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Contact the author: @yashaswi20_

 

It is often assumed that education is an equal experience for all students in the UK, with “free schools”, a national curriculum, educational policies (and much more) to support all pupils, regardless of their socioeconomic status and ethnicity. This discourse revolves around the idea that education and qualifications are the ultimate chance for social mobility which is often too optimistic and heightened by heuristic bias. This reflects a quick judgment based on our own lived experiences, encouraging a narrative that merit is achieved through hard work and when pupils underperform, it is solely due to bad work ethic and the values associated with their class and/or ethnicity.


This blame is far too simple as an explanation for this underperformance. Policies pushing for a relevant curriculum, raising aspirations and pupil premium are methods used to close the gap but


it is argued that a structural effort is required to address the root causes of educational inequalities.

Ultimately, there is a significant disparity in attainment, with wealthier children consistently outperforming the disadvantaged students. Inevitably, COVID-19-related disruptions have increased this polarisation.


Inequalities in education are not an outcome of COVID-19 itself, rather they have been heightened by it.


Despite only 6% of students being privately educated in the UK, they make up 55% of the students at Russell Group universities.

Furthermore, 34% of pupils eligible for free school meals achieved 5 A*- C GCSE’s, compared to 61% of students who were not on free school meals. In 2019, 26.5% of pupils in state-funded schools were disadvantaged and achieved lower marks than their better-off counterparts. These educational inequalities are among the highest in the UK out of all high-income countries, even before the pandemic. Ultimately, it is the underprivileged and minority students that fall victim to this.


“The class of 2020” is a phrase associated with a sense of misfortune, an “unlucky but resilient” cohort who began the much needed conversation around educational inequality. However, bringing intersectionality to this is imperative, the most detrimental impact has been to those of minority and disadvantaged backgrounds, who may already face issues such as language barriers, teacher representation, less parental support, food insecurity, incongruency with curriculum and much more.


This is then combined with issues such as the lack of resources for online learning like a computer or tablet, as well as internet connection. Students are often sharing their devices with siblings or are having to home-school younger siblings.


With teenage mental health being an ongoing and neglected issue for years, the conversation around how school and COVID-19 have a direct impact on these student populations needs to be discussed.


Unsurprisingly, 97% of private school children have access to a computer, compared to 1 in 5 of students on free school meals. State schools have large class sizes of around 30 pupils, with each teacher delivering around 20 lessons per week, it simply is not feasible for all students to receive 1-1 feedback for every single remote lesson. Compared to private school class sizes which are often much smaller, students are able to receive more frequent feedback on work.


However, it is not just differences between different types of schools that widen the attainment gap, there are also many factors within a school. Whilst some students are self-isolating, other students are receiving face-to-face lessons. Trust and comfort is built on

consistency within education, for some pupils, this is the only form of consistency they have in their lives, which has further implications on mental health.


There have been ongoing debates around education around schools reopening, exam cancellations, assessments and much more. Yet, the conversation around teenage mental health & well-being, performance and the impact of all of this on widening the gap between social class and educational achievement seems to have endured a deafening silence in the media.


Disclaimer: the views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Identity International.

 

Bibliography


Dobson-Perez, C., 2021. Social class – is education unequal? | Institute of Continuing Education (ICE). [online] Ice.cam.ac.uk. Available at: <https://www.ice.cam.ac.uk/about-us/news/social-class-education-unequal> [Accessed 3 April 2021].


Dmu.ac.uk. 2021. Inequality faced by BME students and staff in HE is laid bare. [online] Available at: <https://www.dmu.ac.uk/about-dmu/news/2019/march/inequality-faced-by-bme-students-and-staff-in-he-is-laid-bare.aspx> [Accessed 3 April 2021].


GOV.UK. 2021. Ethnic, socio-economic and sex inequalities in educational achievement at age 16, by Professor Steve Strand. [online] Available at: <https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-report-of-the-commission-on-race-and-ethnic-disparities-supporting-research/ethnic-socio-economic-and-sex-inequalities-in-educational-achievement-at-age-16-by-professor-steve-strand> [Accessed 8 April 2021].


