Working Paper

Theorising the (de)construction of ethnic stigma in compulsory education

Published 17 May 2016 / By Pier-Luc Dupont

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Until recently confined to a limited number of mainly Anglo-Saxon countries, anti-racist policies are now being formulated across Western Europe, spurred in part by the top-down influence of EU and global human rights institutions. However, psychological and sociological research on ethnic prejudice suggests that current initiatives seldom address its deep political roots, placing on isolated bodies and interventions the burden of counteracting vastly superior structural forces. This paper examines the unfolding of such a paradox in the realm of primary and secondary education, where notions of interculturalism have become part of mainstream policy and practice. Based on a synthesis of the empirical literature, it argues that biased curricula, overwhelmingly White teachers and inter-school ethnic segregation provide a fertile ground for the development of racist attitudes among children. It then goes on to show that education policies generally ignore, exacerbate or inadequately address these cross-national trends, even when they are explicitly singled out as impediments to migrant integration, social cohesion or equal opportunities. Finally, it outlines the far-ranging reforms that would be necessary in order to establish genuinely anti-racist education systems, as well as political challenges and opportunities for such a transformation.

To read the associated blog post click here.


Ethnic prejudice, anti-racism, interculturalism, education policy, segregation, curriculum, positive action, religious schools, national identity, Eurocentrism


Pier-Luc Dupont, Human Rights Institute, University of Valencia, C/ Serpis 29, Edificio de institutos de investigación, 1.1, 46021 Valencia; email:


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