Black & Pakistani kids' underachievement is a systemic problem that requires a systemic solution

The BBC blithely reports Government spin that

Asian and black pupils made the greatest rate of improvement in GCSEs in England last year.

Underneath the headline, here are the proportions of students getting 5 or more Cs at GCSE, by race:

  • Black Caribbean 35.7%
  • Black African 43%
  • Pakistani 45.0%
  • White 52.3%
  • Indian 66.6%
  • Chinese 74.2%

Improvement is certainly to be celebrated, but with the highest-performing group doing almost twice as well as the lowest, what a long way we have to go!

We’re not the only ones thinking about this. Across the pond, Bill Gates has been pumping some of his substantial fortune into solving the problem through his Gates Millennium Schollarship programme.

He’s now starting to see the problem as systemic, according to a speech last week

…only a fraction of our kids are getting the best education. Once we realize that we are keeping low-income and minority kids out of rigorous courses, there can be only two arguments for keeping it that way – either we think they can’t learn, or we think they’re not worth teaching.

The first argument is factually wrong; the second is morally wrong.

What strikes me is his willingness to own the problem: “we are keeping low-income and minority kids out of rigorous courses” (an attitude that might help explain his extraordinary wealth, by the way). That’s something I don’t see in Derek Twigg’s remarks.

Read the whole speech for Bill’s solutions; like most of what he does, they are clearly thought through and highly strategic. Refreshingly, they don’t seem to involve buying his company’s products.

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