Monday, July 10, 2006

Black and mixed race boys of African Caribbean origin are among the very lowest achieving groups in the British school system

Kate Taylor:

When Robert grows up, he wants to be a doctor.

He's only 12, but the odds are already stacked against him.

This is because he's a boy - and because he's from an African Caribbean background.

Black and mixed race boys of African Caribbean origin are among the very lowest achieving groups in our school system.

The gap starts to widen around Robert's age, and by GCSE level this group has among the lowest results in the country.

In 2005, for example, just 33.3% of these boys achieved the equivalent of five A*-C grades at GCSE, compared with 57% of the school population as a whole.

Most will never catch up. In many areas there are more black men in prison than in higher education.

But Robert could be one of the lucky ones. Last year he took part in a pioneering new project, boldly named Generating Genius.

The privately-sponsored scheme is the brainchild of Dr Tony Sewell, a high profile black academic who has spent years studying academic performance in boys.

"My philosophy is: brighter, younger, longer," he said.

This means targeting the top pupils rather than those who are struggling, catching them before the age when achievement traditionally falls off and sticking with them.

"With Generating Genius we're going to grow a group of boys. Not for one year but for five years.

"That way we can begin to break the cycle of underachievement."

All this takes place in the University of the West Indies (UWI) in Jamaica, where the British boys are joined by 10 Jamaican boys of the same age for a month over the summer.

Together they are taught advanced level science and medicine while surrounded by what Tony calls "a critical mass of positive black role models".

When the British group return, the hope is that their sense of their own potential and their cultural identity will be stronger, and that they will act as ambassadors, catalysts for change within their communities.

The idea is a grand one, but the reality is predictably messier.

Dr Sewell has packed a lot into the month. Lectures, lab work, cultural excursions. Inevitably, recreation time sometimes get squeezed.

The boys all seem to be coping well, but they are being pushed hard and there are grumbles.

"I don't think they're thinking about us emotionally," said Troy, who is from Hackney, East London.

"It's like they've never been kids!" agreed Temar, who lives in Clarendon, on the south side of Jamaica.

The classes present more teething troubles. The boys watch a live heart surgery by video link-up, something unlikely to be allowed in most British schools.

"Well, in Jamaica things are a bit different," said Dr Sewell, "and nothing has gone wrong so far. But then, we've only done it once."

Antonio, from Kingston, finds it difficult.

"I have a weak stomach. I went outside and put some water on my face and then I went back," he said.

"I had to bear it, it's something I had to do. But I wish I hadn't seen it."

Within half an hour, though, he is back to normal, joking around with his 19 new friends.

The scheme has attracted criticism. Some feel the policy of targeting the best is elitist, some that the whole approach is tantamount to segregation.

Toyin Agbetu is from Ligali, an organisation that challenges the misrepresentation in the media of black or, as he prefers to say, African people.

"It's unsustainable. We can't take thousands of African children every year to Ghana, Trinidad, Jamaica," he said.

"And when these boys come home, all the issues that they were facing are still here. So all that excellence starts to unravel.

"We can't outsource our education system."

Call to help black pupils achieve

Action for ethnic minority pupils


At 1:42 PM, Blogger FranceSucks said...

The difference betweek Pakis and Indians is interesting seeing that they are pretty much the same people except for ISSLAM.

At 2:40 PM, Anonymous Ahrimahn said...

Proof that only stupid people are attracted to Islam. ;)

At 1:09 PM, Anonymous Ahrimahn said...

Chinese pupils have best GCSE results

Aspirations and Reality: British Muslims and the Labour Market

How different immigrant groups perform


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