Lambeth.gov.uk. 2021. [online] Available at: <https://www.lambeth.gov.uk/rsu/sites/www.lambeth.gov.uk.rsu/files/narrowing_the_achievement_gap_for_disadvantaged_pupils_2018.pdf> [Accessed 3 April 2021].


Ncfe.org.uk. 2021. COVID-19 and the increase of inequality of access to high quality education. [online] Available at: <https://www.ncfe.org.uk/blog/covid-19-and-the-increase-of-inequality-of-access-to-high-quality-education> [Accessed 3 April 2021].


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Updated: Apr 9, 2021

“Just because I’m Asian… doesn’t mean I’m the cause of COVID-19….is that what they think when they see me?”

As an Asian living in the UK for nearly eight years, I have never been receptive to “Konnichiwa” or “Ni Hao” when walking on the streets. Yet, as painful as these remarks are made by strangers based on my race, I rarely respond nor even glance at them. Little did I know that my unresponsiveness could have further perpetuated existing stereotypes, exacerbated by something that many of us are taught to do - to be silent.


Over the past year, we have seen key political figures labelling COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus”, the “Chinese Coronavirus”, the “Wuhan Virus”, “Kung flu”, and so on. While Anti-Asian racism is not a new concept, linking COVID-19 to a specific location and race has resulted in an influx of hate crimes towards Asians in the past year. According to the recent “Stop AAPI Hate National” report, there were nearly 3,800 anti-Asian incidents from March 2020 to February 2021 in the US. These stemmed from verbal harassment, physical assault, civil rights violations and online harassment, etc. I, for one, certainly resonate with experiences of verbal and physical abuse.


At the height of the COVID-19 panic last year, bypassers shouted “CORONA!” as I walked by and I got spat on, once, when returning home from the supermarket.

As one who treats England as a home, a looming sense of rejection began to rise in me- despite Britain’s emphasis on it’s progressive diversity and inclusion.


Over the past year, there has been a surge of xenophobic comments and attacks towards those of visible East and South-East Asian (ESEA) descent. In the UK alone, there have been police reports of a 21-75% increase in hate crimes regionally. This statistic is more worrying given that the ESEA population is on the rise in the UK. The Response to the Call for Evidence on Ethnic Disparities and Inequality in the UK report emphasises the difficulty in exploring the details of hate crimes in ESEA populations due to cultural insensitivity in censuses where people choose between being categorised as Chinese, Asian (being homogenous with Central and South Asians) or Other.


In the US, this discrimination has also targeted pacific islanders. Dhanani and Franz found that those who had more trust in Trump, less trust/knowledge in science, and more fear regarding COVID-19 had poorer attitudes towards Asians. Despite the disease being officially named ‘COVID-19’ by WHO, Trump continued to label the disease as the “Chinese virus” in official and unofficial settings, propagating and normalising the racialisation of the illness. Research has found that the use of the term ‘Chinese virus’ is correlated with increasing anti-Asian sentiments. Many news articles were extensively using photos of visibly ESEA people, giving coronavirus a ‘face’ alongside the normalisation of rhetorics such as ‘Kung Flu’ and ‘the Chinese virus’ which further reinforces this problematic narrative. Around 14% of popular tweets related to COVID-19 in 2020 were related to discrimination and within all tweets of 2020, there was a 68.4% increase in negative tweets referencing ESEA populations.


You can read more about this here.


The most grotesque manifestation of this increasingly visible malice towards ESEA populations were the recent Atlanta spa shootings. While 6/8 of the victims of this deadly attack being Asian was horrific enough, the spokesman defending the suspected murderer (who in any other circumstances would’ve been dehumanised as a remorseless terrorist) because he was having a “bad day” added insult to the injury of what had occurred. Like much of the Black Lives Matter manifestation in 2020, this once again highlights the racial privileges of white criminals.


Moreover, while a lot of our attention is on Anti-Asian hate crimes in the US, let’s not forget that this is a global problem.


Although 12% of the Australian population is of Asian descent, nearly one in five Chinese Australians have reported physical or verbal abuse since the beginning of COVID-19.

