An Ideological Construction of Race and Education in Australia

Ideology refers to the systems of ideas, which explains and lends legitimacy to actions and beliefs of a social, religious, political, or corporate entity (Knight, 2006).  This study paper seeks to explore the ideological construction of race and education in Australia. In this case, the paper will focus on the integrated assertions, theories and aims which constitute a sociopolitical program in relation to race and education in Australia. For better understanding of the subject, we will first seek an in-depth explanation of the ideology of racism. In the past and present times, the issue of race has been rampant being witnessed in different fields of the society (Ball, 2000). In Australia, this has been present in the education field leading to the ideological construction of race and education in the region (Bambrick, 1994). Racist ideology means that everything said and done happens in line with an individual’s race (Guillaumin, 1995). The survival of a class society relies not only on the reproduction of its material conditions but also on the reproduction in each generation of the consent of the members (Lund & Colin, 2010). The ideology of racism is a system of ideas, beliefs, and attitudes, identifiable as relatively autonomous (Guillaumin, 1995). Racism began from slavery, which was integral to the growth of capitalism through imperialism (Macedo & Gounari, 2006). According to Macedo and Gounari, 2006, capitalism refers to the economic system characterized by private ownership of capital goods while imperialism is the policy of extending a nation’s authority by territorial acquisition. This trickled to the education system in Australia. In race relations, it is evident that the issue surrounds not only individual prejudice but also assumptions in ways of seeing, interrelating, and interacting, which are shared within an educational setting in Australia (Moran, 2005).

Racialization in education is a sensitive matter in Australia especially with the introduction of the white policy (Berry, 2000). The issue of race majorly segregated the then people of Australia denying people of other races proper education. The education system favored whites in relation to education while the immigrants were denied even the basic education. The ideology of racism gave rise to the white policy in Australia, which affected the education system (Berry, 2000).  The “White Australia” policy dates back to the 1850s, which was the region’s approach to dealing with immigrants (Lazin, Evans & Jayaram, 2010). The natives felt threatened by the presence of immigrants especially non-whites particularly in relation to their jobs and resources (Jupp, 2002). The white Australia policy reflected a long-standing and unifying sentiment of the various Australian colonies and remained a fundamental government policy in to the mid-20th century (White, 2006/2007). This directive mainly targeted the Chinese immigrants in the region but later also worked against the Japanese (Lund & Colin, 2010).  This meant that non-whites had limited access to various needs in Australia. For instance, the education system was formulated to only accommodate immigrants with useful skills to the country (Moran, 2005).  When it came to education, the whites were given first priority and would have access to the best schools while non-whites could even go without basic education (Macedo & Gounari, 2006). For the minority who had access to education, they met direct racism through harassment and discrimination.  

In the early years of establishment of education system in Australia, the minority groups were discriminated mainly on their race (Jupp, 2002). The non-whites were denied education based on their skin color. Some of the races had lived in Australia for the better part of their lives but with the entrance of Chinese and Japanese, the government tightened the laws of immigrants ((Moran, 2005). Later analysis of these occurrences tried to cover up the racial discrimination with the idea of taking control of porous borders (Bambrick, 1994).  For instance, in the recent past, Australian educators have offered the concept of multicultural education as an alternative approach to education in order to encourage minority engagement (Juan, 2002).  However, the heavy presence of racism in education made it difficult for the Australian educational authorities to develop multicultural education policies and systems, which could effectively offer equal opportunities for the contemporary diverse society (Lazin, Evans & Jayaram, 2010).  Most people in the education system argue that the Australian education system is often discounts minorities’ historical background and ignores their cultural and religious believe which may lead to facing difficulties to adjust in dominant education system.

School systems in Australia are increasingly facing challenges to integrate new immigrants as the race issue is still in the roots of the systems (Stone, 1974). The aboriginal people face various challenges especially with the influx of immigrants in Australia. The most significant challenge is their inability to preserve and protect areas of cultural and historical importance, participate in decision-making activities, and have access to decent housing, schooling, and safe communities. The recent increased cultural diversity in the Australian public schools shows minority races having trouble with the current racial and language mainstream. The Australian white policy mainstreamed the education system incorporating minimal cultural and religious beliefs of the minority races (Ball, 2000).  For this reason, students and teachers in Australian schools are unfamiliar with the historical and political circumstances of intra-national conflict and forced migration in these area as well as ethnic and cultural differences. Most significant example is the topic of democratic citizenship in social studies curriculum, which marginalizes the perspectives of people of color (Bambrick, 1994).

In view of the ideological construction of race and education in Australia, it is very important for schools to develop literacy, a pre-requisite and social participation and settlement for educational success (Stone, 1974).  Additionally, schools should work towards actively challenging discrimination, disadvantage, underdevelopment, oppression, conflict, and violence (Juan, 2002). In this case, to gain improvement in school systems and provide useful and significant knowledge and skills to teach and deal with diverse students, several things have to be done. Most importantly, educators and teachers need to address and criticize issues, which arise from ethnicity, race, culture, and religion to avoid any adjustment problems for immigrant students in their schools (Lazin, Evans, & Jayaram, 2010).  Color blindness is one of the solutions that often used by educators to overcome issues in teacher-students’ relationship (Stone, 1974). More significantly, the education system needs to value the multiethnic awareness in teachers’ educational programs (Lazin, Evans & Jayaram, 2010).  This will be helpful in the scrapping of the ideological of construction of race and education in Australia. With the increasing globalization ideology, it is necessary for the education system to be accommodative of people of diverse race and originality (Lund & Colin, 2010). The Australia white policy cannot hold water in the contemporary times as other factors supersede the law (Macedo & Gounari, 2006).  For this ideology to diminish it has to start with the simplest systems in the society and education sets a proper platform for the changes (White, 2006/2007).

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