Title: Educational Experiences of African/Caribbean Boys. I would like to begin by outlining my PhD research project. It focused on year old

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1 Title: Educational Experiences of African/Caribbean Boys Power Point One I would like to begin by outlining my PhD research project. It focused on year old African/Caribbean boys and exploring their narratives about their everyday lives in secondary education. I used a comparative analysis, examining a secondary school, a black supplementary school and a black youth organization. I used a multi-method approach. It was mainly a qualitative method, interviewing, observing and participating with the boys. But alongside this I used quantitative data that I collected about the three institutions to support the qualitative material. For example, to test out the claims the boys were making about each institution. I was attempting to gain a comprehensive picture of the boys lives in the three institutions. Qualitative research enables you to gain the different meanings of the different participants. This included researching the perspectives and meanings of: African/Caribbean boys, parents, teachers and youth workers. 1

2 Power Point Two Potted History: Research on Black Male Pupils If I could move on to provide a potted history of the educational research on black male pupils. My research built upon key ethnographic studies in the field, especially Mairtin Mac an Ghaill s Young,Gifted and Black and the Making of Men, David Gillborn s, Race, Ethnicity and Education, Tony Sewell s Black Masculinities and Schooling and Heidi Mirza s, Young, Female and Black. One issue that is important in terms of building on earlier work is what are the similarities and what are the differences between black boys narratives from 20 years ago and the present. For example, has the racialization of black boys in education changed over this time? I will return to this later in the presentation. Perhaps the main racialized images from the earlier literature was dominant representations of Asian achievers and Black underachievers. Two points to note here. First, Mac an Ghaill makes an important intervention in challenging these representations by highlighting the gendering of these images. In the media and policy reports 20 years ago there was a lack of consistency whether the Asian achievers and Black underachievers referred to the whole population or primarily boys. Second, one of the reasons why there were positive images of Asian boys was because they were seen as being secure within a strong family culture and particularly important here, it was assumed, was their religion. So if we fast forward to 2012 and look at the dominant 2

3 images of government and policy makers, now assuming that a main reason for the education problems of Asian/Muslim boys is their religion, which it is argued serves as a barrier to their integration as British citizens. This is why critical educational research is so important. It provides us with a memory to check out changing images, changing representations of different ethnic groups. A dominant theme that the earlier studies illustrated in critically examining the racialized representations of black boys was the crude deficit view of Black culture. For example, black families were assumed to be highly problematic, with a particular emphasis on absent black fathers. In turn, this absence was directly linked to the representation of black boys as major behavioural problem for teachers, as Heidi Mirza clearly shows. Just to highlight a methodological point here, with reference to this theme of black boys as a behavioural problem for teachers. Mac an Ghaill in his study asks the teachers why so many black boys are in the lowest streams. The boys have told him it is because of racism. The teachers explain it is because the boys are of low ability. Mac an Ghaill checks out these different perspectives collected by qualitative methods, by examining the quantitative data that he had also collected. He looks at the boys school records. When they came into the secondary school, most of the boys were in the top sets. He goes back to the teachers and suggests to them that the boys ability levels, that the teachers spoke of in terms of IQ, could not make a dramatic fall in a few years after leaving primary school. The teachers shift in their explanation claiming that you can t 3

4 have badly behaved boys disrupting the top sets. The mixed method approach helps to evaluate the value of the qualitative data here. 4

5 Power Point Three Research Findings: Secondary Schooling and African/Caribbean boys I have a short period of time to present these findings. I do not want to suggest a crude picture of a bad secondary school and a good black supplementary school and black youth organization. However, I do want to highlight a main theme that emerged from a comparative analysis of these institutions. With reference to the earlier research, mentioned above, the boys narratives of their secondary school read like a Nothing but the same old story of a sense of social exclusion, stereotyping and pathologization among many of the boys. A smaller group had more positive views of mainstream schooling. The sense of the same old story from the black boys perspective included a continuation of the racial stereotyping of them, negative assumptions about their ability and the generalization from some bad black boys behaviour to all or most black boys. If there is one phrase that I would emphasise that captured many of the boys feelings about many of their secondary school teachers was the lack of respect. This resonates with early ethnographies of white working class boys accounts of their interactions with teachers, such as, Paul Willis s study Learning to Labour. In fact, Mac an Ghaill makes an important point, building on the work of Stuart Hall, that much of the discrimination that black boys report works through school processes and practices that discriminate against white working class pupils. Theoretically, this is the beginning of identifying the intersection of different categories of difference, ethnicity, gender and class. 5

