Indian education success a model for replication, finds UK's race report
Indian pupils tend to perform well in education and also go on to have high average incomes as a result, a model that needs further research to be replicated across other ethnicities, finds a new review set up by Prime Minister Boris Johnson into the UK’s racial disparities.
The Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities report released on Wednesday concluded that class differences had overtaken racial disparity as an impact on life chances in the UK and overall found the country to be fairer even though overt racism remained a reality, particularly online.
One of its central recommendations includes discontinuation of the term BAME, which stands for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic, as no longer “helpful” and proposes references such as British Indian instead.
“It is the commission's belief that educational success should be celebrated, replicated and used as an exemplar to inspire all pupils across the UK. Evidence shows that certain ethnic groups such as Black African, Indian and Bangladeshi pupils perform better than White British group, once socio-economic status is taken into consideration,” reads the report, chaired by education consultant Dr Tony Sewell.
“This outstanding performance is in part due to what is termed ‘immigrant optimism’: a phenomenon where recent immigrants devote themselves more to education than the native population because they lack financial capital and see education as a way out of poverty. In practice, this means there are significant factors at play that can help groups overcome their socio-economic status and succeed,” it reads.
The 258-page report recommends the Department for Education (DfE) must invest in “meaningful and substantial research” to understand and replicate the underlying factors that drive the success of the high performance of pupils from different ethnicities, such as British Indians.
“In fact, as of 2019, the ethnicity pay gap – taking the median hourly earnings of all ethnic minority groups and the White group – is down to just 2.3 per cent and the White Irish, Chinese and Indian ethnic groups are on average earning notably more than the White British average,” it adds.
The report also finds Indians are among those with the highest net property wealth, living in good neighbourhoods and overall tend to see “fewer obstacles and less prejudice” in British society.
Among its recommendations, the independent commission calls for greater focus on Commonwealth influences on Britain, including a new dictionary that traces words of Indian origin.
“We want to see how Britishness influenced the Commonwealth and local communities, and how the Commonwealth and local communities influenced what we now know as modern Britain. One great example would be a dictionary or lexicon of well known British words which are Indian in origin,” the review suggests.
The usage of the term BAME, frequently used to group all ethnic minorities together, is dubbed as “demeaning” because it categorises people in relation to what they are not, rather than what they are.
“The BAME acronym also disguises huge differences in outcomes between ethnic groups. This reductionist idea forces us to think that the principle cause of all disparities must be majority versus minority discrimination,” the review warns.
The country has come a long way in 50 years and the success of much of the ethnic minority population in education and, to a lesser extent, the economy, should be regarded as a model for other White-majority countries,” it concludes, though highlighting that it is now yet a “post-racial society which has completed the long journey to equality of opportunity”.
Boris Johnson, who had commissioned the review last year in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests following the killing of African-American George Floyd in the US, said it's an “important piece of work” which will now define actions within government.
“The Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities was launched to conduct a detailed, data-led examination of inequality across the entire population, and to set out a positive agenda for change,” Johnson said in his response to the report.
“It is now right that the government considers their recommendations in detail, and assesses the implications for future government policy. The entirety of government remains fully committed to building a fairer Britain and taking the action needed to address disparities wherever they exist,” he said.
Sunder Katwala, the head of the British Future think tank, is quoted in the report as saying that “Britain is doing much better on race than on class”.
He also notes that many disadvantaged Black and Muslim groups do feel defined by their race, whereas fewer middle-class professionals from Indian and Chinese ethnic groups feel the same.
“Britain probably does put more energy than others into collecting data on race. That shouldn’t only be used to highlight the progress that undoubtedly has been made – it must also identify the gaps so we can take action to address them,” said Katwala.