Challenges Faced by Minority Groups in Engaging with the UK Education System

Abstract

This research study explores the challenges that the minority groups face in their engagement with the education system in the UK. Using a secondary, desk based research method and a qualitative methodology, this research study finds that there are certain challenges that leads to lower social and academic engagement of the minority students with the education system from the schooling level to the higher education system. These challenges relate to the lower representation of teachers from the minority communities, financial challenges faced by lower social and economic strata of immigrant communities, language barriers, and existing normalisation of whiteness which may lead to the isolation of minority communities. Seeking an education dissertation help in developing deep knowledge of these complexities. They provide you the invaluable insights into effective strategies that can be used in addressing these challenges more inclusively in the educational environment.

Based on the research, this study also makes certain recommendations. It is recommended that some communities or specific groups of the communities like women from Muslim communities, may require targeted support for improving their social and academic engagement with the education system. It can also be recommended that there should be an encouragement of diversity through teacher training and ethnically inclusive teaching. Such teacher training on ethnic diversity and the socio-cultural backgrounds of different groups of people can be a useful method for encouraging and respecting diversity within the schools. It may also be recommended that there should be higher representation of minority teachers and faculty members because at this time there is lower representation of other minority communities within the schools and in the absence of adequate teacher training, White teaches may not have adequate means to respond to ethnic diversity and teach students who are from certain minority backgrounds.

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Introduction

The category of populations in the UK that is referred to as minority communities is denoted as BME or “Black and Minority Ethnic” and this is used to describe people of non- white descent and therefore, minority communities in this research study means non-white students (Oswald, et al., 2021). The question of how minorities in the UK (as defined in racial and ethnic terms) engage with the education system is one that has interested researchers for some time. Since the seminal Lawrence report (Macpherson, 1999), there have also been questions raised about the presence of racism and exclusion in the school systems that have been linked especially to the minority experience of the education system (Gillborn & Mirza, 2000; Alexander, et al., 2015). While this research study is also related to similar questions, it is especially limited to the questions of the challenges faced by the minority communities as they engage with the education system.

The challenges that minorities face in engaging with the education system have been linked different kind of issues and questions: to some extent to the questions of issues of inequalities in the educational system particularly in the context of race, class, and gender has been linked to minority engagement with education system (Gillborn & Mirza, 2000). The political arithmetic tradition in research on education institutions and inclusiveness has also been used to explore the relationship between educational inequality and race and ethnicity; this tradition is based on exploring representative descriptions of how pupils attain their learning outcomes (Stevens, 2007). Supplementary education is also being applied for the engagement of the minority students with the education system; this is defined as “education organised and run by political, faith or ethnic groups outside of formal schooling” (Myers & Grosvenor, 2011, p. 501).

The challenges that are faced by the minority communities in engagement with the education system are linked to some extent in literature with the inequality on the basis of race, gender, class and ethnicity in British schools (Gillborn & Mirza, 2000; HEFCE , 2005; Alexander, et al., 2015). There are also government reports that have highlighted this challenge for the minority groups within the education system (Alexander, et al., 2015). Other challenges are related to the barriers that are experienced by some minority communities due to lack of language proficiency (Francis, Archer, & Mau, 2010). Some minority communities may experience lack of attainment for the pupils of their communities that are at par with the pupils of other communities (Alexander, et al., 2015). This may also be linked to the socioeconomic status as well as gender of the members within the community where the intersection with race and ethnicity may present more disadvantage (Shaw, et al., 2016). The factors that determine the relationship between the minority communities and the education system are often complex and also intersectional in nature.

Literature Review

Inclusion and Equality of Opportunity

Inclusion is related to the extent to which a person is allowed access in the institution as well as the experience of the person within the institution as being an open and holistic experience (Alexander, et al., 2015). In a discussion on how minorities engage with the education, one of the questions that can be raised is whether minorities experience an inclusive environment within the education system and how does this relate to treatment of equity towards the minorities in the education system. This section discusses the literature on issues of inclusion and equity within the education system.

One of the issues that is closely interlinked with the issue of minority engagement with the education system is that of inclusion and equality of opportunity. In order to understand this issue, first it is pertinent to define inequality and then placed in context of the education system. The Equality Act 2010 is also relevant here as it places equality of opportunity at the core of the policy; in the context of the education system, equality of opportunity refers to admissions to schools, education for all pupils, equal benefits and facilities for all pupils as positive aspects of the policy of the equality of opportunity. Equality of opportunity also involves a conscious and consistent effort of not subjecting any student to a detriment based on race, class, gender to name a few.

Two prominent factors for inequalities within educational institutions, as highlighted by the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry are race and ethnicity, which is the basis for identifying the minorities in the British society as minorities are identified on the basis of race and ethnicity (Macpherson, 1999). The Stephen Lawrence report highlighted the issue of racism including within the education system (Macpherson, 1999).The Stephen Lawrence report made several comments on racism within English schools (Macpherson, 1999). One of these comments is noted below:

“There is evidence that there are difficulties in getting some schools individually or locally to acknowledge and tackle racism even where local education authorities have sought to persuade them to do so. The lack of powers available to local education authorities and the fear of negative publicity by schools clearly combine to make anti-racist policies, even where they exist, ineffective” (Macpherson, 1999, para 6.56).

Although the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry report is now dated, it is still an important piece of literature that indicated the level of challenges faced by the minority communities within the education system. The report is important because it demonstrated a prevalence of inequalities within the schools (Macpherson, 1999). The reason why the issue of inequalities is significant is also because it leads to the fostering of a negative environment for learning and education especially for those students who come from the minority communities (Macpherson, 1999). The challenges that are related to the engagement with the education system for the minority communities are said to have an impact on the attainment levels of the students of some minority communities in the schools (Gillborn & Mirza, 2000). In the past studies, the lower attainment levels of some of the minority communities in the UK have been linked to the inequalities and racism within the system (Gillborn & Mirza, 2000). However, other studies have widened the scope of factors responsible for differentiation in attainments by including social class and not just limiting the reasons for differentiation to the factors related to minority status, race and ethnicity (Hatcher, 2006). In the same context, the following is noted in a study:

“The gap between the best and worst performers in our system actually widens as they go through education; and it is both significantly wider and more closely related to socio-economic status in this country than else-where (DfES , 2004, pp. Chapter 1, para 23).

