Election Briefing 4
Moray House School of Education Election Briefings: Education from early years to 18. Research and Practice Contributing to Policy, 29 March 2016.
The data from this paper is drawn from a study of the experiences of ethnic and religious minority ethnic young people (aged 12-25) in Scotland. The study was conducted by Newcastle, Edinburgh and St Andrews Universities from 2013-2015 and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). 1 The study explored the everyday life experiences of 382 young people growing up in urban, suburban and rural Scotland. The young people included six different groups: Muslims; Non-Muslim South Asians; Asylum-seekers and refugees; International students; Central and Eastern European migrants; and White Scottish young people.
Young people identified with Scotland and ‘Scottishness’ irrespective of their ethnic and religious heritage. However, young people also said that unfortunately Scottishness was still equated with Whiteness. For example, Renuka (female, 16018, Scottish Indian, Sikh, Glasgow) remarked:
... the way I speak and the way I act, I think is Scottish, but it is my skin colour… people think that I am not Scottish.
While national identity was felt to be important, many young people recognized and expressed the various identities (faith, ethnicity, cultural heritage) they felt had shaped their experiences.
Dave (male, 22-25. White Scottish, Christian, Perth and Kinross) suggests:
I’m proud to be Scottish, but that doesn’t define you.
Young people wanted to have opportunities to talk about racism and referred to racist incidences on the basis of accent, skin colour, faith, dress, nationality and ethnicity. Other research (Hicks et al 2011; Arshad et al 2005) has found that teachers report a lack of confidence in discussing these issues and many avoid dealing with low level racism and racial prejudice for fear of getting it wrong or offending. Young people talked about new expressions of racism based on Islamophobia, anti-immigration attitudes and religious intolerance. Young people had developed their own coping strategies such as fending off ignorant comments with humour, refusing to take offence or trying to educate the person making the comments. Some simply avoided placing themselves in unfamiliar social spaces and instead withdrew from open interactions. A greater worry was how young people appeared to dismiss experiences of racism as something that ‘just happens’.
The study found that an overwhelming number of young people who could vote in the Referendum of 2014 did so. The lowering of the voting age in the Independence Referendum was a catalyst for some young people to consider political issues. However, while young people were engaged in politics through various media platforms, they were not always clear on how to access politics and influence change. Many were interested in issue- based politics (e.g. human rights) and less interested in traditional routes such as membership of political parties. The study found that young people wanted to be involved and to have opportunities to determine and shape their future.
Hopkins, P., Botterill, K., Sanghera, G. and Arshad, R. (2015) Faith, Ethnicity, Place: Young People’s Everyday Geopolitics in Scotland https://research.ncl.ac.uk/youngpeople/outputs/finalreport/Faith,%20Ethnicity,%20Place%20executive%20summary.pdf
Hick, P., Arshad, R., Watt, D. & Mitchell, L. (2011), Promoting cohesion, challenging expectations: educating the teachers of tomorrow for race quality and diversity in 21st century schools. ESCalate. https://core.ac.uk/download/files/647/28990013.pdf
Arshad, R., Diniz, F.A., O’Hara, P., Sharp, S. and Syed, R. (2005) Minority Ethnic Pupils’ Experiences of School in Scotland (MEPESS) http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2005/03/Insight16/1
1 The researchers were Professor Peter Hopkins (Newcastle), Dr Katherine Botterill (Newcastle), Dr Gurchathen Sanghera (St. Andrews) and Dr Rowena Arshad, (Edinburgh).
Dr Rowena Arshad OBE Co-Director of the Centre for Education for Racial Equality in Scotland (CERES)