Benefits of an ethnically diverse FE and HE student community
A strict definition of an ethnic group is one regarded as a distinct community by virtue of certain essential characteristics, a shared history that distinguishes it from other groups and a cultural tradition of its own. Students from different ethnic communities bring varying sets of values, perspectives, and beliefs into the learning environment. This rich learning experience can only benefit students, preparing them to live and work in our multicultural society.
There has always been diversity among students in the classroom, as each and every student in further and higher education is unique. Studying in further and higher education can transform lives as it often provides students with new ways of seeing the world, as they learn in increasingly ethnically diverse communities. In England, the percentage of people in further education from the Asian, Black, Mixed and Other ethnic groups combined increased from 13.3% to 20.5 between 2002/03 and 2016/17. In higher education in 2017 Chinese pupils had the highest entry rate into higher education, white students have had the lowest entry rates for 11 consecutive years since 2007. The greatest increase in entry rates between 2006 and 2017 was among Black pupils (increasing from 21.6% to 40.4%); the lowest increase was among White pupils, where entry rates increased from 21.8% to 29.3% (Gov.UK 2018).
The significance of such a diverse student population needs to be fully valued, as it is instrumental in moving us to an educational world where equality for all is protected, diversity celebrated and inclusion fully promoted. Not only are there moral and social reasons for promoting ethnic diversity and equality of opportunity, it is in the best interests of organisations to educate and develop students from a wide and diverse population possible. Educators are very well positioned to clearly recognise the talent and potential which is distributed across the whole of the student population. This should be harnessed, encouraged, valued and positively managed in order to prepare all students for living, working and residing in an increasingly multi-ethnic society.
An important priority is for educators to appreciate and value the nature of individual students to ensure they provide teaching, learning and assessment resources that actively promote the ethnic diversity in their classrooms. These should not be discriminatory or prejudiced and include positive and diverse images to reflect the classroom population and wider community. Teaching, learning and assessment, where appropriate, should be supported by access to language development opportunities and learning support provided where required.
Finally, I leave you with further deliberations to consider:
- If we are to benefit from an ethnically diverse student population which represents the community, should the provider workforce also be representative?
- Are we delivering a curriculum that represents the global economy?
- Are we equipping workforce of local employers to support them in becoming culturally diverse?
Gov.UK (2018) Ethnicity Facts and Figures Online Available at: https://www.ethnicity-facts-figures.service.gov.uk/ Accessed 6 April 2019
Philippa Firth, Kirklees College