 1.5 points to 58.9 per cent.
Bangladeshis improved by 4.1 points, Pakistanis by 1.9 points, Black Africans by 2.2 points and Black Caribbean‚Äôs by 2.1 points.
Coloured children’s remarkable progress at school, said pundits, appeared to reflect a crucial cultural divide with whites because “clearly something happens to white children between the ages of 14 and 16 that does not happen to others, particularly Indians and Chinese. That something is that they write off the value of education in doing well in life”.
(Posted on November 28, 2006)