If the above is to be relied on, then the challenges faced by certain communities in engaging with the education system may not just be due to the minority status of the students but also the socioeconomic differences that have been considered to be strong predictors of attainment in schools (DfES , 2004; HEFCE , 2005). For instance, it has been found in a study that young people from the most well-off wards are up to six times more likely to go to university than those from the poorest irrespective of their race or ethnicity (HEFCE , 2005). Nevertheless, it can also be argued that some of the minority communities are poorer than the others and in that sense, their challenges are exacerbated by the intersection of race and socioeconomic status; this is the case with arguments related to the attainment levels of students from Black and Caribbean communities, who are often said to come from lower socioeconomic status, which may affect their levels of access to schools based on whether they can pay fee or not as well as the perceived lack of inclusiveness or prevalence of racism which is linked to lower attainment rates for students (Chevannes & Reeves, 2012). Indeed, some research has already established that there is a link between lower attainment rates for Black-Caribbean students and the ‘counter-productive’ culture of mainstream schools where exclusion and racism may be perceived by the students based on their race and ethnicity (Chevannes & Reeves, 2012).

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has provided one of the important definitions of equity in education in recent times; it is noted that equity in education has two dimensions: first dimension is that of fairness, which means personal and social circumstances of the pupil must not become obstacles to achieving the learning outcomes; and the second dimension is that of inclusion or a basic minimum standard of education for all (OECD, 2008). This has relevance to how the minority communities experience engagement with education system because such engagement in order to be equitable, must ensure non-discrimination as well as access. In the UK, the Equality Act 2010 has sought to ensure that such principles of equality and equity are imbibed in the institutions like education system; this law sees inclusiveness and respect for diversity as essential to ensure equality of opportunity. In the context of how minority communities engage with the education system, inclusion and equity are two important concepts that are revealed in the literature. These concepts and how they relate to the engagement of the minority communities with the education system need some unpacking at this point.

Inclusion and equality of opportunity or equity is said to be fostered in the education system when certain measures are adopted with the aim of improving school and classroom management (Alexander, et al., 2015). Inclusiveness is also said to be important to understand the engagement between the students and the school system because it plays an important role in achieving better student outcomes and attainment levels for the students (Alexander, et al., 2015). Therefore, from the perspectives that are now seen in the existing literature, the concept of inclusion is understood to be important not just because of it relates to access to education, but also because it relates to better attainment levels for the students in the education system. Research suggests a link between experience of inequalities and attainment in schools (Gillborn & Mirza, 2000; Alexander, et al., 2015). Although the Gillborn and Mirza (2000) research is now dated, it was amongst the first major studies that demonstrated that there is a marked difference in attainment levels on the basis of race and class of the students (Gillborn & Mirza, 2000). This study considered the attainment levels of the students for the GCSE exams, in which it found that there is a pattern of attainment differences with respect to students belonging to minority groups, such as, African- Caribbean, Pakistani and Bangladeshi students, who have lower levels of attainment of pupil outcomes in schools (Gillborn & Mirza, 2000). However, there is also research that indicates that the differences in attainment levels cannot simply be related to the minority status of the students because where on one hand certain minority groups like Pakistani and African- Caribbean groups have shown lower attainment levels, certain other minority groups, like Indian and Chinese have consistently outperformed everybody including White groups (Alexander, et al., 2015). These results suggest that minority status alone cannot be used to explain the differences in outcomes of the students in the schooling system. From the perspective of the present study, the report of Alexander, et al. (2015) is important in demonstrating how different minority groups are engaging with the education system as well as for challenging the notion that all minorities show similar levels of attainment levels. This also suggests that there is a need to consider a variety of factors because race or ethnicity alone cannot help explain how minority groups engage with the education system.

Other factors like class and gender are also important to explaining how students engage with the education system (Alexander, et al., 2015). In this context, it can be argued that the distribution of economic resources plays an important role in the quality of education because poor people (irrespective of race and ethnicity) get less of necessaries for a decent life, including equitable access to education system (Thompson, 2016). Pupils in lower socioeconomic neighbourhood schools are more likely to drop out of school than students from better socio-economic status families (Thompson, 2016).

Supplementary education

One of the important concepts revealed in literature related to how certain minority communities engage with education system is that of supplementary education. This is because there is now some evidence of some minority communities developing supplementary schools for pupils belonging to their communities (Chevannes & Reeves, 2012). The establishment of these schools may relate to factors that go to the heart of the engagement between the minority communities and the mainstream education system because it may be argued that the reasons for developing such schools is that students of such communities may be experiencing certain barriers in mainstream schools or there may be other reasons that reflect on the broader engagement between the minority communities and the education system. This section discusses the literature on supplementary schooling in the context of this engagement.

Supplementary education is particularly relevant to the Caribbean community which has sought to provide supplementary schooling opportunities to those members of their community who have been prevented from accessing education or attaining desired outcomes in the education system (Chevannes & Reeves, 2012). Two reasons that led to the development of supplementary schooling were lack of inclusiveness and prevalence of racism in schools; these reasons led the community to provide opportunities of education outside the mainstream education system (Chevannes & Reeves, 2012). The underlying factor that led to this development was the perception amongst members of the African- Caribbean community that the mainstream education system is counter-productive to the achievement of higher levels of attainment by students belonging to the their community (Chevannes & Reeves, 2012).

Supplementary schools run by the African-Caribbean communities allows students from their communities who are from the lower socioeconomic background to attend without having to pay fees (Chevannes & Reeves, 2012). Interestingly, there has been some link drawn to the efforts of the community to provide access to supplementary schools and the improved attainment standards of students in mainstream education system (Chevannes & Reeves, 2012). The success of the supplementary schools in helping the students from African and Caribbean communities to attain better educational outcomes have led to some research and development of some literature in this field (Myers & Grosvenor, 2011), which is also useful in understanding this aspect of the engagement between the minority community and the education system. The rise in supplementary schooling in the UK is attributed to the fact that minority communities may see these schools as opportunities for the children to receive more academic help and therefore attain better outcomes within the education system (Chevannes & Reeves, 2012; Archer, Francis, & Mau, 2009).

Educational outcomes is not the only reason why these schools have been established in the UK, because some minority communities also see the establishment of such supplementary schools as opportunities for advancement of their language, identity and culture (Francis, Archer, & Mau, 2010). This raises a question of whether the minority communities are not adequately represented in terms of their literature, culture and language in the mainstream schools, which then leads some communities to see supplementary schools as a way to advance their literature and culture and language. This is therefore, another important aspect of how minority communities engage with the educational system and deserves some clarity.

Diversity in education system and the notions of ‘whiteness’ and its significance

Minority communities represent different races, ethnicities and even religions and therefore add to the diversity in the society. The question is whether this diversity is represented in the educational system and whether the engagement between the minority communities and the education system shows the respect for such diversity.

