Anti-Racism in Scottish Education

Anisha Yaseen explores the complexities at play as Scotland launches the National Anti-Racism Framework for teacher training.

Students in Scotland have a right to learn in an environment that values and appreciates diverse cultures, identities, and languages; in fact, it is imperative that the current education system within schools is customised to cater to the requirements and distinctiveness of each child and young person community, in fact that is the entire purpose of Scottish Government’s framework “getting it right for every child”. Providing children and young people with a space that they see themselves in and one which offers an equal chance to learn and flourish is exactly the position that every school in Scotland should strive to provide in order to ensure that no one is marginalised or left behind. 

As Grace Dempsey, Anti Racist & Pro-Black Education Practitioner, Edinburgh has said: “Diversity is not necessarily anti-racism”.

We have to understand the distinct differences between ‘race’ and ‘racism’. 

Race is often defined by characteristics such as skin colour and other attributes associated with race or ethnicity. These labels, however, do not accurately reflect the complexity of human identity and can lead to harmful stereotypes and discrimination. 

It is important to recognise the multitude of forms of racism that currently exist, including interpersonal racism, internalised racism, institutional racism and structural racism. Society needs to understand and address these forms of racism to create a more inclusive and equitable society for all.

Interpersonal racism involves making assumptions about a person’s abilities, motives, and intents based on their race, which can lead to cruel discriminatory actions. 

Internal racism occurs when individuals internalise negative messages about their own abilities and worth due to societal messages of racial inferiority and superiority. 

Institutional racism involves discrimination against minority ethnic people by institutions and organisations, limiting their rights.

Structural racism refers to the unequal distribution of privilege, resources, safety, and power in favour of the dominant racial group, which can be seen in the over-representation of certain minority ethnic groups in poverty, unemployment, and more recently – covid related deaths. 

Why is race equality and anti-racist education crucial?

Anti-Racist education can empower children and young people to engage in an increasingly diverse and globalised world where people can be united by their common humanity and enhanced by their diversity. It helps learners to develop an understanding of their own values, beliefs, and cultures, as well as those of others, while also helping them to understand and realise their own rights and the rights of others within their school, community and globally. 

Anti-racist education encourages children and young people to understand the harmful consequences of racism and actively challenging It wherever it occurs. It helps ensure that there is a learning environment which is as safe and inclusive without racial inequality and racism, as possible, whilst also fostering historical literacy in learners to understand Scotland’s History, including the historical role in empire, colonialism, and transatlantic slavery. 

Race equality embedded within education provides a vehicle for all practitioners to demonstrate their own professional values, and legal duty to eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment, and victimisation, and to advance equality of opportunity between people and foster good relationships. 

Speaking with Grace Dempsey, an Anti-racist and Pro Black Education Practitioner in Edinburgh, she told me that Most inclusive practices focus on characteristics other than race; they are often steered towards specific protected characteristic groups such as disability and LGBTQ+. 

“Whilst this is important, there is rarely any time allocated in professional development to discuss race and racial bias even though for many children and young people in Scotland this forms part of their identity. Many staff do not identify with non-white race characteristics and outside of the larger cities, do not interact with many Ethnic Minority Young People.”

She continues: “Representation in the workplace and amongst young people does not highlight the need for discussion around race, which unfortunately perpetuates taboo, and lack of confidence or recognition for the need to discuss race and disproportionately creates negative impacts which many young people of colour experience throughout their lives”.

“Diversity of race is present, but it isn’t embedded foundationally. There needs to be a greater focus on decolonising the curriculum, there needs to be specific outcomes and training for staff, curriculums need revised. Educators in Scotland need to do the work to understand better why discussions and spaces are necessary”.

Though Scotland’s education system developed an Anti-Racist framework to embed into the current curriculum and teaching staff have a duty to demonstrate integrity and equity for all children and young people; there is clearly still some way to go before we achieve truly safe and equitable environments for children and young people from diverse backgrounds within our schools. 

Time should not be a limiting factor in professional development when teaching staff are being encouraged to discuss the wide range of inequality within society.

There is a desperate call from Anti-Racist Activists, that recognising diversity is not enough, we need institutions and society to recognise that diversity exists intersectionally as opposed to single cases, we need key policymakers to implement ideas and actually demonstrate them by leading the way as opposed to just implementing them in a tokenistic way and ‘hoping for the best’ that it creates the desired outcome of creating a society that values and promotes inclusivity and truly values diverse cultures and backgrounds, embracing individuality along the way. 

This month, Scotland launched the National Anti-Racism Framework for Initial Teacher Training in the hope of increasing the number of ethnic minority teachers in Scotland and to enable probationary teachers to better support BAME students. This is a sign of progress but there is far to go, especially with recent reports indicating that anti-bullying practices are failing to address experiences of racism. All children and young people in Scotland deserve spaces where they can learn whilst being their authentic selves, that’s should be a goal for all education providers in Scotland. 

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  1. ruth says:

    The angry sound of
    angry white male disciples
    of the Prince of Wales.

  2. SleepingDog says:

    In which case, the current FIFA Women’s World Cup provides a range of useful case studies and the opportunity to distinguish public-relations propaganda (from the likes of the Onelove Colonialists) from actual problems such as why the Jamaican women’s national team is struggling for funding.

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