Between past failure and future promise: racial discrimination and the education system.

Author:Race, Richard
Position:Racial Discrimination

The focus of this article is to examine the theme of racial discrimination within the context of education policymaking. It will draw on an ongoing conceptual debate that analyses contemporary education and social policy evidence within an integrationist/multicultural framework, but also analyse the "extreme" concepts of assimilation and antiracist education policy. The method draws on policy evidence and documentary analysis of the evolution of integration and multiculturalism concepts within education policymaking.

The primary and secondary data sources are education and social policy documents from 1965 up to the present day, from an English and Welsh context. The concepts, as shown in the table below on the education policy in England and Wales, 1950-2007, give readers an idea of where the theme of anti-discrimination sits, or does not sit, in the education policymaking discourse. This article concludes with recommendations on how future promise could be achieved in relation to anti-discrimination education policymaking.

Multiculturalism, as a concept, is still relevant in 2007 and is crucial in social debates concerning cultural diversity and citizenship. It is perhaps even more important after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 (2001) and 7/7 (2005) than it was before. The political discourse and rhetoric of integration sit uncomfortably alongside both multicultural realities, e.g. the civil disturbances in Birmingham (October 2005), Paris (November 2005) and Sydney (December 2005), and the social scientific notions of where multiculturalism positions itself domestically and internationally. The period from 9/11 to 7/7 witnessed global Governments moving toward integrationist approaches concerning political and social policy.


Trevor Phillips, the then Chairperson of the Commission for Racial Equality in the United Kingdom, suggested in 2004 that multiculturalism had brought us in a position of racial segregation, where ethnic groups within London and the United Kingdom live in separate entities with no interaction with each other. "In recent years", he said, "we've focused far too much on the 'multi' and not enough on the common culture." What Phillips called for was a social and cultural debate on the plural realities of British culture, calling for an examination of multiculturalism, racial segregation and what is actually applicable in contemporary society.

Education policy documents provide evidence in how...

To continue reading