Literature suggests that diversity should be encouraged as a positive sign of societal progress and that in the context of educational system, such diversity can be respected and encouraged through teacher training and ethnically inclusive teaching (Maylor, 2015). It is suggested that teacher training on ethnic diversity and the socio-cultural backgrounds of different groups of people can be a useful method for encouraging and respecting diversity within the schools (Maylor, 2015). On the other other hand, research suggests that the majority of teachers in British schools belong to White communities and there is lower representation of other minority communities within the schools of the UK (DfE , 2013). This is suggested to the problematic because White teachers may not have adequate training in ethnic diversity to teach students who are from Black and Ethnic Minority backgrounds (Maylor, 2015).

Literature also suggests that deliberate and consistent sensitisation of teachers about different ethnic backgrounds can be fostered with the view to improving inclusiveness in the classroom (Nash, et al., 2016; Benson, 2014). It is also suggested that when teachers are encouraged to respect diversity in their classrooms, and students are encouraged to interact with each other through class activities, an inclusionary environment can be created where all students have access to equity (Idsoe, 2016). The concept of diversity and whether teachers and students are respectful of such diversity within the classrooms has close link with how minority communities engage with the educational system because such minority communities often represent the diversity of the society and their perception of being included or their perception of whether the education system is inclusionary or not is also related to how teachers and majority community students behave with them (Ainscow, et al., 2006). In this context, engagement with the education system can also be improved by improving the inter-relationships between pupils belonging to multicultural backgrounds and increasing inclusiveness by fostering cohesiveness (Ainscow, et al., 2006).

When the notion of diversity is explored in the context of education system, there is then also an exploration of whiteness as a dominant concept, which may also come in the way of fostering inclusive environment in the schooling system. In this context, whiteness can also become one of the factors that can create challenges for minority and non-white students in how they engage with the education system. First, to define whiteness in literature, it has been defined as a structure of identity, of power and authority, and of location of identity or location of ‘being White’ (Frankenberg, 2001). The concept of whiteness became dominant through processes of colonisation and western hegemony and today it is understood to be a factor that provides structural advantage to certain groups in societies structured in racial dominance (Frankenberg, 2001). As such, whiteness may be seen as a site of privilege and advantage, which is also defined as white privilege (Frankenberg, 2001). For understanding the challenges faced by minority groups in how they engage with the education system, whiteness provides a yet another perspective because where whiteness may provide advantage to white groups, it may be argued to lead to disadvantage to those groups who do not identify as white. Another perspective that can be considered here in the context of education system, is how whiteness can provide a place of power, or how Foucauldian explains it as an invisible power or a tyranny of the transparent, where even if whiteness is not visible in the education system or its institutions, it becomes a factor for invisible power (Foucault, 1977). The concept of invisible power of whiteness is important to understanding power relations within institutions and does have significance to understanding the challenges faced by the minority communities in their engagement with the education system. It has been argued that whiteness naturalises the claim to social power and epistemological privilege and that when it is treated as invisible, then the self-imposed amnesia of the white groups (related to whiteness) can itself be a cause for infliction of violence because even when transparent it is a concept that leads to the perpetuation of the power relations (Bhabha, 1992 , p. 21). The literature related to the Critical Race theory also emphasises on this point that it is important to make whiteness more visible take a corrective position to non-colour coded racisms (Annamma, Boelé, Moore, & Klingner, 2013).

Whiteness impacts social concepts and institutions, including the education system. This exemplified by a study based on Wales, which studied the teaching and learning for anti-racist and cultural competency practice across social work programmes (Williams & Parrott, 2014). The study found that the constructions of local and national context also form a critical interplay with anti-racist teaching and learning (Williams & Parrott, 2014). Whiteness may have a specific interlink with the education system and the engagement of the minorities with the same, in that the idea of racial superiority or the normalisation of whiteness may be embedded in the education system. This is exemplified by the disproportionate representation of the stories of white writers in education system so that the white stories are more normalised than stories by minorities writers (Tanner, 2019). Thus, there is an overrepresentation of the white literature and stories in the English language syllabus of schools (Tanner, 2019). Whiteness may become important to understand the way in which minority students engage with the education system because not only does the concept of whiteness is instrumental in shaping power relations within educational institutions, it is also instrumental in normalising or making whiteness as a normative concept. This may lead to exclusion of minority groups to some extent. Because whiteness may be unconsciously associated with ‘normalness’, such normality may be exemplified by the fact that majority of the teachers in most educational institutions are white (Annamma, Boelé, Moore, & Klingner, 2013). It may become important to understand ‘whiteness’ and its impact and influences on the classroom for understanding the relations between white teachers and non-white students and students belonging to different racial groups (Maylor, 2015). Byrne (2009) gives an example of how normality of whiteness is perceived in schools as depicted by the fact that schools may mark when non-white parents are interviewed in the school but, leave whiteness as unmarked thus imbibing the normality associated with whiteness and differentiating other races by marking them in most cases (Byrne, 2009). For the minority groups, the challenge that may be presented by this is that minority groups may perceive that normality is associated not with them but with the white groups.

It may be mentioned at this point that the concept of whiteness is seen as a reified or material concept so that it becomes a natural quality whose preservation becomes important to social structures because it provides access to employment, housing, and education as well as other social benefits (Lipsitz, 1998). This may be significant in the terms of the engagement between the minorities and the education system because from the perspective of social institutions, the concept of superiority of white race may lead to vilification or social disapproval of those who step across racial lines and this may come in the way of making choices that are more inclusive in nature (Harris, 2017 ). This may also impact the way parents make choices with respect to the schools that they send their children to (Byrne, 2009). This may be more relevant in relatively multicultural areas where white parents are more aware of the racialised nature of the choices that they are making (Byrne, 2009). The racialised nature of decision making is also more relevant where white communities in the working class sector have to share residential spaces, schools and working spaces with an increasing immigrant class (Lawler, 2012).

Empirical evidence on how minority groups engage with education system

One of the important reports that provides empirical evidence on the minority groups’ engagement with education system is the report on 'Ethnicity, Gender and Social Mobility' by Social Mobility Commission (Shaw, et al., 2016). This report relates to the analysis of the effects of ethnicity and socio-economic status (among other factors) on life chances in the education system and labour market (Shaw, et al., 2016). The findings of the report are interesting in that it presents complex factors that can be seen in the way minority groups experience access to education system as well as equity within the system; this is relevant to the intersectionality that can be seen in the way women from minority groups experience engagement with the education system. First, this section provides a discussion on the findings of the report.

