HC Deb 28 February 1963 vol 672 cc1437-8
25 and 26. Mr. G. M. Thomson

asked the Minister of Education (1) what consideration has been given by the United Kingdom National Commission of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation to the provisions of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation convention against discrimination in education; and what recommendations it has made about fulfilling in this country the provisions of Article 5 of the convention relating to the importance of education in racial tolerance in schools;

(2) what steps are being taken by his Department to encourage research into methods of teaching to overcome racial prejudice.

Sir E. Boyle

The main purpose of the U.N.E.S.C.O. Convention is to ensure that all pupils have equal opportunities for education. This is inherent in Her Majesty's Government's educational policies and in our educational legislation, and I see no need to consult the U.K. National Commission of U.N.E.S.C.O. on the provisions of this convention.

I am sure that the teachers and the schools exert a great deal of useful influence in promoting tolerance and discouraging racial prejudice, though this is not a matter which can be dealt with as an individual item in a school syllabus, nor is it suitable as a subject of research into teaching methods.

Mr. Thomson

Is the Minister aware that that is a rather disappointing and unimaginative reply? Is he aware that the Government keep on telling my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) and others who suggest legislation against racial discrimination that this is a matter which must be dealt with by education? In the light of those comments from the Government, would they not consider, for example, encouraging special courses for teachers in the many schools where there are nowadays a great many Commonwealth immigrant children?

Sir E. Boyle

I am well aware of the importance of this matter concerning immigrants, not least from my constituency experience. I believe that the record of schools in this matter is good, and admirable work is done also by the Council for Education in World Citizenship through the provision of lectures and material. The hon. Member and I are absolutely agreed about the importance of this matter. I am merely a little doubtful whether it would make a suitable individual item in a school syllabus. Surely, racial tolerance is something that should inform the whole of the school syllabus and should not be regarded as a special subject.

Mr. Dugdale

Would the Minister agree that small children have absolutely no racial prejudice whatever and play quite happily with children of another colour? The trouble arises as the American song says: If you can be taught before it's too late, Before you are six or seven or eight, To hate all the people your relatives hate, If you can be taught to be afraid of people whose skins are a different shade.

Sir E. Boyle

The right hon. Gentleman is perfectly right when he says that in schools British-born children and West Indian children, for example, play happily side by side. I believe that as the years go on it will not be long before it is a regularly accepted practice for children with different colour skins to attend one another's birthday parties. That will be the sign that integration is developing.