6 For the boys in my study the lack of teacher respect was a personal thing, explicitly linked to their being black boys. It was also an institutional lack of respect in terms of what we might call a mono-cultural curriculum operating within the school, that excluded their culture. So, there seemed to be a lot of similarities between the experiences of black boys in earlier studies and my study. However, they did not necessarily operate in the same way. So, in the earlier literature a major mechanism of racial discrimination was the labelling of black boys as educationally sub-normal, while at the present time a major mechanism of racial stereotyping is the high proportion of black boys excluded from secondary schools. 6

7 Power Point Four Research Findings: A Black Supplementary School and a Black Youth Organization If I could now turn to the second part of my comparative analysis. Perhaps, the immediate difference in exploring the boys lives in a black supplementary school and a black youth organization, was the black boys talking about the importance of education in their lives. These two institutions seemed to offer a black cultural space that provided positive support for the boys transition to adulthood. Importantly, they successfully brought together the culture of learning and black youth popular culture. This was important because the mainstream school often portrayed black youth culture as a barrier to learning. Interestingly, among an older generation, the boys parents, some of them, believed that in order for their children to be academically successful, they needed to disassociate from local black popular culture. The black supplementary school and the black youth organization understood that this black popular culture was not simply something for black boys. Rather, black popular culture is of central importance to a younger generation and the making of their identities. That is, young people of all backgrounds. The black boys in my study especially acknowledged the shared understanding of history, culture and language that the black youth workers had with them. Hence, in direct contrast to the mainstream secondary school the mutual respect of adults and boys led to 7

8 boys displaying a self confidence and sense of belonging. Importantly from the study s point of view, was the positive representations of academically successful black boys that was a main finding that I recoded from these two institutions. 8

9 Power point Five Current Trends: Education and Equality I want now to locate my research project within a wider theoretical framework. I will focus on a number of shifts in the research literature. First, a shift from an emphasis on structures of racism, often developed within sociology to focus on pupil identity formation, from a social psychological or post-structuralist perspective. Second, a shift from a focus on racism to multiple categories of exclusion, including class and gender. Third, emerging academic work asking, what about the white working-class boys? For example, many of them, especially from a poor socio-economic background, are not getting through to university, are they the forgotten social group? And finally, a shift in political and policy discourses highlighting negative representations of Muslim boys and girls. So, asking the question, has the issue of black boys education become invisible? 9

10 Power Point Six Rethinking Research with Black Male Pupils Education Against this background of theoretical and policy shifts, what does it mean to do research with black boys about their education? I mentioned earlier about what are the similarities and differences across the years in researching in this area. In terms of differences, at a time of an Ofsted regime of evaluation of schools, what impact has a changing curriculum and assessment having on black boys, with increasing divisions between schools? Basil Bernstein suggested that schools cannot compensate for society. So can schools compensate for a period of austerity, including increasing racial divisions around poverty and unemployment? However, I want to emphasise, what emerged most clearly from my comparative analysis, that is Black boys are not simply victims of a racialized structure of schooling. Rather, they display agency, creativity and are actively building a cultural world of survival, as black people have always done historically. 10

11 Power Point Seven Policy Implications Just, some final policy implications. Both mainstream and supplementary educational spaces need an inclusive curriculum, pedagogy and assessment that the boys in my study claim they found in the latter but not the former. In contrasting teacher-pupil interactions between mainstream and supplementary educational spaces, can the former learn from the latter? What would the policy implications be for mainstream secondary and primary schooling? At a time of talk of being in a post-racial society, with a black president returned in the U.S., and much talk of multi-culturalism having failed, in policy terms we need to re-visit issues of anti-racism and multi-culturalism in schools. What do these policies mean for a younger generation? Finally, and most importantly, how do we place young people at the centre of educational reform? In response, we can argue that qualitative research continues to produce important data that provides insights into young black people s experiences of education in

12 Thank you. 12

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