Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Education and Ethnic Groups in Britain: 2005   posted by DavidB @ 3/08/2006 01:26:00 PM

In a previous post I discussed educational performance in England by different ethnic groups in 2004. There are now some figures for 2005. The full data are available here (downloads require PDF and Excel readers).

I will only give the key results at age 16. In the last year of compulsory education (age 15/16) nearly all children take examinations for the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE). The usual measure of 'satisfactory' performance is to get passes in at least 5 subjects at Grade C or higher.

As previously, I will give data for the following ethnic groups:

W = White
W/BC = Mixed White and Black Caribbean
W/BA = Mixed White and Black African
W/A = Mixed White and Asian
A = Asian (note 1)
I = Indian
P = Pakistani
Ba = Bangladeshi
Bl = Black (note 2)
BC = Black Caribbean
BA = Black African
C = Chinese
All = average for all children

Note 1: 'Asian' covers Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and 'other Asian' 'Other Asian' covers miscellaneous groups (Vietnamese, etc), but not Chinese, which has a category to itself. Middle Easterners (Arabs, Turks, etc) may be included in 'other Asian', but in the 2001 Census most of them seem to classify themselves as 'White'. People of Asian origin via the Caribbean or east Africa usually give 'Indian' as their self-identified ethnicity.
Note 2: 'Black' includes Black African, Black Caribbean, and 'Black Other'. 'Black Other' may include some mixed-race children, but those who are known to have a White parent should be counted under W/BC or W/BA.

Percentage obtaining satisfactory GCSE results:

____________Boys_______Girls_______All______% increase on 2004

In the last column I have given the increase since 2004 in the percentages of children (boys and girls combined) obtaining satisfactory results (i.e. the increase in raw percentage points, not as a percentage of the 2004 figure). It will be seen that there are increases in all ethnic groups, but larger in some than others. The largest increase is for 'Mixed White and Black African', which has now moved slightly ahead of 'White'. As I have pointed out previously, the 'Mixed' groups are difficult to interpret, as the parents are not random samples of their own ethnic groups. In the case of White/Asian, it is known that the parents are disproportionately middle-class and well-educated, and the same may be true of White/Black African. With the exception of this group, I have not noticed any change in the rank order of the results, but there have been changes in the size of the differentials. There have been notable improvements in both Black Caribbean and Black African performance, the latter of which is now only just behind Pakistani. The press release from the Education Department describes the results as showing a 'narrowing of the gap' between ethnic groups, which is largely true; but note that Bangladeshis have increased their lead over Pakistanis, and Indians and Chinese have increased their lead over Whites. The gap between boys and girls in all groups has hardly changed.

As previously, I would stress that these figures cannot be taken as simple indicators of IQ, still less of any genetic difference. The continuing year-on-year increase in average results is also difficult to interpret, and it is controversial how far it reflects a genuine improvement in educational achievement, and how far a relaxation of standards or more emphasis in schools on 'teaching to the test'.

Added: today's (March 12) London Sunday Times suggests that the increase in scores in the last few years is largely due to a shift towards taking 'softer' subjects, like leisure and tourism studies. The proportion of children getting 'good' GCSE's in key subjects like English and mathematics has actually fallen slightly.