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Helping black British Caribbean women to achieve their educational potential

Dr Greta Franklin-Brown's PhD examines attitudes to education to support black British Caribbean women fulfill their academic potential

When it comes to educational research, there has been plenty of work carried out looking into the experiences of black boys – both Caribbean and British – in the education system. 

However, when Dr Franklin-Brown was researching her Masters dissertation for her MA in Women’s Studies, she identified that there was very little research into black British Caribbean girls and their educational achievements, relative to their white peers. Dr Franklin-Brown decided to change that.

Generational differences in educational experiences

Dr Franklin-Brown’s PhD examined the generational difference between the first generation of British-born women of Caribbean descent who attended UK schools in the 1960s and 1970s, and their daughters. 

By exploring two generations’ worth of experience, her research examined similarities and differences – the difficulties they encountered that the women involved would cite as barriers to their education.

Attitudes to education

Dr Franklin-Brown’s work also laid bare the inadequacies of some of the stereotypes of indifference, disengagement and detachment of Black Caribbean parents. 

“Those first generation students felt that they received very little support from their parents in school, because they hadn’t realised that they were expected to participate in the education of their children,” she says. “When that generation became mothers, they used those experiences of education and applied various measures to support the academic indifference of their children.”

First-generation mothers emphasise their role in their children's education

Dr Franklin-Brown’s findings indicated that many first generation mothers placed a greater emphasis on engaging and participating in the education of their children because, in their opinion, their own parents had left their learning entirely up to the education authorities.

“Fundamentally, what was evident in my research was the persistence, presence and desire of some first generation mothers in the education of their children to combat the negative stereotype of Black Caribbean children being seen as educational failures,” says Dr Franklin-Brown.

Dispelling myths and fulfilling potential

In such an under-represented demographic, Dr Franklin-Brown’s work has been vital in contributing to the discourse of education. 

The work was aimed at educationalists and sociologists, and is playing an important role in dispelling the myths about black British Caribbean women in education. 

In highlighting the tenacity of the women who took on pivotal roles in the education of their daughters, Dr Franklin-Brown hopes to help them gain the recognition they deserve, while also encouraging further research that can help black British Caribbean girls to achieve their potential in school.

Education is an area I have always been passionate about, and it’s my belief that it is the key to self-development and empowerment. There is so much that can be achieved by becoming more articulate, by being able to converse in all areas, and in becoming more aware of the society we live in. 

Dr Greta Franklin-Brown

Dr Franklin-Brown hopes to conduct further research in the area herself, as well as encouraging others to explore it further. “Education is an area I have always been passionate about, and it’s my belief that it is the key to self-development and empowerment,” she says. “Being a black British Caribbean woman and a sociologist, I wanted to gain a better understanding of why some girls from this particular background were underachieving in education.”