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Queen's University
 

Multiculturalism Policies in Contemporary Democracies


United Kingdom

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TOTAL SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 2.5 5.5 5.5


1. Constitutional, legislative or parliamentary affirmation of multiculturalism at the central and / or regional and municipal levels and the existence of a government ministry, secretariat or advisory board to implement this policy in consultation with ethnic communities

   No.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 0 0 0

Evidence:

  • Although multiculturalism in Britain is typically recognized as a demographic fact, it has not been formally affirmed in any constitutional, legislative or parliamentary sense. Indeed, discourse tends to shy away from the use of the term “multiculturalism” and leans instead toward that of cohesion and integration.
  • Nonetheless, there has been much activity within this area. For example, in 2001, a series of racialized incidents in Oldham, Burnley, and Bradford led to the creation of a review team on community cohesion (Home Office 2001). This, coupled with the London terrorist attacks of 7 July 2005, has contributed to a discourse that focuses primarily on communities. In 2005, the British government launched Improving Opportunity, Strengthening Society, a strategy to “increase race equality and build community cohesion by helping people from different backgrounds to get along well together in their local area” (Department for Communities and Local Government 2009a), which concluded in 2009. At that time, the government announced a new strategy, Tackling Race Inequalities, which engaged in a number of consultations. The consultations will inform the government’s continuing race equality strategy, and a report was expected in 2010 (Department for Communities and Local Government 2009b).
  • Although several government agencies have mandates related to multiculturalism, the Department for Communities and Local Government is probably most directly involved, as it is responsible for “building cohesion” and “tackling anti-social behaviour and extremism” (Department for Communities and Local Government 2010). In addition, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, a statutory body created in 2007 has responsibility for issues related to equity, discrimination and human rights. It replaced the Equal Opportunities Commission, the Commission for Racial Equality, and the Disability Rights Commission (Equality and Human Rights Commission 2009).


2. The adoption of multiculturalism in school curriculum

   Partially.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 0 1 0.5

Evidence:

  • Rhetoric related to multiculturalism education has been present since the 1970s, but national policy has been less evident, given that education is a delegated responsibility. The National Curriculum Council, which was created as a result of the 1988 Education Reform Act, recommended multicultural and citizenship education be developed as part of the wider curriculum. This was never adopted (Figueroa 2007). Nonetheless, a 1985 report, Education For All, did recommend increased attention toward Britain’s “shared values” within school curriculum, as well as “an appreciation of the diversity of lifestyles and cultural, religious and linguistic backgrounds which make up this society and the wider world” (Swann 1985). By the early 1990s, most local boards had integrated multiculturalism into their curriculum (Bleich 1998).
  • Although responsibility for the delivery of education and curriculum continues to be delegated to local authorities, the Department for Children, Schools and Families, which was created in 2007, does set broader policy. It is guided by The Children’s Plan: Building Brighter Futures which, among other things, places on schools a duty to promote community cohesion, in addition to diversity, human rights and equity. Consistent with broader discourse in the UK, “multiculturalism” is generally not used in policy documents. Nonetheless, The Children’s Plan highlights citizenship education as a central part of the strategy. The curriculum is to include “a new strand of work examining the key concepts of identity and diversity and encouraging exploration of what it means to be a citizen in the UK today” (Department for Children, Schools and Families 2007, 73-74).
  • In addition, the Race Relations Amendment Act (2000) “requires [local authorities] to eliminate discrimination and promote equal opportunities, as well as develop race equality policies in a proactive rather than a reactive way, as had previously been the case” (Fry et al. 2008, 7; see also Tomlinson 2005).
  • In spite of this, some (e.g., Fry et al. 2008; Olssen 2004; Osler 2000) argue that there is insufficient emphasis in the curriculum on multiculturalism, anti-racism, and accommodation. Tomlinson (2005, 167) confirms this view, noting “the multicultural, anti-racist policies and practices in education that were slowly developing during the 1980s had more or less disappeared by the 1990s” and that “despite the introduction of citizenship studies, there has been no review of the National Curriculum to enquire whether it reflects Britain as a multicultural society.”


