A GCSE sociology text book, officially approved by the AQA exam board, has come under fire for ‘offensive’ statements about Caribbean families, including the claims that men are “largely absent” and children are passed between relatives.
In AQA GCSE (9-1) Sociology by Rosie Owens and Ian Woodfield, under a chapter discussing the sociology of families, a description of Caribbean families has caused concern that it reinforces negative stereotypes.
The book reads: “In Caribbean families, the fathers and husbands are largely absent and women assume the most responsibility in childrearing. When men and women live together, it is usually in cohabiting or common law relationships that reproduce the traditional patriarchal division of labour.
“The family system is also characterised by child-shifting, that is, the passing of children to other relatives or acquaintances if the parents find themselves unable to take care of them. As a result, multiple women are involved in childhood socialisation.”
Following posts by Sherry Dixon and @Motherhood_rx, social media users have since expressed anger and disappointment at the text, referring to it as ‘divisive’ and ‘racist’ without being supported by statistics and demonstrable research.
The lone parent charity Gingerbread, says that 21% of single parents are from Black or minority ethnic backgrounds, compared with 16% nationally.
The 2011 census revealed that 16.6% of black Caribbean households are lone parents with children, compared with 6.7% of white British households and 22.7% of mixed white British/Caribbean families. But overall number of lone parent families in the UK that are white British far outstrips those of black Caribbean heritage. (Of those lone parents, the census did not say whether they were men or women.)
This evidence does not support the statement in the book that says that fathers in black Caribbean homes are “largely” absent.
Some campaigners feel that the description of Caribbean families in AQA GCSE (9-1) Sociology is symptomatic of wider, racial inequality across schools in general.
Recent research has shown that Black Caribbean pupils are being subjected to institutional racism and stereotyping in English schools, resulting in poor academic attainment levels.
On Twitter, @MovellDash wrote: “I am disgusted to see that your sociology book contains this kind of stereotyping being taught to children as fact. This rhetoric is at best a stereotype and at worst divisive. Shame on you AQA”
And @Akeko15664091 posted: ”@AQA you need to justify this with the scientific evidence that will give this credence in education OR retract it because it upholds negative stereotypes for young minds just 15/16 years”
Also, @Motherhood_rx tweeted: “Seeing as its Black History Month...we are astounded at this text from a current GCSE sociology book approved by @AQA exam board. “In Caribbean families the fathers are largely absent...also child shifting” image being in class reading this? Where is the evidence?”
And @BlackBalladUK tweeted: ”.@AQA upholding false racist stereotypes within the educational system is beyond disgusting. Those writers should not be allowed near educational resources ever again.”
An AQA spokesperson told HuffPost UK: “We don’t agree with any stereotypes and there’s nothing about Caribbean families in our actual GCSE Sociology syllabus. We don’t produce textbooks ourselves - but we’ll speak with the publisher of this book about these concerns.”
The book was originally released in 2014. It is approved by AQA and published by Hodder Education.
HuffPost UK has reached out to Hodder Education and the Department of Education for comment.