The report on 'Ethnicity, Gender and Social Mobility' finds that there are links between Black penalty in secondary and higher education; lower social mobility and gender; and female underperformance in STEM subjects and the engagement with the education system (Shaw, et al., 2016). Based on the findings of this report, there are certain specific recommendations made for government, universities, and schools. These recommendations include the recommendation that the schools and universities should provide targeted support to Muslim women (Shaw, et al., 2016). The report also emphasises on the need to address the low achievement in schools for poor white British and Black students; this is important because this suggests that there is also a link between social mobility and engagement with the education system. In the context of the minority groups, it then becomes significant to understand how social mobility may interact with the racial and ethnic status in terms of influencing their engagement with the education system.

Bertaux and Thompson (2006) argue that the processes of social mobility are essential for transformation of class and status. The report on 'Ethnicity, Gender and Social Mobility' suggests that the changes in social mobility are not getting effected because there are still significant gaps between different groups and certain minority groups like the Roma communities, Asian Muslim women, and Pakistani and Bangladeshi groups need more support and attention because they are not able to achieve the social mobility transformation that should have been seen by now (Shaw, et al., 2016). That there are significant differences in attainment of students from different social groups and that race, class and gender do impact the educational attainments of the students, is already established in an earlier report (Alexander, et al., 2015). When seen in conjunction with each other, the report on 'Ethnicity, Gender and Social Mobility' and the report by Alexander, et al. (2015) suggest that when the engagement of the minority groups is considered, it also becomes important to understand how education system needs to make some changes so that minority groups can achieve social mobility.

The 'Ethnicity, Gender and Social Mobility' report highlights that there is a larger socio-economic gap in the early years between white groups and other minority ethnic groups (Shaw, et al., 2016). Interestingly, socioeconomic factors also play an important role as seen in the way there are significant differences between privileged and lower class white groups and how the poorer white pupils are the lowest performing groups at primary and secondary school (Shaw, et al., 2016). Similarly, the Pakistani and Bangladeshi pupils continue to underperform other groups barring only the poor white pupils (Shaw, et al., 2016). Interestingly, for higher education level, pupils from white British backgrounds are found to be least likely to access colleges and universities (Shaw, et al., 2016). The report finds that 1 in 10 of the poorest white people attend university, 3 in 10 Black Caribbean people access university, 5 in 10 Bangladeshis attend university, and 7 in 10 lower income Chinese pupils attend university (Shaw, et al., 2016). On the other hand, white people continue to fare better than ethnic minority groups with respect to employment rates:

“Young people from Pakistani and Bangladeshi backgrounds are more likely than ever to succeed in education and go on to university, girls even more so than boys. Yet these outcomes are not yet being translated into labour market returns – with unemployment particularly prevalent amongst Bangladeshi women, and both Pakistani men and women are relatively unlikely to secure managerial or professional occupations” (Shaw, et al., 2016, p. 4).

Here, the impact of the minority status in terms of race and ethnicity can be clearly seen in how minority groups engage with education system but does not translate to equivalent gains in the context of labour and employment market. It can be seen that race and ethnicity does moderate the influence of social-economic factors on social mobility of these groups. When seen in the context of engagement of education system, what can be surmised is that because social mobility affects the engagement with education system, the fact that there is discrepancy in the labour and employment market with respect to access to minorities as compared to access to white groups, this may also have an impact on the way in which minorities engage with the education system. This is because race is an important aspect of discrimination, and may have an impact on how social groups experience education, employment and housing (Briggs, 2012). These are all interrelated because socioeconomic status can have an effect on how people access the social institutions (Briggs, 2012). Pupils from low socio economic status can be raised in neighbourhoods where they do not have access to an environment that is conducive to learning and education because of higher crime levels and access only to schools with low funding, their engagement with the education system will not be the same as the engagement of the students from middle class or higher income families (Briggs, 2012). Coming back to the report on 'Ethnicity, Gender and Social Mobility', where the report suggests that the minority communities are not given access to employment sector in the same way as white communities, then this can have an impact on where such families live, and how their neighbourhood impacts their engagement with the education system. This argument is supported by different studies that have demonstrated how race, class and ethnicity affect how social groups access education and how they experience barriers in such access (Gillborn & Mirza, 2000; HEFCE , 2005; Alexander, et al., 2015). At the same time, it can be noted that for the minority communities of Indian and Chinese communities, their relatively higher socio-economic status, is used to explain their higher attainment and access to education and social mobility, and it may be noted:

“family effects play an important role in explaining the high attainment of some ethnic minority groups” and that “parental expectations contribute to some of the differences in ethnic groups” although it is not clear whether parental expectations play a role in creating “gendered” career choices and impacting social mobility in the context of gender (Shaw, et al., 2016, p. 28).

Thus, minority status alone is not sufficient to explain the lower levels of attainment and other negative aspects of engagement with the education system. Nevertheless, based on the literature discussed here, this will remain one of the important aspects of the discussion on the engagement between minority communities and the education system.

Minority groups’ engagement with education system and the question of language

Language or lack of proficiency in English, is one of the important considerations in understanding the engagement between minorities and the education system. Children from immigrant backgrounds experience barriers due to lack of English language proficiency in their access to early education and achievements in school; a report commissioned by the Cabinet Office, Social and Mobility Child Poverty Commission and the Early Intervention Foundation recommended that Social and Emotional Literacy be applied in schools (Feinstein, 2015). There is also suggestion in the literature that refugee children have specific problems in acquiring proficiency in English language due to their traumatic experiences which come in the way of their engagement with the education system (Spicer, 2008). It is also suggested that teachers have to develop strategies that are suited to meeting the needs of such children so that they can engage with the education system (Paradis, 2011).

It may be noted that literature on how minorities engage with the education system also emphasises on the language barriers that some members of the minority communities may experience (Parker, et al., 2003). This is not just relevant to the UK, but also to other countries where language proficiency may become an important aspect of how children engage with the education system; for instance, a study from Mexico recounted the difficulties faced by indigenous children in school because of their lack of proficiency in the language of instruction (Parker, Rubalcava, & Teruel, 2003). In countries like the UK, which see a significant level of immigration from non English speaking countries, there are studies that suggest that immigrant children do experience language barriers and learning problems (Quin, 2008). Immigrant students also may face more verbal and physical bullying at school because of their lack of proficiency in the English language (Quin, 2008, p. 146). Language barriers can become an impediment in experiencing holistic learning at school (McLeod, Doss, & Olendick, 2013).

There is some research on how allowing immigrant and non native English speaking children to access their own language for learning concepts, for example there is a debate in the UK around the question of how much of foreign language should be used in a foreign language classroom (Macaro, 2000). It is argued that using two languages to understand concepts can be useful by making the reader’s network of associations richer by association (Macaro, 2000, p. 167). However, the principal language of instruction in the UK remains English and the immigrant children are expected to learn and speak the language for the purpose of acquiring education. This may present some challenges to immigrant children who are from minority communities as they may not be able to speak and understand English with the adequate proficiency.