3. The inclusion of ethnic representation / sensitivity in the mandate of public media or media licensing

   Yes.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 0 1 1

Evidence:

  • Prior to the 1980s, there was little attention paid to ethnic representation in the media, and it was partly in response to criticism that several initiatives were undertaken. These focused mainly on the training of white journalists and producers, as well as increasing the employment of minorities in the media sector (Alibhai-Brown 1998). A 1983 report by the Commission for Racial Equality, entitled Ethnic Minority Broadcasting, encouraged networks to look more seriously at media content so that it may “help to reflect our multi-racial society” (Zolf 1989).
  • At present, the Communications Act 2003 mandates the Office of Communications (OFCOM) to regulate electronic communications networks, including broadcasting, radio and television. In carrying out these duties, section 3(3)(l) of the act requires that OFCOM consider “the different interests of persons in the different parts of the United Kingdom, of the different ethnic communities within the United Kingdom and of persons living in rural and in urban areas.” OFCOM has produced research that examines media literacy and consumption by ethnic minorities.
  • In addition, the BBC, which is the country’s public service broadcaster and is funded through a license fee paid by all households in the United Kingdom, includes among its objectives the representation and reflection of various communities, including ethnic and religious communities. The corporation notes that “programming will reflect the diversity of the UK and explore ethnic, cultural, religious and non-religious groups, enabling the wider community to understand their customs, convictions and concerns” (BBC 2010a). This may include “using voices and faces from a range of regional and ethnic backgrounds and communities of interest, and [featuring] religion and ethics as part of its genre mix” (ibid.). Further, “minority religions in the UK (and including the major belief systems of Judaism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Islam and Buddhism) as well as secular beliefs will receive mainstream coverage” (ibid.).


4. Exemptions from dress codes (either by statute or court cases)

   Yes, although there is variation.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 1 1 1

Evidence:

  • There is a fairly long history of granting exemptions to dress codes in the UK. This dates back at least to the Race Relations Act 1976, which prohibited indirect discrimination. As a result, even seemingly neutral laws may be deemed to be discriminatory if their application results in differential outcomes. Some of the exemptions that have been granted include those permitting Sikhs to wear a turban in lieu of a safety helmet while on a construction site (Employment Act 1989), in addition to those that exempt Sikhs from the requirement to wear a helmet while on a motorcycle (Motor Cycle Crash Helmets (Religious Exemption) Act 1976). Similarly, exemptions to the uniforms for bus drivers have been granted to permit the wearing of a turban and a long beard (BBC 2010b), and the uniform of the Metropolitan Police Service was adapted in 2001 to include the hijab as an option (Hopkins 2001).
  • There are also cases where exemptions have not been granted. These include the case of a Muslim woman who was employed as a bilingual support worker in a West Yorkshire school but was prevented from wearing her veil while teaching. She filed a grievance, and while a tribunal awarded her damages for pain and suffering, it upheld the policy. For its part, the school noted that the woman’s job as a bilingual support worker requires face-to-face interaction and the wearing of a veil that conceals the mouth interferes with learning (McLaren 2006).


5. Allows dual citizenship

   Yes.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 1 1 1

Evidence:

  • The UK has long allowed citizens to possess dual or multiple citizenships. Those who acquire British nationality are not normally required by the UK to renounce any other citizenships they may hold, and British nationals who acquire the citizenship of another country are normally permitted to retain their British citizenship (Home Office 2010; see also Howard 2005).


6. The funding of ethnic group organizations or activities

   Yes.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 0 1 1

Evidence:

