The name's the sting for cultural pride

21st November 1997 at 00:00
Thoughtless teachers who mispronounce ethnic-minority names are causing needless offence to many pupils.

Children attending a north London Saturday school told researchers that many teachers in their weekday schools were anglicising their names to such an extent that they were almost unrecognisable.

Birendra had been distorted into Brian and Pathik became Patrick. Even more offence was caused when Krishan, a name derived from a Hindu deity, was pronounced as Christian.

The survey, which was carried out by Enfield's Language and Curriculum Access Service (LCAS), found that only 30 per cent of the 56 secondary pupils questioned said that their teachers pronounced their names correctly.

Form tutors and religious education teachers were said to make more of an effort than their colleagues. But modern foreign language teachers were almost as guilty of mispronunciation as maths and science teachers.

Headteachers and heads of years were regarded as the worst offenders. Almost none of the 11 to 16-year-olds questioned felt that the senior managers pronounced their names correctly.

The pupils also complained that many of their teachers did not realise that they were bilingual and very few knew what their mother tongue was.

Vasant Mahandru, deputy head of LCAS, said: "Some teachers thought that Hindu was a language and others felt that people from Egypt spoke Egyptian, not Arabic."

Most of the bilingual pupils wanted recognition that they were competent in more than one language and they resented the fact that children who could speak French and German had more kudos than those who were fluent in Turkish, Greek, Bengali and Punjabi.

"There are lessons to be learnt from the survey," Vasant Mahandru said. "One reason for underachievement among some ethnic-minority pupils is that they find themselves alienated and marginalised from the mainstream culture. This results in lack of motivation to learn. Pupils' cultural identity must be accorded due credit if we are to raise achievement amongst ethnic-minority children. "

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