What we are currently seeing, hearing, and experiencing is just scratching the surface of the actual abuse covered by the media. What about subconscious Anti-Asian bias experienced on a daily basis? According to one study, anti-Asian sentiment is evident in countries with colonial legacies and institutionalised White supremacy. For example, circling back to the US, Republicans have explicitly expressed their fear of Asians carrying and spreading COVID-19 and Democrats are more likely to avoid going to venues including Asian restaurants. This shows that although what we are currently seeing and hearing is fuelled by COVID-19, the Anti-Asian subconscious bias has always been ingrained, to some extent, in US culture. When racism is entangled in one’s unconscious thoughts, values and behaviours, it becomes more challenging to address.


Thinking about the future, while many Asians have experienced some sort of racism in their lives, the vile increase during COVID-19 has pushed us to vocalise our outrage and protest to protect our community, especially in the aftermath of the Atlanta shootings. While we have been continuously silent and silenced in the past, we will no longer accept the injustice experienced by our community. We will no longer accept being the scapegoats of a virus purely on the basis of our race. While traditional media outlets have been useful in disseminating information and resources, it is important to note that social media is becoming a necessary platform to circulate petitions, GoFundMe crowdfunding, webinars etc, where traditional media fails to do so. This allows Asians and those with similar sentiments, no matter their location, to connect in solidarity.


Evidence illustrates conscious and subconscious bias towards Asians interplay with each other, as highlighted by COVID-19- not unlike many other prejudicial attitudes in society. Let us hope that the world and all of us can use the past year as an example of how not to act in a pandemic and to understand what Asians have experienced as a result of this racial scapegoating. We are not all one monolithic group abiding by stereotypes, but each our own individual human with traumas, love, ambitions and fear of illness aside from simply an inherited ethnic identity, to be used against us because scapegoating is easier than being accountable.

 

Contact the author: @lav_cheung


Disclaimer: the views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Identity International.

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Updated: Apr 9, 2021

11 million ‘illegal’ people experience prejudicial attitudes and live under discriminatory policies, lacking access to critical health resources (Castañeda et al, 2015). In the UK, heightened immigration enforcement in recent years has led to increased deportations which have in turn decreased the health and wellbeing of many migrants; demonstrating how immigration policy can become synonymous with public health (Zaklaki, 2019). Likewise, in the US this policy in healthcare was found to exacerbate migrant vulnerability, where many doctors are compromising medical ethics by not providing care to patients in dire need (Jimenez AM, 2021).


A lot of these regressive immigration policies increase stress and obstruct access to healthcare. It is important to consider policies that shape the broader health landscapes in which immigrants live and to strive for more deeper understanding of a policy’s impact. This helps us avoid making broad generalisations of all immigrant populations (Castañeda et al, 2015). Internationally, policy making on migration has generally been conducted as separate to the health sector as they often have incompatible goals. Migrant health policy-making tends to focus on human rights and the associated service challenges.

‘Illegal’ (irregular/undocumented) migrants are individuals who enter a country without the required documents/permits, or those who overstay the authorised length of stay in a country

(Zimmerman et al, 2011)


However, poor policy conditions and contradictory policy goals, such as prioritisation of increased foreign labour whilst maintaining restrictive rights for migrants can exacerbate risk conditions related to migration health and pose extra challenges. In the past 50 years, on top of having the most limited access to healthcare, the number of undocumented migrants encountering health risks has also been on the rise (more so than other migrant groups). Migration health insurance schemes are encumbered by restrictive immigration legislation or exclude ‘illegal’ migrants and their families from coverage. Even where multilateral agreements exist, their implementation isn’t universal. (Zimmerman et al. 2011).


The 61st World Health Assembly (WHO 2008), called upon member states to

“promote equitable access to health promotion and care for migrants, to promote bilateral and multilateral cooperation on migrants’ health among countries involved in the whole migration process.”

