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Educational Attainment and Inequality

4. Ethnicity

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In this module we think about ethnic patterns of attainment, notably the relatively high achievement of Chinese and Indian students and low achievement of black students. We focus on: (i) arguments from the New Right that cultural differences between ethnic groups explain inequalities in attainment; (ii) David Gillborn’s research, which suggests that discriminatory labelling by teachers means that schools fail to support attainment of black students; (iii) claims that the curriculum, notably regarding its depictions of empire, discourages some students; (iv) Marxists’ arguments that these patterns are shaped by the social class positions of different ethnic groups.


In this course, Dr Matthew Cole (University of Birmingham) explores patterns of differential educational attainment along class, gender, and ethnic lines. In the first module, we consider three sets of factors shaping unequal attainment – cultural, material, and factors within schools. In the second module, we think about differences in attainment between working- and middle-class students, and how these are shaped by material and cultural forces and relationships within schools. The third module considers the “gender gap” in attainment, focusing especially on arguments that schooling has been “feminised” to favour girls and critiques of this position. In the final module, we look at the more complex ethnic patterns of achievement and explore their causes.


Matthew Cole is Teaching Fellow in the Department of History at the University of Birmingham. He is a historian of modern Britain with a particular interest in twentieth century constitutional and party politics, and local history.

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APA style

Cole, M. (2021, November 11). Educational Attainment and Inequality - Ethnicity [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Cole, Matthew. "Educational Attainment and Inequality – Ethnicity." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 11 Nov 2021,

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