When I read Amjad Ali’s post about BAME stats, as a history graduate, my first reaction was to question the evidence and the analysis of it.
Over the last 15 years whenever I have analysed stats at schools, e.g. Panda, raise online etc. Pakistani students have been at the lower end of the progress line and irrespective of how they do academically they leave to enter employment early on because culturally having a stable job is seen as important. The Indian community, however are taught that education is power and encouraged to aim high academically by their parents.
From my own Indian community of East London, I was taught that education will set you free. The strength of the cultural tradition was evident when I was growing up. Of my Pakistani and Bangladeshi classmates, all the girls had arranged marriages by their 17th birthday and of the boys the majority left at 16 to go to work. Of my Indian Muslim friends they had arranged marriages soon after or during their A Levels whereas my Indian Hindu/Sikh friends waited till after they completed their degree. These cultural traditions are strong as is the perspective of teaching as a profession. For example, within the Indian community teaching isn’t considered a profession worth pursuing. Teachers are highly respected in the community but you don’t want your kids becoming teachers. When I told my dad I was going to read History at uni he thought I had mispronounced the word ‘law’.
I would argue that the reasoning behind the difference between the number of Pakistani teachers/SLT when compared to Indian communities is heavily influenced by culture. Indian students stay on in education longer so there are more teachers and SLT from this community. But overall the numbers of Asians in the profession are low anyway as many Asians who go into higher education try to pursue medicine, law or accounting. The three pillars of Asian career aspirations!
Personally, my greatest barrier to success was at school being taught by many awful teachers some of whom told me not to bother with university. Also in the community with the National Front marching up our street shouting ‘Pakis out’ and their kids in school violently bullying myself and my siblings. This didn’t support a culture of success and didn’t do wonders for my self esteem.
Thankfully, as an adult I haven’t experienced this. Brexit made me cry for three hours at the thought of returning to a Britain of the 70s but I haven’t encountered anything untoward in society as an adult….yet. I know that others have not been so lucky. In my career I have been very successful. I have been a member of SLT in a school where we had 80% EAL and the majority of SLT were BAME. I recently worked in a school which was 80% white and I was the only BAME in SLT. I never encountered any prejudices in either school.
BAMEed sounds like a good idea. So what is preventing me from being so enthusiastic about It? I jumped at the chance of joining WomenEd. Perhaps it’s because as women regardless of our background we have similar experiences. However, as a member of the BAME community each experience is so varied. I hate being put in a box and I worry that joining a group like this does exactly that, puts all ethnic minorities into a box saying we are all the same with the same experiences.
But I wonder if the focus should be supporting and raising the self esteem of young people rather than adults? As a young person my confidence was low due to the negative messages I constantly received out there that I wasn’t good enough. I didn’t do as well as I really could have academically because I just didn’t believe I could. A mentor/coach would have been invaluable to me back then. As an adult I’d be happy to mentor/coach a young person to help them on the road.
Perhaps as an adult I had the drive and ambition to get to where I am today. I worked hard to break down the negative messages I had been exposed to as a child. Maybe adults from these backgrounds need the coaching too?
I would love to coach young people and adults regardless of their ethnic background to inspire, encourage and support them to be the best they can be.
I will follow with interest to see how BAMEed develops.
Read Amjad Ali’s post here:
Read Allana Gay’s post here:
Strength in unity