On Racist Inequalities in the UK Education System

In chapter 3 of Gillborn (2008), Gillborn maps, critically analyses and meticulously explains racist inequalities in the UK education system. After twenty-five pages of painstaking analysis, he comes to the conclusion that while a complex picture emerges, ‘particular minoritized groups (Black students and their peers of Pakistani and Bangladeshi heritage) continue to be significantly less likely to achieve the key benchmarks when compared to White peers of the same gender’ (Gillborn 2008, p. 69). Moreover, white students are the only group to show an increase in the number of higher grade GCSEs in every survey since the late 1980s, and young people in each of the ‘black’ monitoring categories are more likely to be permanently excluded from school (ibid.). Gillborn (2008, pp. 63-4) introduces the CRT concept of ‘locked-in inequality’ to describe ‘an inequality so deep rooted and so large that, under current circumstances, it is a practically inevitable feature of the education system’. Chapter 3 also contains a useful discussion of ‘Gap Talk’, whereby ‘[t]alk of “closing” and/or “narrowing” gaps operates as a discursive strategy whereby statistical data are deployed to construct the view that things are improving and the system is moving in the right direction’ (Gillborn 2008, p. 65). As Gillborn puts it, this is more than mere reporting: rather statistics are conveyed with a particular tone and emphasis that encourages positive interpretation (ibid.). Such revealing insights are of use and interest to all of us involved in the antiracist struggle and concerned with how the racist capitalist state tries to present itself in a non-racist light, but they do not incline me any more towards CRT as an alternative to Marxism. Rather they are indicative of the continuing racialization of Asian and black students which has its origins in the British Empire (see chapter 3 of this volume).

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