Brown immigrant school-kid in White school

My niece immigrated to join her mother in Australia while in middle school. Every time I speak to her on the phone, she tells me how easy her curricular material is. She is at the top of her class in math and science. It’s so easy it verges on boring. “Because,” she says, “it’s all really difficult in Pakistan.”
You might have thought otherwise. After all, those Pakistanis speak English as a second language. Surely that should make them dumb. Except then you move to Australia –. All right, no jabs at Australian English here. I will refrain. But I am generally upset for my niece. In Pakistan, private schooling – even for the frugal middle-middle classes – is competitive. Parents struggle to get their children prepared for global academic competition. And then they end up in the global school, and someone takes a look at them, listens to them speak English with an accent, and says, “Off you go, back to a grade lower than what you’ve already completed.”

Why can’t her teachers make an honest and accurate estimate of her academic preparation and place her appropriately? As it is, she will be wasting time in her grade because they placed her behind. Not just that – she’s coasting, barely trying, not challenged, bored by the ease of school-work, waiting to move up the next grade. I am afraid that this will affect her academic future because she is not being challenged. And it’s already been over a year in Australia.

Is it because the teachers assumed that she was from Pakistan and that surely she would *struggle*? Or is it because she spoke English as a second language and that determined her academic placement?

I’m guessing this is a matter of White first-world nation judging brown immigrant from developing nation. It is sad when educational professionals become the instrument of Empire. But why should they be any different.

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8 Replies to “Brown immigrant school-kid in White school”

  1. In the UK, the advisory code for special needs in mainstream schools use to say – and I’m pretty sure still says – E2L is NOT a special need. It’s an educational issue all of its own. Oh, but how many mainstream schools have I been in where they sit the E2L child in the ‘special needs group’? This, of course, ensures she/he has the worse language model in the class, and is doing things like maths way below his/her ability. But it doesn’t stop there. One Pastoral Head of a High school of 1000 Asian pupils told me had 400 of his 1000 pupils with Special Need Individual Education plans (actually one, photocopied 400 times) because their reading levels were poor due to – yep, E2L! And when Ofsted (school inspection people) visited, they approved of it!! So what’s the difference between that and the teacher who told me Pakistani children’s poor upbringing made them effectively developmentally delayed? Yes, Asians are inherently stupid. Special Needs cases. Not much has changed since the age of colonialism, it seems…

  2. It is truly maddening, Julaybib. Amazing that this continues today. With the blessing of Ofsted! Let’s make sure the brown kids BECOME dumb.

    Thank you for sharing this.

  3. Subject: Poem by African kid – nominated by UN as the best poem of 2006

    >> When I born, I black
    >> When I grow up, I black
    >>
    >> When I go in Sun, I black
    >> When I scared, I black
    >>
    >> When I sick, I black
    >> And when I die, I still black
    >>
    >>
    >> And you white fellow
    >> When you born, you pink
    >> When you grow up, you white
    >> When you go in sun, you red
    >>
    >> When you cold, you blue
    >> When you scared, you yellow
    >>
    >> When you sick, you green
    >> And when you die, you gray
    >>
    >> And you calling me coloured?

  4. Sorry, I got to it late but that best poem of 2006 is out of this world indeed.
    We were going to board a plane (long before 9/11) and some other ‘browns’ came to see us off. As I passed through the door, there was some ‘red-light’, so the man standing on the other side asked me whether I had keys in my pockets, as it happens so often. I looked at him and as I walked back to my previous place, he presumed something and said, “O! you dont understand English?” Before I could answer, my friend said, “Yes he does not and started speaking in Punjabi” We were all laughing but the checkpoint man was sure I did not understand.
    We have gone through many obstacles in education of our children here. Major difficulty has always been to convince the ‘level’ of the child. I remember Hassan telling the principal, “I am tired of clowning around in the class and there is nothing to learn” (They would not place him the first grade) Same thing happened to Ayesha as they would not allow her to skip fourth grade even though she had scored in the fourth grade exam higher than the rest of their fourth grade class. Children were asked to write a para for ice-cream and she wrote a poem on ice-cream in the class.
    I know your mumani can write a book on children’s education. Gurriya masha-Allah should do well, but tell her mom to send me email about her soon.

  5. Though I love the poem to bits, I will bet that it was not written by a kid. Something seems suspiciously deliberate there in making the English half-baked and I don’t think kids really understand discrimnation. Even if they do, a kid being able to tell the skn colour of another race as they go through phases of life seems far fetched.

  6. Actually #5 came from something said by Steve Biko and was not in broken English.

    I’m African and think it’s trully sad that when kids move to the ‘1st world’ from developing countries, they are presumed to be stupid which the astounds the teachers when the same kids are better behaved and stay at the top of the class.

    A friend was complaining that his son in a US high scholl does no homework or anything and still makes the top of the class. What a waste of brain. Challenge these kids so they don’t have time to join gangs, take drugs or generally end up ‘educated’ but not knowledgeable.

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