Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Education and Ethnic Groups in Britain   posted by DavidB @ 11/28/2007 03:37:00 AM

I have previously reported on the annual education statistics in Britain (e.g. here), so I will give an update for 2006-07. Figures have just been published for performance at the GCSE examinations, taken by most children at age 16. An official press release is here. Performance by children of all ethnic groups continues to improve (as measured by examination grades). The press release highlights the fact that the gap between ethnic groups is narrowing. Actually, this is not strictly true. The 'narrowing' is specifically between children of Black (Caribbean or African) origin and the (mainly White) average. Other 'gaps' are constant or widening. Children of Pakistani origin have the lowest rate of improvement, and have now been overtaken by Black Africans.

I won't discuss the vexed question whether improvement in examination results actually indicates any improvement in education. But I guess (unless anyone knows reasons to the contrary) that the changes in differentials between ethnic groups are real and not artificial; for example, I can't see any reason why the testing system should be biased against Pakistanis but not Bangladeshis.

Added on 1 December: In comments the point has been made that a general rising trend will tend to suppress differentials. In general this is a good point, but as I mentioned in my original post, not all of the gaps are narrowing. The pattern is more complex. Also, the (mainly White) average is still nowhere near the ceiling. It has also been suggested that the narrowing gap between Black African and Black Caribbean and White children could be due to increasing proportions of mixed-race children. This should not be the case. The statistics classify the various mixed-race groups separately, so provided the children are correctly classified this should not be a problem. Finally, I should warn against taking these results as indicators of IQ. No doubt there is some correlation with IQ, but it can hardly be very close, as girls have much better GCSE results than boys despite similar IQ.

I would suggest that before making further comments readers should consult the original statistics. Go here, click on the link marked 'EXCEL', then go to Table 8 for the GCSE figures. (If you don't have an Excel reader there are free downloads on the web.)