The education plans were perceived to be ‘jingoistic’, particularly by Historians.
The General Elections in 2010 promised an overhaul in the British education system.
Michael Gove, the educational secretary has delivered what has been described as an ‘education revolution’, but is this in fact the case?
Indeed there have been large volumes of criticism against the inefficient government ability to draft a new curriculum without racial, sexual or class prejudices, but has this affected the British South Asian community?
The Changes to Education
Education has been one of the most contentious debates over the past year, with Elizabeth Truss, the Education Minister stating:
“We do need to start competing against those top-performing countries in the world. For too long we’ve pretended that students’ results are getting better where actually all that’s been happening is the exams have been getting easier and there’s been a race to the bottom between exam boards and we need to stop that happening now.”
Michael Gove believes the core issue is with grade inflation. The GCSE pass rate has risen every year since the exams were first sat in 1988.
Instead of seeing this in a positive light, he told the Commons that he wishes to make exams ‘more challenging, more ambitious and more rigorous’, ensuring GCSE’s were universal qualifications that would ‘reduce variability in the system’.
The key changes from Autumn 2015 will be initially for nine core GCSE subjects. Grading also will be changed to numerical (8-1) rather than by the current letter system of A*-G.
Modular courses will be dropped and instead, full exams will be taken at the end of two years study and coursework will no longer be an influence in final grading.
The Education Secretary feels that these changes will bring the exams children sit at 16 into line with the most rigorous tests sat elsewhere in the world.
In English Literature, exams will be more academically demanding by testing the pupils knowledge on reading the whole book.
The course content will include less world literature and more English writers/poets. Pupils will study at least one Shakespeare play, a selection of work by the Romantic poets, a 19th Century novel, a selection of poetry since 1850 and a 20th Century novel or drama.
Responses to the Education Plan
The original proposed education plans received much contestation from teachers and unions, with the majority saying they were unhappy with Gove’s new curriculum, particularly for History.
The Independent claims that there was letter signed by over 1,000 teachers from a variety of schools claiming the draft plan was a breach of their legal duty to avoid ‘the promotion of partisan political views in the teaching of any subject in the school’.
The education plans were perceived to be ‘jingoistic’, particularly by Historians. Simon Schama, a prominent historian, called the plans ‘insulting and offensive’.
He said the first proposal was too focused on the white gentlemanly elites’ with too much emphasis on British colonialism.
In the teachers letter, they concluded: “We therefore consider that there are strong grounds for believing that this curriculum, should it be implemented and any further changes to the history of teaching which seek to impose a political bias or flout the requirement for breadth and balance, would be unlawful.”
Multiculturalism and British Asian Students
In response to the many concerns, Michael Gove resolved to backtrack on major aspects of his controversial History curriculum.
He presented a major rewrite of the draft, that promotes and repeatedly refers to ‘British, local and world history’ with suggested topics including the civilisations of Islam, Baghdad, the Mayans, Benin, Mughal India, Qing China, 20th-century America.
The new curriculum recognises that we live in a globalised world, much like multicultural Britain, and this will be of great relevance to the histories and cultures of many ethnic minority students.
Novelist, Malorie Blackman said that the initial proposals were ‘dangerous’; Blackman admitted:
“The curriculum needs to appeal to as many children as possible or a number of them could become disenchanted with education because they feel it’s not relevant.”
The previous plans propagated inaccurate myths about alleged British victories. The Guardian asks: “Do we want a narrow, partisan, isolationist national identity where foreigners and immigrants are regarded with hostility or suspicion, other countries treated as inferior, and triumphalist historical myths are drummed into our children?
“Or do we want the kind of national identity that presented itself in the London Olympics, a year ago?”
After the Olympics, there was a new kind of patriotism and national identity that arose amongst the British – very different from the patriotism that Michael Gove was trying to promote in his initial proposal.
Patriotism now shows a support for a British identity that embraced diversity and was comfortable with an ethnic and cultural mix. Comedian Eddie Izzard said the Olympics ‘redefined how Britain sees itself… people have understood what modern multicultural Britain is all about’.
The new History curriculum indeed goes some way towards recognising this fact when it suggests that pupils study ‘the impact through time of the migration of people to, from and within the British Isles’.
Furthermore, DFE statistics relating to 2011/2012 GCSE results and trends between 2007/08 and 2011/12 reveal that Asian pupils in total outperform white pupils and within the Asian category, Indian pupils are especially successful.
Also, the rate of improvement in educational achievement has been greatest for Bangladeshi and Pakistani pupils in recent years.
Sir Mike Tomlinson, the former head of Ofsted explains: “We are seeing every ethnic group progress rapidly – Chinese, Bengali, Indian.”
The results that are being achieved are higher and this has improved the numbers applying to university and entering professions such as medicine, veterinary science, law and accountancy:
“A very high value is placed on education among many ethnic groups, compared with white working-class families. There seems to be different value systems at work,” Tomlinson added.
A high proportion of South Asian British-born students are achieving a spectacular degree of educational success. Law, Pharmacy, Accountancy and particularly Medicine are the preferred career choice for many South Asian pupils.
No less than 20% of the places in Britain’s medical schools are now filled by the children of British Asian (and more so, British Indian) parents.
Due to the different work ethic and from the statistics, it can be presumed that British South Asian children should be affected very slightly, but could actually thrive under Michael Gove’s revised curriculum.