The Portuguese school system is plagued by institutional racism, claims a fresh study by Portuguese sociologist Cristina Roldão. Her study reveals that a black student is three times more likely to be grade retained than her white classmate. In secondary education, eight out of ten blacks are referred to vocational courses rather than pathways leading into higher education.
A new study by Portuguese researcher Cristina Roldão accuses the Portuguese basic education system of racism. Roldão discovered that during the first four years of school pupils with the nationality of a former Portuguese colony are three times more likely to be grade retained than their Portuguese classmates.
- The pupils’ social background is relevant in this process, but racism cannot be ignored. In Portugal the school system is a space for promoting nationalism, and textbooks paint an image of colonisation as a pacific process.
Roldão’s study was reported on by journalist and researcher Anna Pöysä in Elm Magazine, a web media focusing on lifelong learning.
”The teacher never looks at me”
According to Roldão, the marginalisation of black students continues in secondary education:
- Teachers, who are responsible for study guidance and counselling, recommend professional courses and subsequently lower education professions to the black students over twice as more often as to the white students.
Bad early experiences of learning make returning to education as an adult more unlikely. Study motivation and self confidence are lacking.
- I recall interviewing a boy from Cape Verde for my study. In his home country he had been a high-achieving student but after moving to Portugal he noticed that no one at school expected a top performance from him anymore. The teacher wouldn't even look at him when asking complex questions.
Teacher training and data collection could help
The keys to change are in teachers’ hands, believes Cristina Roldão.
- Teachers need to be aware of their role in combating racism, and more teachers from racial minorities need to join the profession. They need to understand that their low expectations of their black pupils can turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Data collection of Portugal’s ethnic minorities could also help in identifying discrimination. At present collecting data of citizens’ ethnic background is illegal in Portugal.
Cristina Roldão’s interview article, written by Anna Pöysä, appeared in Elm Magazine’s December theme issue on Nationalism. Elm Magazine is a web media focusing on lifelong learning and is published by the Finnish Lifelong Learning Foundation.
Original article: Black students in Portugal struggle with institutional racism
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