The Impossibility of Minority Ethnic Educational ‘Success’? An Examination of the Discourses of Teachers and Pupils in British Secondary Schools

Published: 
Jan. 20, 2008

Source: European Educational Research Journal, Volume 7 Number 1, 2008, pages 89-107.

This article argues that in Britain dominant educational discourses of ‘the ideal pupil’ exclude minority ethnic pupils and prevent them from inhabiting a position of authentic ‘success’. It suggests that ‘the successful pupil’ is a desired yet refused subject position for many minority ethnic young people – even for those who are (to some extent) performing educational success.

The article draws on interview and discussion group data from teachers, minority ethnic parents and minority ethnic pupils (aged 14‑16- years) that were collected across four separate studies. All the studies were conducted in British secondary schools and focused on the identities and experiences of British Chinese, British Muslim and ethnically diverse samples of young people.

The article engages in an unpicking of the multiple ways in which minority ethnic pupils are Othered in relation to the dominant identity of the ‘ideal pupil’ as White, male, middle class, and so on. The article moves beyond the notion of a singular Other position, engaging with the slipperiness of power and entanglements of ‘race’, gender, class and sexuality through the conceptual device of a trichotomy.

This integrated model moves beyond notions of simplistic ‘stereotyping’ to explain how complexly located minority ethnic pupils are always-already positioned as ‘other’ within British educational discourse, such that even ‘high-achieving’ minority ethnic pupils may experience success as precarious.

Updated: Mar. 23, 2008
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