  • Funding for ethnic group organizations and activities was first initiated in the mid-1980s when the Arts Council of Britain began to target ethnic communities as beneficiaries of its resources. Although these opportunities gradually decreased in the 1990s (Fisher et al. 1994), the Home Office’s Ethnic Minority Grant Program came into effect in 1992, offering funding to ethnic groups to support voluntary sector projects in England and Wales; a similar program was also set up in Scotland (Karim 1996).
  • The Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) also at one time provided funding to ethnocultural groups, but this does not appear to have continued after the CRE was reorganized into the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) in 2007. Rather, the EHRC’s focus appears to be much more closely related to legislative compliance and the promotion of equality than to the funding and support of ethnocultural groups.
  • Now, the UK’s Big Lottery Fund, which was created by Parliament in 2006, disburses money raised through the sale of lottery tickets in the country. Through the Big Lottery Fund and a smaller program, Awards For All, various charities, community groups and schools can apply for grants to support local projects. The criteria are very broad and identify eligible projects as those that will improve life chances, build stronger communities and more active citizens, improve rural and urban environments and contribute to healthier communities (Big Lottery Fund 2010). A number of ethnic groups have received funding through this program.
  • Other granting programs require organizations to meet specific criteria, which are typically related to the delivery of programs that meet established government criteria. For example, in 2009, the government created a two-year program, called the Tackling Race Inequalities Fund, which provides grants to eligible organizations whose programming relates to the promotion of race equality and redress of disadvantage (Department for Communities and Local Government 2009c). In order to qualify for funding, groups must meet specific criteria and deliver programs that meet the objectives set by the government. There is also an Ethnic Minority Achievement Grant, which is not specifically designed for ethnocultural groups, but rather for schools and local authorities engaged in strategies to address disparities between minority and non-minority pupils (Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency 2010).


7. The funding of bilingual education or mother-tongue instruction

   No.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 0 0 0

Evidence:

  • The school system in the UK has been characterized as “predominantly monolingual and unicultural” (Wei 2006, 82). Although complementary schools do exist, these receive minimal—if any—government support (Creese et al. 2006). Indeed, as Wei (2006, 78) points out, most complementary schools—whether based on language, culture, or religion—“were set up in response to the failure of the mainstream education system to meet the needs of the ethnic minority children and their communities—a fact that is often deliberately ignored by various UK governments.” She notes further that the Conservative government, under Margaret Thatcher, “used the success of the Chinese community schools to argue that ethnic minorities were better off with ‘self-reliance’ and cut back already limited funding in the local education authorities’ budgets for bilingual classroom assistants. Complementary schools and classes were further marginalised as a result” (Wei 2006, 78).
  • Local authorities continue to make some provision for bilingual classroom assistants, but these are viewed as a tool for enhancing pupils’ English language ability, rather than for an important part of mother tongue maintenance. In other words, policy measures are directed more at improving minority students’ outcomes within the existing school system, rather than through complementary or alternative programs (see, for example, Department for Children, Schools and Families 2007). As Wei (2006, 78) points out, complementary schools and the maintenance of mother tongue language and culture are “seen as a minority concern and were left with ethnic minority communities to deal with themselves.”


8. Affirmative action for disadvantaged immigrant groups

   Yes.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 0.5 0.5 1

Evidence:

  • The UK’s first Race Relations Act was passed in 1965, but it was not until 1976 that it was expanded to include both direct and indirect discrimination, as well as remedies for infringement. Although the 1976 act permitted positive action measures, such as the provision of services to meet the needs of particular groups (e.g., refugees), this was strengthened in the Race Relations Amendment Act 2000. The amended act applies to public authorities, including governments, schools and the police and gives them a “general duty to promote race equality” (Department for Children, Schools and Families 2010). Public bodies must, as a result, give “due regard” to the need to “eliminate unlawful racial discrimination; and promote equality of opportunity and good relations between people of different racial groups” (ibid.). Thus, the act goes beyond anti-discrimination initiatives to include more proactive or positive measures. Moreover, while anti-discrimination measures existed prior to the passage of the amended act, it was only after 2000 that the government itself became subject to affirmative action measures.
  • In addition, in 2009, the government announced targets for hiring and appointments to public bodies. By 2011, it is hoped that 11 percent of new appointments will be ethnic minorities (Government Equalities Office 2009).
  • The government has also introduced to Parliament a new bill related to equality. It proposes anti-discrimination measures, as well as positive action measures for addressing disadvantage, including that based on race and religion. It is intended to replace nine existing pieces of discrimination legislation and more than 100 statutory instruments with a single act.

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