Fewer than 1% of students study books by people of colour at GCSE

A major new study has revealed stark picture of under-representation of Black, Asian and minority ethnic authors in the teaching of English Literature in UK schools.

The research, commissioned by Penguin and The Runnymede Trust, found that fewer than 1% (0.7%) answer a question on a book by a writer of colour at GCSE. This compares to 34.4% of school-age students in England who identify as Black, Asian or minority ethnic.

While there are some books by authors of colour offered by exam boards, for the most part they are not yet studied in classrooms or considered in examinations.

At most, 7% of students in England answer a question on a book by a woman at GCSE. The initial scope of the research did not include gender, but intersectional analysis of the data found a significant under-representation in the curriculum for books by women.

Just 0.1% of students answered a question on Anita and Me, the only novel by a woman of colour.

Poetry is the most common way for secondary students to encounter a Black, Asian or other minority ethnic author.

The report suggests this shocking disparity is caused by issues including teachers’ lack of time, resources and confidence in talking about race in the classroom.

Using extensive data gathered from exam boards, interviews and surveys with primary and secondary school teachers and librarians, the research also found that 82% of young people responding to our nationwide survey said that they did not recall ever studying a book by a Black, Asian or minority ethnic author.

70% agreed that diversity is part of British society and should be represented in the school curriculum.

Lit in Colour, a partnership between Penguin Random House UK and The Runnymede Trust, has published the results which form part of a wider campaign to help ensure English Literature better reflects contemporary culture and society.

The campaign also explores how to increase students’ access to books by Black, Asian and minority ethnic writers and broaden the range of texts available, while still celebrating the widely-studied classic texts.

What causes this under-representation?

The research also looked at the issues facing teachers looking to introduce new texts to students.

These included a lack of time, budget and teaching resources, and little to no training on how to talk about race in the classroom (with only 12% of secondary and 13% of primary survey respondents having received teacher training in this area), or for approaching racist language in books.

It is also clear there is a significant lack of representation among the English Literature teaching community, and that teachers struggle to find a diverse range of titles for all age groups. 

Based on these insights, the research team recommend teachers conduct an audit of which texts are in their curriculum and classroom, and for school leaders to invest in staff training around anti-racism and in discussing race in the classroom.

They also call for teacher training providers to work on strengthening the pipeline of Black, Asian and minority ethnic teachers of English Literature, and for the government to collect and publish data on ethnicity of teachers training by subject.

In response to these findings, Penquin is donating 60,000 books by writers of colour to schools across the UK this autumn.

These include 15,000 copies of Empireland, journalist Sathnam Sanghera’s account of how imperialism has shaped modern Britain.

‘Books create belonging,’ says Tom Weldon, CEO of Penguin Random House UK.

‘They help us see each other and understand one another. Yet our research has revealed that barely any young people have the chance to study books which reflect the rich diversity of the society we live in.

‘Changing this is a complex and multi-layered challenge, requiring collaborative action from many different groups across the education sector – from teachers, to publishers, to examining bodies.’

Dr Halima Begum, Director of the Runnymede Trust adds: ‘Nineteenth century texts have a strong place in the English curriculum, and we are not arguing for their removal. But we hope this consensus around greater representation will encourage the expansion of literary texts available to students to enrich their studies.’

Books by Black, Asian and minority ethnic authors

If you’re looking for a more diverse reading list – for the teens in your life, or for yourself – this is a good place to start.

Brown Baby, Nikesh Shukla

A beautiful and intimate memoir that explores themes of racism, feminism, parenting and our shifting ideas of home. 

Grown: The Black Girl’s Guide to Glowing Up, Melissa Cummings-Quarry and Natalie A Carter

From understanding identity, to the politics of hair, to dealing with microaggressions, and consent, to figuring out what career you might want, Grown is the ultimate handbook for teenage Black girls.

‘I will not be erased’, gal-dem

gal-dem’s talented writers use raw material from their teenage years – diaries, poems and chat histories – to give advice to their younger selves and those growing up today.

Off the Record, Camryn Garrett

This moving teen fiction follows the journey of seventeen-year-old Josie who wins a competition to write a celebrity profile, but quickly finds herself deeply embroiled in a dark scandal.

Mixed/Other, Natalie Morris

Full disclosure – I wrote this book, so there may be a touch of bias in this recommendation. Mixed/Other is a deep-dive into the messy, joyful, often contradictory realities of what it means to have mixed heritage in modern Britain.

Me, My Dad and the End of the Rainbow, Benjamin Dean

Perfect for 9+ readers, this joyful novel follows young Archie and his best friends on a determined quest to understand his parents’ separation following a revelation from his father.

The Mismatch, Sara Jafari

This engrossing coming-of-age story provides a fresh take on how what you think you want isn’t always what brings you happiness.

The Marks Left on Her, Di Lebowitz

This incredibly powerful memoir depicts a woman navigating her otherness as the only mixed-race child in her Hong Kongese family, and fighting for survival after the trauma of a sexual assault.

This article contains affiliate links. We may earn a small commission on purchases made through one of these links but this never influences our experts’ opinions. Products are tested and reviewed independently of commercial initiatives.

Do you have a story to share? We want to hear from you.

Get in touch: [email protected]

Source: Read Full Article