Posted by HSMP Forum at 11/19/2012 4:17 PM |


The Education Secretary Michael Gove was recently quoted that ethnic minority pupils were “under-marked” by teachers and white pupils were “more generously” marked. He further stated the need for papers to be marked externally, while arguing that “External tests are fairer,” and “With external testing there is no opportunity for such bias – the soft bigotry of low expectations – and tests show ethnic minority students performing better” and that external tests “are not only a way of levelling the playing field for children of all backgrounds they are a solvent of prejudice.”

This was met by immediate rebuttal by some teachers saying Mr Gove’s comments were rubbish.

Earlier research and reports provided evidence of under-marking of Ethnic Minority students in higher education. Government statistics showed students from minority ethnic groups were less likely than their white peers to achieve top marks in their degrees. The report argued that while universities may have race equality policies, there was “a need to couple the intentions of these documents with practices that enable all to feel part of the institution’s community”. UK is ethnically diverse but that does not mean discrimination does not exist. At times, its existence is so discreet that it makes it even more difficult to prove its occurrence.

Educational institutions become defensive when there is pressure to change the existing system. Many institutes do not even offer a re-marking facility for an aggrieved student; they just blatantly dismiss any possibility of discrimination or resort to some pre-determined lengthy investigation procedure. The procedure makes it extremely difficult to challenge their decision in any meaningful way. Often, making a complaint of discrimination could result in the victimisation of the student who is perceived as a troublemaker and subsequently isolated by his peers.

The powerful and evil institute is aware that fear of repercussion could deter any student to come forward and often the other students’ lack of strong character makes it difficult to gather witnesses for the victim, which is used by the institutes to their advantage. A student spending a lot for his / her education ends up being denied even a fair procedure for re-evaluation. The student is expected to accept the mark as his / her destiny even though he / she believes to have been awarded a lower mark due to discrimination, while other students enjoying a more preferential attitude do get away with a more lenient marking.
The procedures make it very difficult for students to even obtain information in terms of overall results of an institute as per the ethnicity of its students. The institutes will simply hide behind the pretension of protecting identification of its database. What makes the educational system so rigid and immune to scrutiny? Is it right to assume that the regulatory bodies seem to be sleep walking through the process or do they simply believe they owe this unmindfulness to the institutes in order to protect them?

Some educational institutes have had their licences revoked for supposedly breaching the rules laid down by the UK Border agency for overseas students. However, other institutes get away scot-free when they are found to discriminate against ethnic minority students. This clearly shows the nature of law and the government’s priorities.
The concept of anonymous marking has been a recent introduction to the assessment system. However, its efficacy is highly suspect, when it boils down to the fact that same faculty assessing a student’s work on a daily basis ends up marking their exam paper as well.
The argument of anonymous marking may not hold any weight. For e.g. hand written work of a student can be easily identified on the basis of;

– Writing styles

– Vocabulary and syntax of a non-native English speaker

– Use of certain verbs or tenses hinting at a regional or class background


Is there any correlation between under-marking in the academic work of ethnic minority students and the rising unemployment among them? Certainly, grades matter a great deal and make it much easier or more difficult for a graduate to obtain a job and as a starting point of consideration for many employers when it comes to shortlisting candidates. There is a serious need to correct this major flaw in the system pertaining to discrepancy in marking, which may make or break future careers of many ethnic minority students.

Mr Gove’s external marking argument makes more sense and maybe a better means of protection for ethnic minority students in all levels of education.

Author: Amit Kapadia

Amit is the Executive Director of the HSMP Forum. He campaigns against issues such as – unfairness, inequality, human rights abuses, and deals with the issues faced by overseas and ethnic minority students.

Twitter @ amit_kapadia


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HSMP Forum

HSMP Forum is a not-for-profit campaigning organisation and bears its origins to the UK's Highly Skilled Migrant Programme, which was introduced in 2002. It was formed after the 2006 decision by Government to apply new qualifying criteria for existing Highly Skilled Migrants. HSMP Forum has been lobbying the legislature, executive and the judiciary by challenging unfair policies to non-European union migrants. The aim of the organisation is to support and assist migrants under the world-renowned British principles of fair play, equality and justice and believes in challenging any unfair policies which undermine the migrants’ interests.

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