An important suggestion made in literature is that engagement with the education system includes both educational or academic engagement and social engagement (Oswald, et al., 2021). Social engagement has been defined as engagement with non-academic and extra-curricular activities and academic engagement has been defined as engagement within the classroom and with the faculty members (Oswald, et al., 2021). Therefore, when the question of engagement between minority communities and educational institutions is considered, engagement can mean both social and academic engagement, and it can also be argued that holistic engagement would include both social and academic engagement. In this context, one of the findings of this research study, as based on the literature, is that minority students are more likely to feel isolated in predominantly-white institutions (Oswald, et al., 2021). This may be due to the lack of social engagement in the absence of adequate representation of the communities within such institutions. Therefore, the first challenge that the minority students may face in the context of the engagement with the academic institutions is that there is a potential for lower social engagement with the institution which may also have implications for academic engagement. Therefore, in this research study, the question of engagement between the minority communities and the educational system includes both academic and social engagement.

Methodology / Methods

This is a desk based research study. This means that the data for this study has come from the secondary sources of books, journals, reports, and similar such secondary sources which have been utilised by the researcher The methodology that is adopted for this research is discussed in this section.

The first step in discussing research methods here is to identify and explain the research philosophy because the researcher is guided in the shaping of the research design by the philosophy they choose (Wilson, 2014). As such, it is advised that the selection of the research philosophy should happen at the initial stage of research (Saunders, Lewis, & Thornhill, 2012). Amongst the different research philosophies that are available to the researcher, this research is based on the positivist research philosophy, which is premised on the researcher accepting certain assumptions about the way they view the world (Collins, 2010). Positivism is an objective and scientific approach to the collection and analysis of the data. It is not limited to quantitative research study and can be utilised for qualitative research studies as well provided that the researcher imbibes an objective method for selecting data and uses a systematic method for analysing the same (Collins, 2010).

The research methodology adopted for this research is the qualitative research method, which was chosen for this research study along with the philosophy of positivism because of the nature of the data involved this being non numerical data (Collis & Hussey, 2009, p. 46). Qualitative research includes data that is not numerical in nature (Creswell, 2013, p. 44). It is appropriate for research studies that involve nuanced and complex narratives that require a degree of flexibility in formulating research design (Creswell, 2013). Qualitative research method is particularly suited to meet the demands of complex studies where the researcher does not formulate specified hypotheses to be tested, but where the researcher is guided by a set of research questions based on preliminary research or understanding of the area of research (Willis & Jost, 2007, pp. 53-54). The present study is an area that is nuanced, complex, and involves a number of themes and narratives, due to which a qualitative research design was adopted; at the same time, the positivism research philosophy ensured that the researcher imbibed a level of objectivity in the research design. Consequently, the researcher selected a range of data from the databased based on objective inclusion and exclusion criteria and also analysed the data with the help of the thematic method so that the researcher systematically identified the recurrent themes in the data and reported these themes.

The principal research question in this research study is as follows:

What are the challenges faced by the minority communities in their engagement with the educational system?

Findings

One of the findings of the research is that the concept of multiculturalism has taken a long time to be accepted and to be ingrained within the education system. This is an important point because one of the challenges that is depicted in the literature is that minority students may have lower engagement with the education system because the culture and the language of the minority communities is not represented in the education system and there is a prevalence of whiteness in the education system (Annamma, et al., 2013; Frankenberg, 2001). Literature explored for the current research study suggests that it was in the early 1990s, when a survey of local education authorities led to the conclusion that the national educational and political climate was not propitious for multi-cultural and antiracist education in the UK (Tomlinson, 2009). One of the challenges that the minority students experience in the education system is that they may experience racism or normalisation of whiteness (Annamma, et al., 2013), which may have implications for the students. Tomlinson (2009) suggests that even in the 1990s, there was little or no effort made to include antiracist education in the UK. In this context, it may also be noted that there is now an antagonistic debate about a shared national identity, cultural heritage, and multiculturalism which also has implications for the way in which minority groups interact with and engage with the education system (Tomlinson, 2009). In 2007, the Equality and Human Rights Commission asserted that multiculturalism suggested separateness, and focusing on cultural difference leads to segregation (Tomlinson, 2009). This is an argument against multiculturalism and while this argument may have its merits, it may also be noted that the lack of multiculturalism also leads to normality of whiteness in the education system where whiteness may be perceived to be normal and being other may become subject to differentiation (Annamma, et al., 2013). It may be noted that in 2007, approximately 21% of the school student body at primary level and 18% at secondary school level were of minority ethnic origin, and distinct from “white British,” (Tomlinson, 2009). Nevertheless, the Education Act 2006, provides that all schools have a duty to promote inclusion and community cohesion (Tomlinson, 2009). The challenge that is faced by the students from the minority communities is that they may perceive that the educational system is predominantly white in terms of normalisation of white stories (literature developed by white authors) and literature of minority communities being treated as different.

One of the findings of this research study is related to the existing levels of representation or lack of it for the minority communities in the UK in the teaching positions from school to university levels. This is related to the engagement of the minority communities with the educational system in the UK; an argument is made by Cotton (2013) posits that active participation is lower among Black and Minority students due in part to a severe lack of representation in faculty, staff, and students. Literature does suggest that there is a disparity between minority and white representation in the educational institutions in the UK, particularly in the context of teaching and faculty (Oswald, et al., 2021). Reasons for this disparity are related to generations of inequality and institutionalised racism within the institutions of education (Oswald, et al., 2021). Coming back to the research done by Cotton (2013), he applied Tinto’s theory of retention, which relates to the retention of the students in the educational institutions because of the ability of the students to interact with the social and academic systems at the institution. In the study by Oswald et al. (2021), it has been found that the factors impacting the persistence and engagement levels of minority students are related to “resilience, challenges, persistence, decision- making, student support, communications and feelings of belonging” (p. 35). The point of feeling of belonging is an important perspective to understanding the retention levels of the minority students because this also relates to higher engagement with the education system. The study also found that there are significant differences between Black, Asian, White and other minority groups which have implications for persistence and engagement (Oswald, et al., 2021). As racial minorities are underrepresented in the education system, and have lower attainment levels, the question of how the feeling of belongingness can affect the engagement of the minority students with the education becomes important. Coming back to the point of social engagement of the students with the educational system, a study based in America, but which can be quoted here to support the finding that ethnic minorities in white majority countries do change certain challenges is by Kelli (2012), which argues that ethnic minority students are hindered from pursuing higher education due to lack of mentorships and organised educational support, cultural differences, and financial burden.

