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Education: The black experience

Boys from black Caribbean families have some of the worst school records in Britain. They are at a greater risk of exclusion, unlikely to go on to higher education, fare worse than any other ethnic group at mathematics and science, and more than half go straight from school to unemployment.

According to the 1991 census, only 9 per cent of black Caribbean children gain qualifications above A- level. Although more than Pakistanis (7 per cent) and Bangladeshis (5 per cent), this compares with 13 per cent of whites, 26 per cent of Chinese and 27 per cent of black Africans.

Unemployment among 16 to 24-year-old blacks in London runs at 62 per cent, three times that of white youths. Black Britons make up 1.5 per cent of the total population but 11 per cent of the prison population. Many black parents believe the system has failed their children, rather than vice versa. Research carried out by Leicester University earlier this year showed that parents value education highly and blame a climate of low expectations for under-achievement among their children.

The report cited racism, a lack of black teachers, poor ethnic monitoring, and a shortage of positive black educational materials as some of the reasons for their disillusionment. Nearly four out of ten Afro-Caribbean parents in the survey supported the idea of separate schooling for their children.

Some have taken radical action to achieve that aim. Numbers of returnees to the Caribbean have been increasing steadily over the past few years, and embassies for Caribbean states estimate that several thousand people have made the move in the 1990s, aided by the business incentives available in many countries.

Although many are retired, a growing proportion are parents (not all of whom were born in the Caribbean) seeking better prospects for their school-age children.

Mark Lobban is chairman of the Organisation of Returnees and Associates of Jamaica, a 600-member group that provides information and assistance for people considering the move.

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