Northern Ireland

Pupils believing they face discrimination from teachers more likely to fall behind - research

Gülseli Baysu, of Queen's University school of psychology
Gülseli Baysu, of Queen's University school of psychology Gülseli Baysu, of Queen's University school of psychology

SCHOOL pupils perceiving they were discriminated against by their teachers are more likely to lag behind in reading and maths, by up to one year, new research has found.

Study co-author Gülseli Baysu, from the School of Psychology at Queen’s University Belfast, based his research the focused on 2018 Programme for International Student Assessment.(PISA)

PISA measures the ability of 15-year-olds in reading, science and maths but also includes questions on overall life skills. Nearly 450,000 pupils just over 16,000 schools across 60 countries were involved.

The study is the first large-scale, multi-country deep dive into perceptions of discrimination and academic scores.

Researchers found that 25 per cent of the pupils thought their teachers were discriminatory some of the time or a majority of the time.

These students were up to one year behind other students who reported low or zero levels of discrimination, Ms Baysu found.

Ms Baysu said: “To put it simply, our research found that when pupils report that their teachers are prejudiced, hold negative stereotypes, and say negative things and blame other cultural groups, their academic performance is worse.”

The trend of lower academic performance being associated with perceived discrimination was the same for all pupils, regardless of their ethnic background or socio-economic status, according to the study.

However, students from a minority background perceived more discrimination within their schools.

Ms Baysu said: "This means that discrimination against ethnic minorities can have an impact on all students, including those who are not the targets of discrimination. So, in schools with a high discriminatory climate, academic performance of all pupils is lower.”

The psychology senior lecturer said she hopes the findings will reveals "the benefits of practising and communicating a zero-tolerance policy against discrimination in schools".

“These findings suggest that schools can protect adolescents from these adverse outcomes. They can promote both the well-being and achievement of all pupils by creating and maintaining a positive school climate that welcomes and respects ethnic-cultural diversity.”