01/11/1999 Education
DOI: 10.7227/RIE.62.7 SemanticScholar ID: 219985889

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Publication Summary

Throughout the 1990s a debate has continued in education and social science journals centred around the subject of research into the education of minority ethnic groups in Britain. It has also addressed the politics of social research more widely. At the time of writing (January 1999) the latest article in this continuing discussion, and a reply to it, appear in the British Educational Research Journal (Foster and Hammersley, 1998; Gillborn and Gipps, 1998). Although our article does not enter into this debate directly, it does raise issues regarding the interpretation of some of the data which are discussed in the above articles. It is, as such, an indirect contribution to the subject, but also relates to wider issues of analysis of quantitative data over time. Whilst investigating the extant research relating to trends in educational attainment the authors noticed that other researchers were interpreting data in ways which differed significantly from our preferred approach. Our interpretation led us to draw different conclusions from the same data. The purpose of this article is, by example, to offer an alternative angle on some comparative trends in attainment between ethnic groups, as we feel that our interpretation represents the data more faithfully. It aims to draw attention to the difference between changes over time measured in terms of percentage points and the same changes interpreted using percentages of the original totals. We believe that this is an important distinction which should be brought to the attention of all researchers in this particular area as well as others working with similar data. Since the early 1990s there has been considerable debate on the subject of the differential educational attainment of ethnic groups. Much of it has centred on studies focusing on the ‘school effect’, such as Foster (1990) and Smith and Tomlinson (1989). While not wishing to enter into the ‘school effect’ debate, we would like to highlight one aspect discussed, that is, the relative progress of different ethnic groups as they pass through secondary R es ea rc h in E du ca tio n N o. 6 2

CAER Authors

Avatar Image for Stephen Gorard

Prof. Stephen Gorard

University of Durham - Professor in the School of Education

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