In other words, engagement of students with the education system and their retention in the institutions is also linked to the ability of the students to interact with the social systems within the institution. This can therefore also relate to the teaching faculty and whether the students feel that their communities are represented by the faculty (Oswald, et al., 2021). Research suggests that the Black and Minority students have less contact with their peers, staff, and faculty because they do not see themselves represented among the ranks of the students and faculty (Cotton, et al., 2015). Due to the lack of adequate representation in the teaching faculty and the student body, it is suggested that minority students are less socially and academically engaged across institutional offerings as compared to the white students (Oswald, et al., 2021). Based on the discussion in this paragraph, it can be surmised that the first challenge that is faced by the minority students in the education institutions is related to the lack of representation in the educational institutions both in the context of the students and the teachers or faculty. This can be explored a bit further to come to other findings.

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With regard to the lower teacher participation from the minority groups in the educational institutions, which as discussed above is directly related to the engagement of minority students with the educational institutions, research suggests that there are barriers and challenges that has implications for leadership trajectories and career progression for senior leaders in the minority institutions (Arday & Wilson, 2021). In the context of higher education, it has been suggested in literature that there is an interlink between constructions of race and leadership and there is an interplay between these two contexts (Arday & Wilson, 2021). Research also suggests that there is an importance of greater diversification of educational leadership and there are benefits for greater diversification within educational leadership (Arday & Wilson, 2021). There are benefits of the diversification of the teaching faculty because this aids in increasing positive engagement between minority students and educational institutions (Arday & Wilson, 2021). Literature also suggests that there are inequalities in the higher education institutions because there is less representation of Black and minority ethnic academics in professorship or senior decision-making roles compared to white academics (Bhopal, 2020). This is considered to be one of the challenges that minority students face in the higher education systems in that they do not see their community being represented in the higher decision making positions in their institutions or they do not see professors representing their communities (Bhopal, 2020). Indeed, Bhopal (2020) argues that the reason behind this lack of diversity in the professorship and decision making roles is racism, which continues to play a key role in the lack of minority groups in senior leadership roles.

It is also argued that the absence of diversity in the teaching and faculty of the institutions also leads to perceptions of white privilege and that this also has implications for the engagement of the students with the educational systems (Bhopal, 2020). This is supported by another research study which suggests that the dearth of representation of the minorities in senior educational leadership roles is “a salient issue as egalitarian notions associated with equality and diversity continue to be contradicted by university institutions, despite increased calls for greater diversification” (Arday, 2018, p. 192).

Coming back to the point made by Cotton (2013) that active participation is lower among Black and Minority students due in part to a severe lack of representation in faculty and staff; and by Oswald, et al. (2021) that there is a disparity between minority and white representation in the educational institutions in the UK, particularly in the context of teaching and faculty, it can be surmised that the challenge that the minority students do face in the engagement with the educational institutions is related to the representation of their communities in the teaching and peer groups. For instance, another research study that suggests the link between the lack of diversity in the education system and students’ engagement is by Ackah (2021). This study applied a decolonial and Black-feminist-inspired analytical lens, and demonstrated how there were campaigns such as “Why Isn’t My Professor Black?” “Why Is My Curriculum White?” and “Rhodes Must Fall” that have positioned education as a site of struggle. Ackah (2021) also notes that there are fewer than 100 full professors of African descent in academic positions.

Another important finding of the research study is related to the generational differences in how minorities engage with the educational institutions. A major research conducted by Lessard-Phillips and Li (2017) examined both social stratification of education at the general level and the educational attainments of minority communities. The social stratification of education relates to increasing fluidity in the class–education associations (Lessard-Phillips & Li, 2017). The analysis by Lessard-Phillips and Li (2017) suggests that there were “high educational selectivity among the earlier generations, a disruptive process for the 1.5 generation, high second-generation achievement, and a ‘convergence toward the mean’ for later generations” (p. 45). It is important to also note that the specific questions that were being raised by Lessard-Phillips and Li (2017) were related to whether minority ethnic groups over generations have the same level of educational attainment as white community without immigration background; and whether social advantage and disadvantage (SAD) is transmitted in the same way for minority ethnic groups as for the white group. The results of Lessard-Phillips and Li (2017) study suggest that the first generation ethnic minority groups, even if they have high level of education, do face difficulties in the British labour market because their overseas qualifications may not be usually seen as having the same ‘values’ by employers and thus lead to a situation where the first generation minority groups have higher levels of unemployment or have access only to menial jobs due to which their children may have financial difficulties, and even opt for the labour market instead of continuing education at the end of compulsory schooling, thus continuing the cycle of the non access to good employment opportunities and thereby provide better quality of education to their own children (Lessard-Phillips & Li, 2017). These are the reasons why 1.5 generation respondents of black Caribbean, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi heritages that were part of the research by Lessard-Phillips and Li (2017) responded that they did not have degree level education. The study also found that there is a consistent pattern of second generation advantage among most groups (Lessard-Phillips & Li, 2017).

Based on the above research literature, the finding of this study is that one of the challenges that is faced by the minority students with respect to engagement with the educational system is that compared to the white groups with a higher engagement with the higher education system, they have a lower engagement with the higher education system. In other words, this means that the engagement levels of the minority groups with the higher education system remains more limited. It can be surmised that the challenges faced by the minority community students are to also be considered in the context of their social and economic background as well. In other words, the experiences of the minority community students with their engagement with the educational system are also affected by the fact of which generation of immigrant that they are and what economic background that they came from.

Another finding of this research study is that minority students face barriers and challenges that are made more complex by the intersectionality of the race with gender and disability. The research by Mattocks and Briscoe-Palmer (2016) explored the challenges faced by three marginalised groups, women, black and minority groups, and disabled students throughout the course of doctoral study in political science in a British university. The research found that there are a number of challenges that are faced by the students as per the data analysed where isolation, institutional support, and perceptions of disadvantage were found to be much more pronounced among minority groups (Mattocks & Briscoe-Palmer, 2016). This is based on the experience of more barriers by the minority students which leads to the perception of more disadvantage by those who are in minority groups. What can be surmised from this brief discussion is that the challenge faced by the minority students in their engagement with the education system is that they face barriers and challenges.