Furthermore, in 2010 the WHO came up with key elements for it’s migrant health policy and legal framework. The three pillars to this were disease control elements; migration management/control and norms, which looked at wider human rights and international law perspectives (WHO 2010). At an international level, the document didn’t speak about legal/political issues at all. It had a very Eurocentric focus, completely neglecting the wider structural effects of migration policy makes people so vulnerable. It’s also interesting how on their website, WHO denounces any systematic association between migrants and imported communicable diseases (WHO 2018), yet has a whole section on infectious disease control from migrants in the paper.


Disease control is being used an as excuse to control migration and as a scape goat for tighter immigration restrictions. Jelinek et al (2002), found how Europeans travelling back from Malaria-endemic areas in Africa, import just as much malaria as African immigrants yet get none of the backlash. Other criticisms of these global policy processes in migrants’ health rights include that it ignores migrants' political, legal, labour, civil and sociocultural rights; that there’s a need for policy coherency across sectors and that migration policies often fail to achieve their objectives/have hidden or contradictory objectives (Castle 2004). Rogaly (2008), added that all these international processes are fundamentally in neoliberal interests which severely impacts the livelihoods of the world’s poor.

“Depending on the regional impact of immigrants and the amount of travel in the local population, data from national sources in Europe can be heavily skewed toward one or another group”

(Jelinek et al, 2002)


Nationally, the Immigration Act of 2014 changed the definition of a ‘deserving’ citizen in access to the National Health Services (NHS) in the UK. NHS providers can only legally provide healthcare to ‘legal’ migrants who deserve it. Deservingness of immigrant populations has been a relatively neglected area in academia; in fact, there has been a lack of discussion on the role of discrimination (racism/anti-immigrant prejudices) and the importance of understanding migrants' ‘deservingness’ of healthcare (Castañeda et al, 2015; Willen 2012). Migrants in the UK now have to pay surcharges for health care access and are forced into poorer living conditions which can trigger latent tuberculosis. While, undocumented migrants are now denied care. On the other hand, Spain has one of the most liberal immigration policies in the EU. After realising the economic value of migrants, Spain started to recruit legal workers from Sub Saharan African countries. At the same time, it attempted to forge agreements with various African countries for increased repatriation in exchange for greater economic and financial support. In terms of illegality, Spain has a strict expulsion policy with no legalisation for undocumented immigrants possible, many of them are kept within detention centres at the Ceuta and Melilla borders for years. (Choe, 2007; Andersson, 2014).


More needs to be done to support migrant’s health rather than increasing their morbidity. Increased outreach and community mobilisation programmes as well as health promotion addressing fear of diagnosis and the success of treatment are key to increasing HIV testing among migrants. Additional to this, is the prioritisation of the health access rights of ‘illegal’ migrants once diagnosed or who are at risk of infection. Also, more investment is needed to expand the presence of HIV testing facilities beyond just sexual health clinics, but to all health clinics to decrease testing deterrence (Fakoya et al, 2008). The European Academic Science Advisory Council (EASAC, 2007), highlighted the importance of global coordination; member states should not only work on assisting healthcare finances for migrants but should also prioritise tackling infectious diseases in the first place, to reduce the global burden of disease and risk of transmission into the country.


In light of recent events, many "illegal" migrants have died from COVID-19 due to delayed health-seeking behaviours. These delays occurring as a result from fears of deportation. The UK government is now making an open call for undocumented migrants to register with local GPs to get the COVID vaccination (BBC, 2021) which is important in efforts to end this pandemic. However, I hope this is a lesson that immigrant health is public health rather than a reason to push more aggressive conditions towards undocumented migrants.


The undocumented migrants' health is absent in global debates- where they aren’t recognised in most European health systems and where they aren’t seen as ‘deserving’ of healthcare when they are recognised. Furthermore, personifying infectious diseases to geographical locations and its people has deeply problematised health care access for the people who need it the most. Those involved in clandestine migration need to be heard and accepted; not criminalised and these issues have not even begun to be mentioned in global health debates.



Contact the author: @ludic.n

Disclaimer: the views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Identity International.

 

Andersson, R., 2014. Illegality, Inc.: Clandestine Migration and the Business of Bordering Europe 1st ed., Oakland: University of California Press.


BBC., 2020. 'Covid: 'No deportation risk' for illegal migrants getting the vaccination.' 8th February 2021. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-55978334.


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