Minority myths

October 2, 1998

Anthea Millett ("Black to the future in the classroom", THES, September 25), seems to perpetuate three myths that are part of the problem in increasing the number of people from ethnic minorities in teacher education:

* That there is historic underachievement by children/students from ethnic minorities. In fact, overwhelmingly, such students achieve. Because some ethnic minority groups still underachieve - for example, Afro-Caribbean boys and this as a result of racial discrimination - should not lead to the conclusion there is common underachievement.

* That recruiting more ethnic minority teachers is a solution to underachievement, discrimination and harassment. It is not the job of such teachers to tackle - indeed solve - these problems. Racial harassment in schools and pupil exclusion from schools is, in large measure, a white problem.

* That there are insufficient suitably qualified minority candidates - hence, the Soapbox question about whether entry criteria should be changed.

There are, in fact, plenty who choose not to enter teacher education, some for the same reasons as non-minority candidates - poor pay, low status - and some for reasons distinct to ethnic minorities - harassment, racial discrimination.

It is, surely, one of the roles of the Teacher Training Agency to dispel myths, not to perpetuate them.

John Bird


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