One of the research studies, whose findings are relevant to this current study, is by Bhopal (2014) which finds that the minority students in predominantly white rural primary schools in England may be placed as outsiders or the other and as noted by mothers of such students. The respondents who responded to the survey for the study had moved into the areas in the last ten years only and their experiences revealed that their children are positioned as ‘other’ and ‘outsiders’ in the rural predominantly white primary schools (Bhopal, 2014). In another article, which is written by a student to express her experiences as a minority student in British education system, some key observations are made, which can be noted here:

“Despite being the odd one out for my appearance during my school years, I became accustomed to the dichotomy of growing up in a multi-cultural society and learning in a white-dominated educational environment. As I transitioned from one academic year to another, blending into the surroundings came to seem normal for me, for my identity was not often questioned. Perhaps I was young, naive, subconsciously unaware; or perhaps just fortunate to be in an educational environment where I was accepted for who I was, rather than being stigmatised, discriminated against or confronted on account of my appearance” (Sum, 2021, p. 1).

The observation is that the student did not herself experience any discrimination in the education system but then she also says that she was being naïve which may be a reflection on the experiences after primary school. This is made clear in another observation made in the article where Sum (2021) writes:

“I recalled from my school years the contrast between belonging and feeling recognised as different; as an undergraduate student, no longer the odd one out for my appearance in a diverse community, I for once felt connected with my HE surroundings. However, as I progressed through university, that sense of satisfaction and positive perception of my employability both fluctuated. Looking around, it was (and still is) hard to find in my subject area a role model with the same ethnicity as mine – and, in that, I was (and am) like most other minority students who lack role models from their own cultures” (p. 2).

The above statement is very important because it also ties with the other findings made in the current research study where it is suggested that one of the aspects of minority engagement with the education system relates to the absence of representation of own communities in the teaching faculty or inadequate representation of own community members in the faculty. The above statement clearly mentions the author’s experience of feeling that she did not have role models from her own ethnicity in the teaching faculty of her higher education and this is an experience that she believes that she shares with the other students from minority backgrounds.

Discussion

The research study explores the issue of engagement between minority communities and the educational system and identifies the challenges that are discussed in literature with relation to this engagement. To reiterate the meaning of engagement, it includes both educational or academic engagement and social engagement as explained by Oswald, et al. (2021). Therefore, in order understand the level of engagement between the minority groups and the educational system, this research study explored existing literature that relates to both kinds of engagement to get a holistic overview of level of engagement between the minority groups and the educational system. Research studies that relate to non-academic and extra-curricular activities as well as academic engagement are considered in this research study. The findings that are thematically noted in the previous section are related to both the social and educational engagement.

One of the most important finding of the research, which can be discussed first is that the existing literature suggests that minority students have lower social engagement with the educational system as compared to the white groups. The different reasons why there is a lower social engagement are also identified in the existing literature. These reasons can be considered to be the challenges that the minority communities face in their engagement with the education system. One of the challenges that can be clearly identified in the literature to explain the lower social engagement between the minority communities and the educational system is that the minority students are more likely to feel isolated in predominantly-white institutions (Oswald, et al., 2021). Isolation can be a challenge for achieving adequate or appropriate social engagement between communities or members of the communities and the educational system.

The minority students represent different cultures within a multicultural Britain. Isolation within the education system has been linked to the slow pace of imbibing the concept of multiculturalism because literature indicates that multiculturalism has taken a long time to be accepted and to be ingrained within the education system (Tomlinson, 2009). The connection between the lower engagement between the minority communities and the education system with the issue of adoption of multiculturalism may be seen in the context of isolation and low social engagement between these groups and the system. One of the challenges that is depicted in the literature is that minority students may have lower engagement with the education system because the culture and the language of the minority communities is not represented in the education system and there is a prevalence of whiteness in the education system (Annamma, et al., 2013; Frankenberg, 2001). Isolation can then be related to the perception of underrepresentation of the Black and minority communities. In the UK, the Education Act 2006 has now provided that all schools have a duty to promote inclusion and community cohesion. Nevertheless, the continuing challenge faced by the students from the minority communities is that they perceive that the educational system is predominantly white (Annamma, et al., 2013).

Whiteness or normalisation of whiteness has been written about in the literature where it is explained in different senses; one sense of normalisation of whiteness is seen in terms of normalisation of white stories (literature developed by white authors) and literature of minority communities being treated as different (Annamma, et al., 2013). Why minority students may be challenged by the concept of whiteness is because of the concept of invisible power of whiteness as this is connected to the power relations within institutions. Whiteness or normalisation of whiteness can therefore be understood as having significance to understanding the challenges faced by the minority communities in their engagement with the education system. Because whiteness naturalises the claim to social power and epistemological privilege, Bhabha (1992) has argued that whiteness even when invisible can be a cause for infliction of violence because it is related to the perpetuation of the power relations (Bhabha, 1992 , p. 21). For the students who are not white, this can be a challenge in the social context and can be a reason for feeling isolated in the education system. This can lead to lower social engagement with the education system for the minority communities. There are other factors that have been identified in the literature for explaining the lower social engagement with the educational system. These can also be seen as challenges that are faced by the minority communities in their engagement with the educational system.

Continuing with the discussion on the lower social engagement with the education system, another reason for this that is identified in the literature is that of existing levels of representation of such communities being lower or disproportionate in the education system. There is a disproportionate representation of minority communities in the UK in the teaching positions from school to university levels (Cotton, et al., 2015). If there is a lower representation of the minority communities in the education system, then as Cotton, et al. (2017) suggest, there is a lower engagement of the minority communities with the educational system in the UK. The disparity between minority and white representation in the educational institutions in the UK, particularly in the context of teaching and faculty has been most recently highlighted by Oswald, et al. (2021). Due to lower social engagement with the education system, there is also higher attrition of some minority communities’ students as explained by the Tinto’s theory of retention which was used by Cotton, et al. (2017) to explain the ability of the students to interact with the social and academic systems at the institution. In other words, the lower social engagement between specific minority communities and the educational system can be explained by the challenges that the minority students face in context of the lack of belongingness or feelings of isolation. Due to the lower representation of the minority teachers, there can be a likelihood of minority students not being able to engage completely with the educational system. Because the engagement of students with the education system and their retention in the institutions is also linked to the ability of the students to interact with the social systems within the institution, there is some credence in the findings of different research studies that relate the underrepresentation of minority teaching faculty with the challenges faced by the minority students in social engagement with the educational system (Oswald, et al., 2021). Because there is now evidence in the literature showing that Black and Minority students have less contact with their peers, staff, and faculty because they do not see themselves represented among the ranks of the students and faculty (Cotton, et al., 2015), it can be considered that the minority students are less socially and academically engaged across institutional offerings as compared to the white students (Oswald, et al., 2021).

Thus, the overarching challenge that is faced by the minority students in the education institutions is related to the lack of representation in the educational institutions which leads them to not have role models of their own communities and which may lead to higher attrition of such students. At the same time, the absence of diversity in the teaching and faculty of the institutions also leads to perceptions of white privilege, which, as already discussed above, presents another challenge to the students of the minority communities; thus, this has implications for the engagement of the students with the educational systems (Bhopal, 2020). It may be noted that Arday (2018) also has provided evidence on the point that there is a dearth of representation of the minorities in senior educational leadership roles.

What can be said about lack of social engagement with the educational systems is that it can also be related to the issue of inclusion of the minority communities in the educational institutions. As Alexander, et al. (2015) has noted, inclusion is related to the extent to which a person is allowed access in the institution as well as the experience of the person within the institution as being an open and holistic experience. Therefore, where the members of the minority communities have lower engagement with the education system, a question can be raised as to whether one of the reasons for such lower social engagement with the education systems is related to the lack of an inclusive environment within the education system. Alexander, et al. (2015) has explained that inclusiveness is important to understand the engagement between the students and the school system because it plays an important role in achieving better student outcomes and attainment levels for the students. Therefore, from the perspectives that are now seen in the existing literature, the concept of inclusion is understood to be important not just because of it relates to access to education, but also because it relates to better attainment levels for the students in the education system.

The second important finding of the current research study is that for some communities that are identified as minority communities, there is a lower educational engagement or academic engagement; this is particularly relevant to the Black and Caribbean communities and Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities. In this context, there are two recent reports that have provided evidence on the trends related to the educational attainment and academic performance of the minority and white communities. The first is the report on 'Ethnicity, Gender and Social Mobility', which found that there is a link between ethnicity and academic performance, but also that there is an intersectional context for understanding the link between academic performance and race and ethnicity. In other words, there is a link between Black penalty in secondary and higher education; lower social mobility and gender; and female underperformance in STEM subjects and the engagement with the education system (Shaw, et al., 2016). There is also a link between academic performance and social and economic background, as is shown in the report which emphasises on the need to address the low achievement in schools for poor white British and Black students (Shaw, et al., 2016). Therefore, as the report finds that 1 in 10 of the poorest white people attend university, 3 in 10 Black Caribbean people access university, 5 in 10 Bangladeshis attend university, and 7 in 10 lower income Chinese pupils attend university (Shaw, et al., 2016), there is a clear link between race and academic attainments as well as social and economic background and academic attainments. The other report also found that the children from immigrant backgrounds experience barriers due to lack of English language proficiency in their access to early education and achievements in school and recommended that Social and Emotional Literacy be applied in schools (Feinstein, 2015). This is a different challenge that is faced by the students belonging to immigrant communities that are representative of minority communities.

Thus, the finding of this study is that one of the challenges that is faced by the minority students with respect to engagement with the educational system is that compared to the white groups with a higher engagement with the higher education system, they have a lower academic engagement with the higher education system. While this is not generalised for all minority communities because the Indian and Chinese students have consistently outperformed all other groups including the white groups in the UK. However, it cannot be denied that the minority groups identified as Black, Caribbean, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi, do have lower academic attainment as compared to white groups. This is only excepted by the poor white groups who have lowest academic attainment, which may also suggest that economic background can play a very important role in predicting academic attainment. Thus, academic engagement levels of certain minority groups with the higher education system remains more limited. It can be surmised that the challenges faced by the minority community students are to also be considered in the context of their social and economic background as well. In other words, the experiences of the minority community students with their engagement with the educational system are also affected by the fact of which generation of immigrant that they are and what economic background that they came from. This can also be supported by the findings of the research by Lessard-Phillips and Li (2017) that show that there are generational differences in how minorities engage with the educational institutions, which suggests that there is high second-generation achievement for minority communities. In other words, there is more academic attainment for second generation immigrants. This can be related to improved economic conditions, which may allow first generation immigrants to provide better educational opportunities to their children as well as a better quality of life in which they can have better academic attainment.

Another support of the argument that the minority communities have lower educational engagement with the mainstream educational institution can be seen in the context of the Black and Caribbean communities developing their own Supplementary schools that are run by the communities and allows students from their communities who are from the lower socioeconomic background to attend without having to pay fees (Chevannes & Reeves, 2012). Interestingly, there has been some link drawn to the efforts of the community to provide access to supplementary schools and the improved attainment standards of students in mainstream education system (Chevannes & Reeves, 2012). The need to develop such schools can be linked back to the lower academic engagement of the students with the educational system as depicted in the research that shows how African and Caribbean communities have sought to improve their children’s academic outcomes by providing them supplementary schooling.

Conclusion

The principal research question that was raised in this research study was related to the challenges faced by the minority communities in their engagement with the educational system. Based on the research conducted for this study, there are a number of challenges that are faced by the students belonging to the minority communities. These challenges come in the way of the students belonging to such communities from having an adequate social and academic engagement with the education system. These challenges are also not limited to any one level of the educational system and these challenges are relevant from the primary schooling level to the higher education level. Two important points that can be made here before these challenges can be finally surmised are: first, that there is a lower social engagement between minority communities and the education system; and second, that there is a lower academic engagement between Black, Caribbean, Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities and the education system. The challenges that the communities face, can be linked to lower social and academic engagement with the education system.

The principal challenges that are highlighted in this research study (based on existing literature and empirical studies), are as follows. First, that students from minority students may face isolation in predominantly white schools and universities, which may lead to lower social engagement and academic engagement with the schools and universities. The lack of role models from their communities and the underrepresentation of the culture and language of their own communities may also lead to isolation for the students of the minority communities. Students from minority communities may have language barriers as well, which may be more relevant to immigrant families where English is not a native language. Therefore, this may also be a challenge that students face in the context of not being able to relate to the language in the classrooms. Challenges faced by minority communities is also related to the lower social and economic conditions that may be faced by some minority communities. Many of the minority communities, particularly where immigrant population is more, may have lower social and economic parameters because of their degrees not being recognised in the UK they may not get comparable employment in the UK market. Due to this, as this research study has found out, there are many minority communities where it is only in second or third generations that see better educational opportunities. Therefore, there are also economic challenges that lead to higher attrition levels.

Finally, it can be recommended that some communities or specific groups of the communities like women from Muslim communities, may require targeted support for improving their social and academic engagement with the education system. It can also be recommended that there should be an encouragement of diversity through teacher training and ethnically inclusive teaching. Such teacher training on ethnic diversity and the socio-cultural backgrounds of different groups of people can be a useful method for encouraging and respecting diversity within the schools. It may also be recommended that there should be higher representation of minority teachers and faculty members because at this time there is lower representation of other minority communities within the schools and in the absence of adequate teacher training, White teaches may not have adequate means to respond to ethnic diversity and teach students who are from certain minority backgrounds.

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